Born in 1897 in Launceston, Tasmania, Nelson James Francis Sing was the son of John Percy Sing and Annie Parish. Prior to enlisting for service on 17 June 1915, Nelson worked as a boat builder. After obtaining his father’s permission to join, Nelson was assigned to the 2nd reinforcements for the 26th Battalion.
Departing Melbourne aboard HMAT Orsova one month later, Nelson first served at Gallipoli. In early 1916 Nelson proceeded to France and in August he suffered a gunshot wound to his leg near Pozières. Nelson was evacuated to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital in England and discharged several months later to Command Depot No. 2 in Weymouth.
It was while Nelson was in Weymouth that he met and fell in love with Englishwoman Ada Collins. The 22–year–old Ada lived in Wyke Regis in southern Dorset. The couple were married on 18 April 1917 and in January of the following year Ada gave birth to a daughter, Muriel Vera.
At the end of July 1918 Nelson rejoined his battalion in France and, after taking part in both the August offensive and the attack on Mont St Quentin, he was killed by machine-gun fire on 3 October in an attack on Bellevue Farm near Montbrehain. Ada received notification of his death approximately one month prior to armistice. Nelson was buried in Beaurevoir Communal Cemetery, two-and-a-half miles north-west of Montbrehain.
In 1919, in Weymouth, England, Ada married a young man named John Marshall. She moved with him to Australia, where the pair settled and started a family.
Ada and Nelson’s daughter, Muriel, married Thomas Keevil, who served with Australia in the Second World War in 1943, and settled with her husband in Bankstown, New South Wales.
Nelson’s name is located on panel 109 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial.
Activities for research and classroom discussion
Why did Nelson have to gain his father’s permission to join the military? Why might he have wanted to join?
Examine the image of the battlefield in Pozières. What difficulties might the soldiers have experienced on this battlefield?
The men in the image below were resting and reading mail from home. How might they be feeling reading the words of their loved ones and knowing that any minute they could be preparing for battle? Write a short diary extract as if you were one of the men in the photo.
Command Depot No. 2 in Weymouth was organised under the AIF Education Scheme. From the images below, what do you think the soldiers would have done at the depot?
What was the AIF Education Scheme? Why was it established?
Nelson was killed by machine-gun fire outside of Montbrehain in France. Research how Australian troops finally captured the town and why this battle was significant.