John Samuel Nicholson


This post was written by Victoria Doran.

A Private in the Liverpool Scottish who was a casualty of the unsuccessful attempt to rescue the Liverpool Irish who were holding the village of Guillemont during the Battle of the Somme.

J S Nicholson BR entry.jpeg

Book of Remembrance entry

John Samuel Nicholson was born on 23 April 1892 in Harrowby Street, Liverpool. He was the only child of William Henry Nicholson (1864-1918) and Emma Moon (1863-1892). His mother probably died as a result of his birth.

William Henry Nicholson was born in the Lazonby area of Cumberland, about halfway between Carlisle and Penrith. His father Samuel Nicholson (1825-1899) was from a family of Cumberland agricultural labourers, whilst his mother Agnes Jackson (1834-1872) came from just over the Scottish border at Gretna, Dumfries-shire. William was only 8 years old when his mother died. He started his working life as a farm servant, but by the age of 26 in 1891 he had moved to Liverpool and was working as a barman. He and his brother James Nicholson (1862-1936), also a barman, were boarders together.

William and James were following in their older brother’s footsteps. John George Nicholson (1859-1919) was a publican living at 24 Harrowby Street, Liverpool at the time of his marriage to Elizabeth Thompson (1866-1941) on 18 October 1887. John George was the publican of the George & Dragon, Argyle Street, Birkenhead in 1891, before moving to the Railway Inn, Meols by 1901. He and his family provide John Samuel Nicholson’s connection to north west Wirral.

William Henry Nicholson & Emma Moon marriage.jpeg

Marriage of William Henry Nicholson and Emma Moon at St Lawrence, Liverpool

Emma Moon came from Eccleston, Lancashire a few miles west of Chorley, where her father John Moon (1823-1899) was a wheelwright and farmer. At the time of her marriage she and her widower father were living in Liverpool with her older sister Anne Moon (1853-1926) and her family. Anne’s second husband, William Green (1859-???) was also a publican, her first husband worked as a barman and several other members of the wider Moon family were connected to the licensed victualling trade.

Emma was the youngest of a family of nine, but sadly by the time she died most of her siblings had either died, or their spouses had died. It is very unlikely that any of them would have been able to take on John Samuel when his mother died. It seems probable that  John Samuel spent at least part of his earliest years with his uncle John George Nicholson and family.

In 1901 William Henry Nicholson was living in Liverpool with his sister in law Martha Jane Moon (1861-1943), but John Samuel has not been located at the 1901 census. His father was a publican, and Martha was a widow running a boarding house, having lost her publican husband 7 years earlier.

By 1911 John Samuel is working as a barman, with his father the publican at The Halfway House, 2 Patten Street, Birkenhead.

It is not known when John Samuel enlisted. His military record has not survived but he only served in the 10th (Liverpool Scottish) Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment.

King's Liverpool cap badge.jpg

King’s Liverpool cap badge

His medal card shows 2 regimental numbers, 5367 and 356729, but only one regiment.  He was not awarded the 14/15 Star, so he only arrived in France in 1916. He probably enlisted in 1915 and was sent to France as a reinforcement.

On 9 August 1916 the Liverpool Scottish were ordered to attack the German line at the village of Guillemont, where the Liverpool Irish were believed to be holding out unsupported. The detailed battalion orders were only received at 3.45 am and only very short briefings were given to platoon commanders and sergeants. The artillery bombardment only started 5 minutes before the attack was launched at 4.20 am, and some troops did not even know which direction the German line was in until the the artillery started firing. Three attempts were made to take the front German trench, but the men were mown down by machine gun fire. John Samuel’s body was not recovered. He was 24 years old.

He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.


Thiepval Memorial jpg.jpg

Thiepval Memorial

His soldier’s effects of £4/9/5 were paid to his father in June 1917. After his father died on 12 January 1918, his next of kin was made John George Nicholson. However he died on 10 March 1919, and John Samuel’s war grant of £3 was finally paid to John George’s widow Elizabeth on 29 October 1919.

When names were being compiled in the early 1920s to go on Grange Hill war memorial, the Hoylake Roll of Honour and the Book of Remembrance, Elizabeth made sure that her nephew John Samuel Nicholson was included.

Birth: 23 Apr 1892, Liverpool
Death: 9 Aug 1916 killed in action at Guillemont, Somme, France; aged 24
Addresses: Harrowby Street, Liverpool (92); Halfway House, Patten Street, Birkenhead (11)
Occupation: barman
Unit: 1st/10th Battalion (Liverpool Scottish) Kings Liverpool Regiment
Numbers and Rank: 5367, 356729; Pivate
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France; GH, H
Sources: CWGC, MC, RSE, SDGW, BR, PR, Census: 11



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s