George Matson Nicholas
July 21, 2015
John Pern Nicholas and his wife, Mary Ellen, nee McSheedy had a large family of seven children, six boys and one girl. Four of the boys attended St Patrick’s College –
Athol Miller Nicholas- – SPC 1912-1914
Bryon Fitzgerald Nicholas- SPC 1909-1911
Eric Sutton Nicholas- – SPC 1916-1917
George Matson Nicholas- SPC 1902-1903
The other two brothers, John Percy Hague and Francis Stephen did not attend the College. Francis Stephen did enlist for service in WWI, (Service No. 5814) embarking on 2 October 1916 and returning to Australia in May 1918.
Of the four boys who went to St Patrick’s College, three enlisted. Their details follow.
NICHOLAS, George Matson- – – SPC 1902-1903
DoB:- – 3 March, 1887, Coleraine, VIC
Father:- – John Pern Nicholas
Mother:- – Mary Ellen, nee McSheehy
The College Annual of 1916-1917 included a long entry detailing the actions of George Nicholas -“
– -‘-¦ Capt G M Nicholas -¦ matriculated in the latter year and afterwards obtained a high place in the Government Federal Service examination. The following piece of news about Capt Nicholas was issued at the Military Headquarters, France: –
The General Officer Commanding in Chief has, under authority granted by his Majesty the King, awarded the Distinguished Service Order to Capt G M Nicholas, 24th Battalion, AIF.
After the capture of the German trenches OG [-‘Old German’ trenches]1 and 2 on the 5th August, a patrol commanded by Capt Nicholas found on returning from a reconnaissance in front, that an enemy machine gun in a shell hole had been seriously menacing our men in the front lines. Capt Nicholas, as soon as he located this gun, gallantly went out again alone, and by great dash and initiative succeeded in capturing the gun.
In publishing the above, the Army Corps Commander wishes to convey his congratulations to Capt Nicholas on his gallant action.
Captain Nicholas is also in receipt of the following communication from General Birdwood, commanding the Australian Forces: –
1st Anzac Corps,
August 10th 1916.
My Dear Nicholas,
This is just a line to congratulate you most sincerely upon the DSO which has been awarded you for your magnificent work on the 5th, when, practically alone, you went out and by your dash and initiative captured a German machine gun, which otherwise would have caused us heavy losses. Your action, not only then, but on other occasions, has been beyond praise, and not only do I thank you most heartily for it, but I feel proud at having such officers serving under me.
With all kind regards and good wishes to you for the future.
Yours very sincerely,
W N Birdwood’
Service No:- –
Rank:- – Lieutenant
Unit:- – 24th Battalion
George Matson Nicholas enlisted on 11 May 1915, aged 28 years and two months. He was a single man who worked as a high school teacher. He served at Gallipoli where, on 12 December 1915, he sustained a severe shell wound to his right arm, and a bullet wound to his wrist. He was evacuated out to Heliopolis, Egypt for treatment.
Lieutenant George Nicholas was awarded the French Croix de Guerre medal (Cross of War) for
-‘-¦ his conduct at Lone Pine on 4th October 1915, when he directed the work of the battalion grenadiers during an attempted reconnaissance by the enemy, though to do so it was necessary for him to expose himself to the enemy’s rifle and machine gun fire -¦’
Nicholas recovered from his wounds and proceeded via Marseilles in March 1916 to the front lines in France and Belgium, where he was promoted to the rank of Captain in May 1916. His bravery and gallantry were again recognised when he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in August 1916:
– -‘-¦ After the capture of the German trenches OG 1 & 2 [-‘Old German’ trenches] on the 5th August a patrol commanded by Captain George Nicholas found on returning from a reconnaissance in front, that an enemy machine gun in a shell hole had been seriously menacing our men in the front lines. Captain Nicholas as soon as he located this gun, gallantly went out again alone and by great dash and initiative succeeded in capturing this gun -¦’
In September 1916, George was in Paris, away from the front line, and discovered and admired the paintings of Hilda Rix, an Australian artist originally from Ballarat, who had been studying painting in Paris prior to the outbreak of war. She had abandoned her studio and travelled with her mother and sister to London for the duration of the war. George followed Hilda to London where the couple married within a few weeks of meeting each other, on 7 October 1916.
George returned to France three days later and, tragically, was killed in action at Flers on 14 November 1916. He was 29 years old. He was buried at the AIF Burial Ground, Flers, France.