For the want of a Nail.
Captain Reginald Denwood Nicholson MNICh MNSCh Royal Army Medical Corps
The Man Reginald Denwood Nicholson was born on 12th January 1915, son of Mr and Mrs R Nicholson of Cockermouth, Cumbria. His middle name being his Mother’s maiden name. Little is known of his early life except that he qualified as a Chiropodist and Masseur and became MNICh and MNSCh (Hons London). He was also a keen climber and his fiancé was Clarice Louisa Mott who came from Greenbank in Brigham. He also had an appendix operation at some time during his youth. Following the outbreak of World War 2, Reginald of Nick as he became known, enlisted as a
Private into the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), Territorial Army on 6th June 1940 at Leeds aged 25. His service number was 7380365 and his religion was given as Church of England. He was described as 5’ 8¼” in height, weighing 117½lbs with brown eyes, dark hair with an appendectomy scar. He lived with his parents at 31 Wordsworth Terrace, Cockermouth. On 17th June he passed the RAMC class of instruction and tradesman test becoming a Clerk, Group C Class III. He trained and served in the United Kingdom, initially based at the ADMS Office, East Lancashire District RAMC at The Drill Hall, Deepdale Road, Preston. On 29th April 1942 he was advanced to Clerk Class II.On 22nd June 1942 at St. Bridget’s Church, Brigham he married Clarice, who had joined the British Red Cross as a Nurse. During 1942 he was recommended for training at an Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU) and was invited and reported for his selection between 1215h-1230h on 20th January 1943 at Saighton Camp, Chester. It seems that he may have failed initially as during March he was posted to the East Central District RAMC at The Garth, 85 High Street,
Dunstable in Bedfordshire. He was however re-interviewed on 3rd June the same year and successful, being recommended for training at an OCTU for an Emergency Commission in the Infantry (Rifles) by No 10 War Office Selection Board. He was enlisted onto 206 Officer Cadet Training Unit on course number 63 between March and May 1944 and on 17th December 1944, received an Emergency Commission in the Regular Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in the RAMC, Non Medical Section, service number 318696.
Shortly after receiving his Commission Nick was posted overseas to Burma as part of the 20th Indian Infantry Division and served with the 42nd Indian Field Ambulance and later at the South East Asia Command (SEAC). He was promoted to Lieutenant and awarded a Mention in Despatches for gallant and distinguished services in Burma by HM King George VI. He held a bank account with Lloyds in Bombay, one of his statements showing that in February 1945 his monthly net salary was £320.15. After the Japanese surrender on 15th August 1945, Nick remained in the region with the Army of India and was promoted to Temporary Captain and appointed as Staff Captain, Headquarters Medical 552 L of C at SEAC. From correspondence he received from former colleagues at the time it seems that he was hoping to remain in the Army for as long as possible and be promoted to Major. He was posted to Mandalay in Burma and returned home during March - April 1946 in the SS Ormonde, celebrating a Landfall Dinner aboard on 10th April. On 14th April he was granted 76 days leave and formally released from the Army on 29th June and granted the honorary rank of Captain.
He lived with his wife at Greenbank, Brigham, Near Cockermouth in Cumbria at the time of his release. Shortly after his release Nick was awarded the 1939-1945 and Burma Stars, Defence and 1939-1945 British War Medals with a Mention in Despatches bronze Oak Leaf. These it seems remained in their box of issue unworn, together with Nick's other military records until May 2009! Nick's National Insurance Number was 5317325 and it appears that he may have travelled parts of the country post war possibly seeking work as a chiropodist as he lived at several addresses, Meadowside, 34 Dover Road, 49, Erith Road, Hartland House, 26 Ilsham Road in Torquay during 1948. 10 Alma Square and 48 Newlands Park Drive, Newby, Scarborough during 1949 and finally 48 Derwent Road, Flixton, Urmston in Lancashire in September 1951. On 1st January 1949 he enlisted into the Regular Army Reserve of Officers as Honorary Captain in the RAMC, attending an annual training camp at Mythchett between 26th July and 16th August 1952. Nothing further is known of the life of Nick or Clarice, except that Nick died during April 1984 aged 69 his death being registered in Carlisle.
The Story The group of medals awarded to Reginald Denwood Nicholson were acquired on Saturday 9th May 2009 at the Birmingham Medal Society Convention at Knowle. They roused interest in the author because of the fact that with the four unnamed medals, there came a box full of uniforms, letters, photographs and much documentation relating to the recipient. It was clear upon going through the artefacts that these had been stored for a long time, probably within the box they were in and apart from a cursory look by the dealer had lain untouched for many years. Going through each individual document could be likened yet again to ‘Opening the Pharaohs Tomb’.
As is often the case it was quite melancholic trawling through another persons belongings that had at one time been so personal, a diary, bank statements, photographs and military identification documents. That saidThat said the amassed paperwork enabled the above biography to be completed and whilst not comprehensive and telling little about Nick before or after the War, it does at least enable an important chapter of his life and memory to be recorded for posterity. At the time of writing the only additional information that has been acquired are his year of death and the possibility of acquiring his birth and death certificate from Ancestry.com.
20th Infantry Division India
Was formed in India, and took part in the Burma Campaign during World War II. In the immediate aftermath of the War, the bulk of the division reoccupied French Indo-China. Formation: The division was formed at Bangalore in April, 1942. It was commanded by Major General Douglas Gracey and at first it consisted of the Indian 32nd, 51st and 53rd Brigades. In July that year, the 51st and 53rd Brigades were detached to form the Indian 25th Infantry Division, and replaced by the Indian 80th Infantry Brigade and Indian 100th Infantry Brigade (the latter brigade being transferred from the 34th Division which had recently disbanded in Ceylon). The division was intended from the start for operations in jungle and mountain and was on a Mixed Animal and Mechanical Transport establishment for maintenance in rough Country. The division's insignia was an Indian Sword (a Tulwar) in Silver, raised aloft in a clenched fist set on a Black Circular background. The sign was chosen to Symbolise the "Swift & Deadly Execution of the Enemy". After training in Southern India and Ceylon, the Division joined Indian XV Corps at Ranchi in Bihar in December, but from July, 1943, it was transferred to IV Corps in Imphal. Battle of Imphal: At the start of the Battle, 20th Division was deployed forward to Tamu in the Kabaw Valley. To avoid being cut off, it retreated to the Shenam Saddle in the hills surrounding the Imphal Plain. Because Indian 17th Infantry Division was in difficulty in its sector, 32nd Brigade was temporarily detached to 17th Division. With other detachments, 20th Division was reduced to only five battalions to defend the Saddle against the Japanese Yamamoto Force. During April and the first part of May, 20th Division held the saddle against attacks by infantry, tanks and heavy artillery. It was then relieved in place, and ordered to counter-attack north-east from Imphal to Ukhrul. The monsoon had broken, and movement was very difficult. After several Japanese counter-attacks, at the start of July the division was transferred to Indian XXXIII Corps and slowly eliminated large numbers of Japanese in and around the the village (which had been made into a Japanese communication and logistic centre). Battle of Central Burma: During the remainder of the monsoon, the division rested around Dimapur. As the monsoon ended, it moved into a bridgehead across the Chindwin River at Kalewa. It attacked southward on December 4, and cleared Japanese rearguards from Monywa. On 13 February, 1945, the division made a crossing of the Irrawaddy River 20 miles west of Mandalay. The boats used were leaky, and other items of equipment already worn out. The first precarious footholds were counterattacked every night for a week, but were eventually linked up into a single solid bridgehead. On 13 March, 20th Division attacked southward, gaining immediate success against the understrength Japanese 31st Division. A column formed from the divisional reconnaissance unit and an attached tank unit, known as Claudecol, reached far into the Japanese rear before turning north and mopping up the disorganised enemy. Southern Burma: In early April, two of the division's brigades were converted to lorried infantry by acquiring the vehicles from the British 2nd Infantry Division which was being withdrawn to India. The division fought its way southward along the east bank of the Irrawaddy until linking up with units of the Indian XV Corps which had occupied Rangoon in Operation Dracula.
Indo-China: In August, 1945, the Japanese surrendered after two atomic weapons were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Allied South East Asia Command's area of responsibility was expanded to embrace several countries including French Indo-China. While Chinese troops occupied the northern part of the country, Gracey's division occupied the southern part. The division's tasks were the release of former Allied prisoners of war and the disarming and repatriation of occupying Japanese units. Later, the division was instructed to hand over to the returning French regime before returning to India. There were several battles with Viet Minh who were intent on achieving independence. Gracey, never one to mince his words, criticised the French for their dismissive attitude towards his Indian and Gurkha units. The division was disbanded in India in 1946.
- 1939-45 Star: Unnamed as awarded.
- Burma Star: Unnamed as awarded.
- War Medal 1939-45: Unnamed as awarded..
- Defence Medal: Unnamed as awarded.
Page last updated 1 Mar 17