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Posted: 04.05.18

Christ College Remembers . . . Captain Benjamin Ethelbert Nicholls


Benjamin Ethelbert Nicholls arrived at Christ College in September 1903, following his older brother, Harry Nicholls (Hostel 1894-1899). At school Ben was officially known as Leeder, having taken his stepfather’s name and also known as ‘Inky’ to his contemporaries. A promising sportsman and described as “the soul of good temper . . . with an overflowing supply of wit and humour”, he played for the 1st XV and 1st Cricket XI.

After leaving Christ College, he began work at his stepfather’s solicitors’ office in Swansea but in 1909 he emigrated to Canada, reverting to his original name of Nicholls on the death of his stepfather in 1912.

He enlisted in Toronto in December 1914, joining the 20th Battalion, the Canadian Infantry. After initial training in Canada, the Battalion continued training in Folkstone and left for France on 14th September 1915. In January 1916, he was wounded in the trenches just outside Ypres and repatriated to the Red Cross Hospital at Cliveden, Taplow, Buckinghamshire. He re-joined his battalion at the Front on 31st October 1916 and was promoted to Acting Captain.

Mentioned in Despatches in April 1917, Captain Nicholls was awarded the Military Cross for his conspicuous gallantry on 9th August 1917 when he brought in casualties from No-Man’s Land. Just a few days later, he was awarded a second Military Cross for his work in capturing a machine gun post.

Captain Nicholls was killed by a shell on 8th May 1918 whilst in a front-line trench at Mercatel, five miles south of Arras, and buried later that day. In Ascension Day, Captain T.A. Girling, the Canadian war poet, captures the moment of the burial of Nicholls, one “who loved earth’s waking hours so well”.

Captain Benjamin Ethelbert Nicholls MC and bar is buried in Bellacourt Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. He is remembered on the Christ College War Memorial as B.E. Leeder, his name while at school.

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