681022 DVR. C. B. NICKSON. R.F.A.
Cuthbert (Bert) Benedict Nickson was born in the second quarter of 1894 in Lostock Hall. His father was John Nickson (b. 1866) originally from Moss Side near Lytham, a grocer and shopkeeper but later cotton weaver, and his mother was Lucy Whittle (b. 1865 in Lostock Hall). They married in 1888 and thereafter lived in Ward Street. They had 6 children, three of whom survived infancy: John Vincent (b. 1891), Bert and Francis Oswald (b. 1903). All the family worked in the cotton mill as weavers.
Bert, along with Francis Schultz and a number of my other relatives, all joined the 2nd West Lancashire Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. In the field, this was known as 286 Brigade, and in fact Bert and Francis were even in the same Battery – “A” Bty. There were four batteries in a brigade, and the full complement of men in a battery was 168. These included 75 gunners and 70 drivers. Bert was a driver.
All the men enlisted on the same day, 19 May 1915, in Bamber Bridge. After training, the Brigades left for France in early 1917 and were involved in the heavy fighting to defend the town of Armentières, on the French-Belgian border. In July 1917 they suffered their first attack by the new mustard gas. In late September the Brigade was relieved from the front line and withdrew for a period of training, and returned to the line at Langemark about 35km north of Armentières, not far from the small village of Passchendaele, which would be the scene of some of the bloodiest battles of the War. On 9 October 286 Brigade returned to action engaging in harassing and destructive fire on enemy strongpoints, but also suffering their heaviest losses of the war so far, with many soldiers being gassed. Bert was wounded in action on this day. He died at 61 Casualty Clearing Station. He was 23 years old. (In the photo, Bert is standing left, next to Francis Schultz and Tom Craven, all from Lostock Hall).
286 Brigade was to lose over 300 men before the end of the month, killed or wounded – almost half their full complement.
Service No: 681022
Date of Death: 09/10/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, "A" Bty. 286th Bde.
Grave Reference: VIII. G. 12.
Cemetery: DOZINGHEM MILITARY CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of John and Lucy Nickson, of 20 Ward Street, Lostock Hall, Preston.
Bert’s older brother, John Vincent, also signed up. In December 1915 he joined the 3rd Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. This Battalion was home-based and engaged in coastal defence (he ended up in Felixstowe) and draft finding. John’s records have been very badly mutilated so it’s not possible to discern if he served abroad. After the War, he married Teresa Green in 1922 and died in 1979.
John Nickson, the boys’ father, died in 1915 – about the time they were enlisting – so that must have been an especially trying time for their mother Lucy. She died in 1940.