James Joachim NICHOLAS MID

NICHOLAS, James Joachim

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 20 August 1914
Last Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Last Unit: 5th Field Ambulance
Born: Picola, Victoria, Australia, 17 November 1890
Home Town: Colac, Colac-Otway, Victoria
Schooling: Melbourne University, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Medical Practitioner
Died: Killed In Action, Belgium, 20 September 1917, aged 26 years
Cemetery: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Colac Soldier's Memorial, Echuca War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

20 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Captain, Officer, 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance
18 Oct 1914: Involvement Captain, 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance, Third Ypres
18 Oct 1914: Embarked Captain, 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance, HMAT Southern, Melbourne
5 Oct 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance, ANZAC / Gallipoli
7 Jan 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Captain, 3rd Field Ambulance, Egypt
9 Jan 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Major
5 Dec 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Major, 1st Division Headquarters, Appointed Deputy Assistant Director of Medical Services
9 Apr 1917: Honoured Mention in Dispatches
22 Jul 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Major, 5th Field Ambulance, Belgium
19 Sep 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Lieutenant Colonel, 5th Field Ambulance
20 Sep 1917: Involvement 5th Field Ambulance, Third Ypres

Help us honour James Joachim Nicholas's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Faithe Jones


ECHUCA - On Saturday Mr. W.J. Nicholas of Moama, received the sad news that his son, Lieutenant-Colonel J.J. Nicholas, had been kille din action in France.  The gallant soldier was only 26 years of age.  He was a graduate in medicine of the Melbourne University, and prior to enlisting was practising his profession at Colac.  Lieutenant-Colonel Nicholas went to Gallipoli with the R.A.M.C. with the rank of Captain, and afterwards to France, where he was attached to headquarters' staff as deputy director of the Army Service Corps.  Subsequently he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in command of the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance Corps.


Biography contributed by Sue Smith

James Joachim Nicholas was born on the 17th November 1890 at Picola VIC.  He was the eldest child and only son of John and Sarah Nicholas.  He had a younger sister Sarah.  He was educated at Brighton Grammar School VIC and matriculated at the age of 15 in 1906.  He commenced medical studies at Melbourne University in 1907 graduating as Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 1911 and Doctor of Medicine in 1913. 

During his time at the University he was a regular player for the University's Metropolitan Amateur Football Association team.  He played one VFL match for the University team against Richmond Football Club at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the 8th July 1911.

In 1913 he was one of the house surgeons at Melbourne Hospital and that same year practised medicine jointly with Dr Richard Gibbs at Colac VIC.  The practice was located at the Gibbs family home ‘Glenora’ on the corner of Corangamite and Bromfield Streets, Colac. 

Prior to WW1 Jim served with the 28th Army Medical Corps (AMC). 

On the 17th August 1914, aged 23, Jim enlisted for WW1 at Colac to serve in the AMC with the rank of Captain.  He was assigned to the 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance (1st LHFA).  Jim embarked from Melbourne on the 18th October 1914 on HMAT Southern and proceeded to Albany WA where the ship anchored in King George Sound as part of the 1st Convoy.  The troops were given special leave to go ashore for organised marches through the town and for provisions.  The 1st Convoy of 36 ships sailed from Albany on the 1st November 1914 carrying 30,000 Australian and New Zealand troops to Egypt.  They were to become known as ANZACS. 

Upon arrival in Egypt Jim and the 1st LHFA proceeded to Heliopolis Camp at the racecourse in Cairo where they undertook further training.  They remained there until the 5th October 1915 when they embarked on SS Simla for Gallipoli.  They were at Gallipoli for 6 weeks before the evacuation of the troops from the peninsula took place between the 15th and 20th December.  Jim embarked from Gallipoli on HMAT Karoo and disembarked at Alexandria on the 20th December.  He proceeded to Heliopolis Camp. 

On the 7th January 1916 he transferred to the 3rd Field Ambulance at Maadi Camp.  Two days later he was promoted to Major.  The Unit moved to Tel-el-Kebir Camp on the 15th January 1916 and remained there until the end of March 1916 when they embarked for France.  Jim as the only Officer of an advance party of 40 men embarked from Alexandria on the 26th March on HMT Maryland.  They disembarked at Marseilles France on the 2nd April 1916. 

On the 17th September 1916 Jim was posted for duty as Acting Director of Australian Medical Services (ADMS) in the absence of Major Dodds.  He re-joined his Unit 12 days later.  The Unit moved regularly throughout northern France and were camped at Albert, north-east of Amiens, when the enemy bombed their camp in the early hours of the 11th November 1916, killing 5 men and wounding 33 others.  The following is the entry from the Unit diary:

“At 00.40 this morning an enemy aeroplane flying low, dropped 6 bombs on the 1st Anzac Rest Station.  Five patients were killed outright, thirty three wounded more or less seriously and three slightly.  Of the personnel at this station one was killed, four seriously wounded and one slightly wounded.  All of these belonged to No. 3 Australian Field Ambulance.  One bomb was dropped on the Orderly Room, destroying a number of the records of the station and of the unit.  Damage was done to four marquee tents and eight bell tents.  The distinguishing lamps were burning brightly at the time the attack was made.” 

On the 5th December 1916 Jim transferred from the 3rd Field Ambulance to the 1st Australian Division Headquarters having been appointed as Deputy Assistant Director of Medical Services (DADMS).  Jim was Mentioned in Despatches by Sir Douglas Haig on the 9th April 1917 after the following recommendation was made on the 7th March 1917 for his outstanding work as the DADMS. 

“As D.A.D.M.S., he has carried out his duties with marked ability.  His services have proved of the utmost value in increasing the efficiency of the work of Regimental Medical Officers, with whom he has been in constant touch under all conditions of weather and without any regard for his own personal safety.”

Just over 4 months later on the 22nd July 1917, Jim was appointed to command the 5th Australian Field Ambulance which meant relinquishing the DADMS appointment.  He joined the Unit at Avesnes and in early August the Unit moved to Malhove, south-east of Saint Omer.  They remained there till early September then moved to an area near Ypres in Belgium. 

On the 19th September 1917 Jim was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.  The very next day the “Battle of Menin Road” commenced and continued for 5 days.  It was an offensive operation, part of the Third Battle of Ypres on the Western Front, undertaken by the British Second Army in an attempt to take sections of the curving ridge, east of Ypres, which the Menin Road crossed.  This action saw the first involvement of Australian units (1st and 2nd Divisions AIF) in the Third Battle of Ypres.  The attack was successful along its entire front, though the advancing troops had to overcome formidable entrenched German defensive positions which included mutually supporting concrete pill-box strongpoints and also resist fierce German counter-attacks.  The two AIF Divisions sustained 5,013 casualties in the action....one of them was Jim.  On the first day of the battle, the 20th, while supervising the loading of lorries with the walking wounded he was hit by a high explosive shell and killed.  He was 26. 

Jim was buried in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium. 

After Jim’s death, his parents received a Memorial Scroll, Plaque and Royal Letter from the King acknowledging Jim’s service and their loss.  His parents lived and died in Moama NSW and there is a memorial to Jim on the Nicholas family tomb at the Moama Cemetery. 

Jim is commemorated on several memorials...Echuca War Memorial VIC, Colac WW1 Honour Roll VIC, Colac Soldier’s Memorial VIC, Brighton Grammar School Roll of Honour VIC, Moama & District Honour Roll NSW and the Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour ACT.         

James Joachim Nicholas was awarded for service in WW1 the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and the Anzac Commemorative Medallion.

Respectfully submitted by Sue Smith 11th February 2022