Re­dis­cov­er­ing for­got­ten

● De­scen­dants hon­our is­lan­der who

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY CHRIS MACLEN­NAN

Asol­dier killed in the Bat­tle of Loos in the First World War will be hon­oured by his fam­ily this Ar­mistice Day af­ter a chance con­ver­sa­tion led to their dis­cov­ery of his brav­ery and ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice.

Pri­vate Mur­doch Ni­col­son, of the 10th Bat­tal­ion High­land Light In­fantry, was born on Novem­ber 11 1891 – the date in Novem­ber which was later to be­come Ar­mistice Day – and raised in Pein­chor­ran in Braes, on the Isle of Skye.

When war broke out, Mur­doch en­listed in the High­land Light In­fantry in Au­gust of 1914.

Af­ter com­plet­ing his train­ing, Mur­doch, along with his bat­tal­ion, was sent from Folke­stone to France on May 12 1915, on the SS Vic­to­ria to as­sist in the Al­lied ad­vance, and even­tu­ally saw ac­tion at the Bat­tle of Loos on Septem­ber 25 1915.

The High­land Light In­fantry per­son­nel took up their po­si­tion in the trenches east of Cam­brin be­fore be­ing is­sued with or­ders at about 1am to storm the front line.

They bided their time, wait­ing for the most ad­van­ta­geous con­di­tions, be­fore fi­nally launch­ing their as­sault at 6.30am.

Gas cylin­ders were dropped on the en­emy trenches in a bid to draw out the Ger­man forces.

But un­der heavy ma­chine gun fire, many of the ad­vanc­ing Al­lied sol­diers fell within 20 yards of their trench.

On that fate­ful day and in the days fol­low­ing, nine of­fi­cers and 160 men were killed and a fur­ther five of­fi­cers and 174 men were wounded.

Pri­vate Ni­col­son was listed as one of those men who made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice, aged just 23.

It has emerged that at the time, many mem­bers of his fam­ily were not fully aware of his ex­is­tence un­til a chance con­ver­sa­tion be­tween William MacLean and his cousin An­gus

Ni­col­son led to the Skye na­tives seek­ing to find out more about Mr Ni­col­son, who would have been their great un­cle.

Mr MacLean said: “I never knew my grand­fa­ther had a brother and when I started to look into it I wanted to find out more. That’s when the flood­gates re­ally opened.

“So far we have found birth regis­ters, Cen­sus list­ings, Army records and bat­tal­ion war di­aries which have helped us find out a great deal more about him.

“The real turn­ing point came when, by sheer chance, we found pho­tos two weeks af­ter vis­it­ing the Bri­tish front line in France where he was killed.

“They were an old Braes school photo from the early 1900s, which was on the web­site of the ar­chive cen­tre in Portree, and a photo of Mur­doch with my grand­fa­ther, Malcolm, hid­den in a knit­ting pat­tern in the home of Nancy Ni­col­son, An­gus’s mum.

“We feel that we have re­ally got to know him through our re­search.”

Pri­vate Ni­col­son is re­mem­bered with many oth­ers on the Loos Me­mo­rial, the Portree War Me­mo­rial in Somerled Square, me­mo­rial plaques at the Per­sie and Glen­shee parish churches in Perthshire and at the Scot­tish Na­tional War Me­mo­rial at Edinburgh Cas­tle.

Mr MacLean added: “It will be our ab­so­lute priv­i­lege to stand there at Somerled Square in Portree and re­mem­ber Mur­doch for his sac­ri­fice, both then, now and for­ever.”

Bert Petrie, left, and Jimmy John­stone, right, made a bid to es­cape their cap­tors

Mur­doch Ni­col­son died at just 23

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.