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On 14th November 1914, James Nicholson enlisted in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, being posted into the 11th Battalion. 

At the time of him joining the Army, James was 26 years old and had been working as a news vendor. James had married Mary Ann (McGovin) on boxing day 1908, they had three children. The family lived together at 45 Gomer Street, Soho, Liverpool.

James had no previous military experience.

At his enlistment medical in Liverpool, James was described as being 5ft 8in tall, weighing 112lbs with brown hair and brown eyes.

James was reprimanded on several occasions;

  • 1st March 1915 – Chichester – Drunk in barracks about 10:30pm
  • 24th March 1915 – Chichester – (i) Absent from tattoo until 10:35pm (ii) Drunk.
  • 24th May 1915 – Chichester – Overstaying his pass (by 4 days)

Between May and September 1915, they were training in Billericay.

  • 4th June 1915 – Billericay – (i) Leading a disturbance (ii) Using obscene language to an N.C.O.
  • 3rd August 1915 – Billericay – Overstaying his pass from tattoo, remaining absent until reporting himself at 10 am on 6th August.


On 8th August 1915, the body of Private James Nicolson was found in the river Wid near Billericay, Essex. His throat had been cut, severing his windpipe.

A newspaper article attached to his service records records that James had committed suicide.

Soldier’s suicide in Buttsbury

Mr. Coroner Lewis held an inquest at Billericay Union Workhouse on Monday regarding the death of Pte James Nicholson, aged 26 of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, whose body was found in the River Wid at Buttsbury on Sunday.

Private Joshua Malone, of the same regiment, stated that deceased’s home was at Liverpool. He last saw him alive at the guard tent between one and two o’clock on Sunday afternoon. He was then on the defaulters list for being late on pass – a minor offence – and he had come to report himself.

Deceased had previously been to see the doctor, and when witness asked how he had got on he replied, “Rotton; I will get my ticket properly” – meaning his discharge.

Stephen Sidney Shuttleworth, a boy, who was not sworn, and who lives at Bluebell cottage, Bucklyn’s Estate, said he saw deceased in the river at five o’clock on the previous evening. He was face downward and witness could just see his khaki uniform. He found a razor on the bank by the side of the river.

P.s. Whiting said he received information from the last witness and proceeded to the spot. There were bloodstains on the bank and on the razor. The water was about 2ft 6in deep. With the assistance of three other men, witness got the body to the bank and then found that the throat had been cut, the windpipe being severed.

Dr H J Shackleton stated that he saw the deceased at noon on Sunday, and he then seemed depressed. When asked what was the matter he said his mates declared that he had consumption and would not come near him for that reason. Deceased said he felt all right and he was sure he was not consumptive. There was evidence that he had been drinking, although he was not actually drunk then. He admitted that while on leave his friends had treated him. Witness advised him to leave the drink alone.

There was no doubt the wound in the throat was self inflicted. The Jury returned a verdict that deceased committed suicide by cutting his throat while suffering from the after-effects of alcohol.


A letter from the War Office stated that ‘..in view of the circumstances of the death.., ..his widow and children are not eligible for pension from Army funds.”

James was buried in Mountnessing churchyard, Essex.

Rank: Private
Service No: 18189
Date of Death: 08/08/1915
Age: 27
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 11th Bn.

Paul McCormick
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