‘Dear father and sister and all at Easton, hoping these few lines will find you quite well as it leaves me quite well at present. I must write just to let you know I am still smiling, we are having some very nice weather...’
So begins a fascinating letter written on January 1, 1916, from the trenches of France by Charles Nicholls.
Just nine months later he was killed in action serving with the Lincolnshire Regiment.Tragically, Charles was one of five brothers from Easton-on-the-Hill who lost their lives during the First World War.
Andrew Baker, a stonemason and military history enthusiast who moved to the village in 2000, said there are only three other known cases of five brothers from the same family being killed during the First World War.
He said: “I started looking after and cleaning our war memorial a couple of years after moving to Easton. I remember seeing there were five Nicholls on there and thought ‘surely they aren’t all brothers? Perhaps uncles or cousins?’
“But as we started to research it the sad truth became apparent. They were five boys from the same family. It’s very sad. That family made a huge sacrifice.”
At the outbreak of the war, 213 men from the village went off to fight – and 45 of them never returned home.
Alfred and Harriet Nicholls, who lived in a farmhouse on the outskirts of Easton, were married in 1868 and went on to have 14 children – 11 sons and three daughters. Five of their sons –Charles, George, John, Cecil and Arthur Nicholls were killed during the war.
Andrew Baker and fellow Easton-on-the-Hill residents Ted Ford and Jim Mason are planning a weekend of events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme next week.
With help from Easton-on-the-Hill History Group, the trio have uncovered fascinating information about the five Nicholls brothers which will form part of a special exhibition in the village.
Easton’s Somme commemorations will begin on the morning of Friday, July 1, when a whistle will be sounded at the village war memorial at 7.30am, marking the moment the battle commenced and 45 candles will be lit.
The information uncovered on the Nicholls brothers and other local soldiers will form part of the exhibition, at the village hall, between 10.30am and 4pm on July 2 and 3 – alongside artefacts including medals, photos, uniforms and video footage.
A commemoration service will be held on the Sunday at 10.30am.
Weather permitting there will be a Tiger Moth flypast at 11.30am, a ‘soup kitchen’ will open at midday in the village hall car park and Stamford Brass will be performing.
Ted Ford said: “We hope people will come along over the weekend to view the exhibition and read Charles’ fascinating letter from the frontline.
“We are keen to make sure people remember the sacrifices these brave men made.”
Research shows that George Nicholls was born on September 28, 1880. He married Ethel Kirk on February 28, 1916. George was a private in the West Yorkshire Regiment. He died from wounds on April 12, 1917 and is commemorated at Achiet-le-Grand cemetery, in Pas-de-Calais, northern France.
John James Nicholls was born on November 26, 1882. In 1905 he married Margaret Marriott. They had five sons. John served with the Royal Fusiliers and was killed in action on October 26, 1917. He is commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial is West Flanders, Belgium.
Cecil Richard Nicholls was born on December 20, 1889. He joined the army in 1911, serving initially with the 1st battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. Cecil was killed in action on December 2, 1917, and is commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial in West Flanders, Belgium.
Arthur Benjamin Nicholls was born on November 11, 1893. He married Lily Woodward on August 2, 1913 at the age of 19. Arthur served with the 1st battlion of The Lincolnshire Regiment and was killed in action on August 23, 1915. He is commemorated at Ypres, in Belgium.
Charles Nicholls was born on July 29, 1988. He married Dora Mabel Woodward on January 18, 1915. Charles joined the 6th battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment and was killed in action on September 30, 1916. He is honoured at the Thiepval Memorial, in France.