The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2798A) Private Basil Nicholls, 9th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2016.2.349
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 14 December 2016
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Charis May, the story for this day was on (2798A) Private Basil Nicholls, 9th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

2798A Private Basil Nicholls, 9th Battalion, AIF
DOW 22 April 1916
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 14 December 2016

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Basil Nicholls.

Basil Nicholls was born in 1895 in Millthorpe, New South Wales to Edward and Anne Nicholls. When he was only three years old his father died at the age of 40. His mother later remarried and the family moved to Orange, where Basil attended the Orange District School. Afterwards he went to work as a labourer.

When the First World War began, Nicholls’ good friend Harold Corkett was amongst the first in the area to enlist. Nicholls was keen to go, but had not yet turned 21. Corkett was the first man from Orange to die on Gallipoli, but this only made Nicholls more determined to do his bit.

Nicholls enlisted at Lismore on 18 August 1915, falsely listing his age as 21 years and 5 months. Following his initial training, he was allotted to the 6th reinforcements to the 25th Battalion. Private Nicholls embarked from Brisbane in October aboard the transport ship Seang Bee, bound for Egypt. He arrived too late to be sent to Gallipoli and was instead sent to a training battalion at Zeitoun.

In late February Nicholls was transferred to the 9th Battalion and was posted to C Company. In March the battalion sailed for France. About a fortnight after arriving, the 9th Battalion was in reserve billets near Rouge-de-Bout, one mile behind the front line in the Armentières or “nursery” sector. Intermittent artillery fire was landing nearby.

Early in the afternoon of 20 April, tragedy struck when the billets were heavily shelled. One shell landed outside a canvas tent, wounding four. As men went to assist, another shell landed among them, killing several and wounding others. A further shell hit a brick wall of a nearby billet, causing a further 47 casualties. C Company was decimated, suffering 25 men killed and a further 50 wounded.

Nicholls was wounded in the chest and abdomen by shrapnel and was evacuated to 7th Casualty Clearing Station. However, his wound proved fatal, and he died on 22 April. Laid to rest in the Merville Communal Cemetery, he was just 21 years old.

Just as his friend Harold Corkett was the first man from Orange to die on Gallipoli, Nicholls became the first man from Orange to die on the Western Front.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Basil Nicholls, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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