Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Corporal William Thompson Nicholls - Rotorua Memorial - Updated

Corporal William Thompson Nicholls embarked with the 1st Maori Contingent, B Company he had enlisted on 21 October 1914 embarking on 14 February 1915 aboard the Warrimoo headed for Gallipoli.  William was the son of Ngakoura Tamihana (his mother) and before enlistment he had been a Sailor for the Northern Steamship Company at Tauranga.

At Gallipoli William received a wound to the thigh on 23 August 1915.  He survived the Gallipoli campaign and embarked for France in April 1916 where in December 1917 he was awarded a Military Medal for his actions on the night of the 1/2 October 1917.   

Below is the citation of his medal
London Gazette, 17 December 1917, p13201, Rec No 1415: For conspicuous coolness and devotion to duty on the night of 1/2nd October 1917.  This N.C.O. had charge of a carrying party working on Wieltje - Gravenstafel Road.  The enemy shelled the road very heavily but Nicholls got through with his load and then withdrew his men in perfect order and got them under cover in shell holes.  One man was wounded and Nicholls escorted him out of danger at great personal risk. His coolness under heavy shellfire and the excellent control he exercised over his party saved many casualties. He set a splendid example to his men.

He was later promoted to Corporal on the 29 September 1917 and by now was a seasoned veteran of the war.  At Ypres on January 1918 he began to show the first signs of Tuberculosis.  He was hospitalised on 4 January 1918 but rejoined his unit on 12 January 1918, however on 24 February 1918 he was hospitalised again where he remained until finally being put on the seriously ill list and sent back to New Zealand for discharge.   On arrival in NZ he was transferred to Auckland Hospital on 20 October 1918 and on the 6 November 1918 William Nicholls sadly died of Tuberculosis, still a serving soldier having yet to be discharged.  His family in Te Puke were notified and they requested that his body be sent back to Te Puke for burial. 

William Nicholls was 25 years old when he died and he was laid to rest at the Te Kahika Maori Cemetery, Te Puke.  To have survived so much of the war and acted so gallantly is it tragic that William then died of sickness so close to the wars end.

Whilst doing my research I came across Frederick Obadiah Nicholls whose next of kin was also Ngakoura Tamihana and therefore the younger brother William Nicholls.  Frederick had embarked later in the war with the 12th Reinforcements as part of the Maori contingent on the 2 January 1917 aboard the Opawa.  I discovered that Frederick was seriously wounded and died exactly a month before the William on 6 October 1918 in France.  Frederick is buried in the Grevillers British Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France.

In a twist of fate while studying both their military records I discovered  both were admitted to the No. 2 NZ Field Ambulance on the 4 January 1918 with Bronchitis.  This may well have been the last time the brothers were together, both ignorant of what lay ahead of them. 


  1. Hello Helen, I am the Great Grand nephew of Tommy (William) and Obadiah (Frederick). My wife, eldest daughter, sister and brother in law were lucky enough to visit Obadiah, at Grevillers, and it was an emotional re-union.

    The brothers were survived by 3 sisters (Hera, Kura & Rena) and were all long lived. They would share stories about their beloved brothers, so their memories were never forgotten.

    I would like to share your post on our whanau ancestry page if that is OK with you?

    Many Thanks


    1. Please do. Thanks for contacting me.

    2. Hi

      I am hoping this will reach you. Do you by any chance have a photo of the brothers?

  2. Wow that is truly amazing, thank you Helen.

    Hi cousin Patrick, we both must be on the same journey at finding out more about our great grand uncles especially at this meaningful time of the year.

    Much love

  3. Wow that is truly amazing, Thank You Helen.

    Hi cousin Patrick, we both must be on the same journey at finding out more about our great grand uncles especially at this meaningful time of the year!

    Much Love

  4. Te Puhi Rangi LarkinsMarch 7, 2016 at 1:43 AM

    Thankyou Helen for your dedication to a very worthwhile project. Like us there will be thousands of people grateful for your contribution and commitment in researching and recording such inspiring and memorable stories such as those for my granduncles, Tamihana and Obadiah. I was raised by their sister and know how proud she was of her brothers. Thankyou once again for your valuable contribution and making your findings available for us to follow. By the way, did my nephew Patrick send you photos. Kindest regards, Puhi -

  5. Hi All, I have just sent photo's to Helen of both Uncle Tommy & Uncle Obadiah