Private, Ambulance Driver John Jeffry Nicholls

Service Army Service No. 1703
Rank Private, Ambulance Driver
Regiment:5th Canadian Army Medical Corps
Date of Birth: 22/10/1891
Born East Allington
Date of Death: 12/10/1918
Memorial: Cofton Memorial Inscription John J Nicholls, Canadian Army Med Corps, Oct 12th

Service History

On November 21, 1914 he signed up for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force (COEF) and was placed with the 5th Canadian Army Medical Corps as an ambulance driver.

No 5 Canadian Field Ambulance was organised in November 1914 under the command of Lieut Colonel G.D.Farmer and recruited in Military District No 2. It left Halifax, Nova Scotia, aboard the British Troop Ship NORTHLAND on 18 April 1915, and arrived in England on 29 April with 11 officers and 248 other ranks. Soon after arrival J J Nicholls was placed in the M.B. Canadian Hospital with a case of mumps which lasted from 26 May to 15 June. No 5 Field Ambulance was moved to Otterpool Camp, Kent.

“A Dawlish Boy” records the award of the Meritorious Service Medal to Pte. J.J.Nicholls, following a visit by King George V to the Somme in 1916, “for their splendid achievements during our tour of the Somme in September of last year.” The award was announced in the London Gazette on 1 January 1917 in the New Year’s Honours List.

He died of his wounds on 12th October 1918 when a shell exploded between two field ambulances, killing one officer instantly and wounding four others, one of whom died of his wounds. Nicholls was acting as a guide to a tour of the posts and suffered a broken right femur, injury to the perineum and surface wounds to both legs. He died on the way to the Casualty Clearing Station.

Association with Dawlish

Jeffry John Nicholls (1833-1913) was a farmer of 14 acres at Cornworthy in 1861. He had married Elizabeth English Peeke (1824- ) from Cornworthy in 1856. By the date of the census they had two children, John Jeffry Nicholls (1858- 1923) born Cornworthy, Elizabeth Jane Nicholls (1860- ). They were still in Cornworthy village ten years later, with three more children, Emily Nicholls ( 1863- ), Mary Margaret Nicholls (1866- ) and Lucy Ann Nicholls (1868- ), all born in Cornworthy.

In the following ten years they moved to Slapton, Towns End, where Jeffry John Nicholls was farming 120 acres with one son, John Jeffry Nicholls. They also had another son, William Hudson Peeke Nicholls (1872-1943).

John Jeffry Nicholls left the family at Slapton and set up on his own farm at Harleyton, East Allington. He married Ann Hudson on 15 March 1883 at St James the Greater Church, Derby. (ref Parish Registers). By 1891 they had three children, Eliza Margaret Nicholls (1884- ) born Slapton, Elizabeth Grace Nicholls (1886- ), William Hudson Nicholls (1888- ), and living with them were William Hudson, Father-in-law, widower, and Edwin Stentaford, a cousin.

In 1901 they had moved to Eastdon Farm, Dawlish, and were there with three children:

Elizabeth Grace Nicholls (1886- ), John Jeffry Nicholls (1891-1918) born East Allington and Violet Anne Nicholls (1895- ).

In 1911 John Jeffry Nicholls was listed among five children living at Eastdon Farm and was himself working as pupil to a Sanitary Inspector.

John Jeffry Nicholls departed for Canada in March 1914 and made subsequent efforts to obtain work there. With his family background in farming John Jeffry Nicholls found a variety of short-term jobs on the land but on November 21, 1914 he signed up for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force (COEF).

Devon Roll of Honour
Additional Information Commonwealth War Graves Site

Next of Kin: John Jeffry Nicholls, Farmer, Eastdon Farm, Cofton, Dawlish (1911 census) His father continued to farm at Eastdon Farm until 1923. In November 1917 he is reported as chairman of a committee of farmers to ensure effective use of farmland. His son William Hudson Nicholls succeeded him (Kelly’s Directories for Cofton, 1930 – 39). See also funeral tribute in ‘Documents’.
Last Known Address: Eastdon Farm, Starcross

Meritorious Service Medal, King George V

Dawlish Gazette reports of death of J J Nicholls

Canadian Army Field Ambulance 1918

See Dawlish Local History Group for an article ‘A Dawlish Boy’ which describes his life and connections to Dawlish.

CWGC website

Free BMD

Library and Archives Canada, personnel records

Harold Skilling letters home

National Newspaper Archive

refs via subscription website:

census data

Nicholls-Danks family tree

Probate record