Henry James Nicholas : biography
Henry James Nicholas (11 June 1891 – 23 October 1918) was a New Zealander recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Nicholas was born in Lincoln on 11 June 1891.http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Heritage/People/HenryNicholas/ His parents were Richard and Hannah Nicholas. He attended school in Christchurch, first Christchurch Normal School and then Christchurch East School. He was then apprenticed to become a builder.
Nicholas was a 26-year-old private in the 1st Battalion, Canterbury Regiment, New Zealand Expeditionary Force during World War I,http://muse.aucklandmuseum.com/databases/Cenotaph/11458.detail when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC:
- On 3 December 1917, at Polderhoek in Belgium, Private Nicholas who was one of a Lewis Gun section, which was checked by heavy machine-gun and rifle fire from an enemy strong-point, went forward followed by the remainder of his section at an interval of about 25 yards, shot the officer in command of the strong-point and overcame the remainder of the garrison of 16 with bombs and bayonets, capturing four wounded prisoners and a machine-gun. He captured the strong-point practically single-handed and thereby saved many casualties. Subsequently he went out and collected ammunition under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire.
Later promoted to sergeant, Nicholas was killed in action on 23 October 1918, near Vertigneul in France. He is buried in the Vertigneul Churchyard. His Victoria Cross is on public display in the Canterbury Museum.http://www.birkenheadrsa.com/vc-henry-nicholas.html
A bronze statue with biographical details of Nicholas was erected on the banks of the Avon River on 7 March 2007, near the Bridge of Remembrance. Mark Whyte from Lyttelton was the sculptor of the statue. In September 2008, a plaque in memory of Sergeant Nicholas was unveiled by the community of Zonnebeke and the New Zealand Embassy in Brussels, near Geluveld, just south west of the area where Nicholas won the VC.