Private Colin Nicholson, No. 6851, was the first man from Oulton and Woodlesford to be killed fighting in the Great War. He was 26 years old. A professional soldier, he was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards, part of the Expeditionary Force sent out at the start of the war in August 1914. He took part in the Battle of Mons on the 23rd of August, the heavy fighting to the gates of Paris, then in the battles near the rivers Marne and Aisne. On 12 November 1914 he was one of 79 men who died “fighting to the last cartridge” at the First Battle of Ypres.
Colin Nicholson’s name is on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres in Belgium as well as the memorials on Fleet Lane in Oulton, Woodlesford school and the All Saints church memorial which is now in Oulton St. John’s church. He was awarded the Star Campaign Medal of the British Empire, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal which were sent to his widow and son in London.
Colin was born in 1888 at 66 Church Street in Woodlesford where he grew up. He was the son of Benjamin Nicholson, a coal miner from Crossgates, and Sarah Ann Ayers, born in Kings Lynn in Norfolk.
As a young man he joined the army at Caterham in Surrey in 1907 and by 1911 he was living in Chelsea and working as a valet for John Bernard Arbuthnot, a major in the Scots Guards who was also a banker and journalist. Later, in 1917, he was the original author of the famous ‘Beachcomber’ column in the Daily Express newspaper. Colin married Agnes Findley, from Wigtown, Scotland, a domestic servant in the same household, on 2 October 1911.
As a solider Colin was involved in the Siege of Sidney Street, a notorious gunfight in London’s East End in January 1911.
His two brothers, George William Nicholson, and Dick Gladstone Nicholson, as well as his nephew Alfred Nicholson, all born in Woodlesford, also served in the First Word War. In a letter to the Rothwell Courier and Times in published on 12 December 1914 Dick wrote: “This war is a terrible business, and before it is finished thousands of the flower of our army and country (or Empire) will be maimed or slain. If the Kaiser and his sons don’t commit suicide they should be banished to Ceylon or Siberia. My brother has died for a good cause and I don’t think he would have preferred a finer death. He was a good soldier and was respected by the officers and comrades in his battalion.”