Peter James Patrick Nicholls

Photograph

Name on Plaque

P. J. NICHOLLS

Connection with Effingham

He was born in Effingham although his Nicholls ancestors were not.

Genealogy

He preferred to be known as James or Jim, but throughout this account he is referred to as Peter James.

His grandfather James Tickner Nicholls was born in Lambeth in 1850 to parents Frederick John Nicholls and Mary (née Tickner) [GRO Ref: Lambeth 4 364 [page uncertain], 1850 (Q1)]. Frederick John had married Mary in 1845 [GRO Ref: St. Giles 1 89, 1845 (Q2)]. Here they are in 1851:

1851 Census
No. 7, Queen Street, Lambeth, Surrey : PRO Ref: HO107 Piece 1569 Folio 450 Page 2

Frederick Nicholls : head : mar : 32 : tallow chandler (labourer) : Surrey
Mary Nicholls : wife : mar : 25 : — : Surrey
Emily Nicholls : dau : unm : 4 : — : Lambeth
Frederick Nicholls : son : unm : 2 : — : Lambeth 
James [Tickner] Nicholls : son : unm : 1 : — : Lambeth 

James Tickner’s future wife was Emily (née) Lemon, born to parents George Lemon and Esther (née Peters) in West Clandon on October 22nd 1847 [GRO Ref: Guildford 4 170, 1847 (Q4)]. George and Esther had married at West Clandon on June 24th 1827 [IGI: Batch M135262]. Emily was baptised at West Clandon on November 21st 1847 [IGI: Batch C135262]. James Tickner married her at West Clandon on April 12th 1873 [GRO Ref: Guildford 2a 85, 1873 (Q2) : IGI Batch M135262].

During the 1870s James Tickner and Emily produced three children: Herbert James [GRO Ref: Guildford 2a 67, 1874 (Q2)], George Alfred [GRO Ref: Epsom 2a 30, 1876 (Q2)] and Walter [GRO Ref: Epsom 2a 27, 1877 (Q4)]. Walter, who would become the father of Peter James, was (according to his daughter Margaret) born at one of two small cottages reached by a track leading from a farm in Childs Hall Road, Bookham. Here is the family in 1881, now living in Great Bookham:

1881 Census
West Road, Great Bookham, Surrey : PRO Ref: RG11 Piece 764 Folio 91 Page 21

James Nicholls : head : mar : 31 : groom : Waterloo Road, Lambeth
Emily Nicholls : wife : mar : 33 : — : W. Clandon, Surrey
Herbert Nicholls : son : unm : 6 : scholar : W. Clandon, Surrey
George Nicholls : son : unm : 4 : scholar : Gt. Bookham, Surrey
Walter Nicholls : son : unm : 3 : scholar : Gt. Bookham, Surrey

According to family anecdote, James Tickner was at this time working as a groom at The Rectory in Rectory Lane, Bookham.

Walter’s future wife was Florence (née) Power, born in Bermondsey to Thomas Power and Margaret (née O’Keefe) in 1890 [GRO Ref: St. Olave 1d 251, 1890 (Q4) – indexed as “Florrie”]. She was baptised on January 4th 1891 at the Roman Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity at Dockhead in Bermondsey; the register gives her parents’ address as 176, Drummond Road and her birthdate as November 25th 1890. The church was destroyed in WW2.

Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Dockhead, Bermondsey in 1907.

Here is Walter in 1891, living in Rose Cottage in Little Bookham Street: 

1891 Census
Rose Cottage, Little Bookham, Surrey : PRO Ref: RG12 Piece 549 Folio 87 Page 14

James Nicholls : head : mar : 40 : groom : Waterloo Road, London
Emily Nicholls : wife : mar : 43 : — : W. Clandon, Surrey
Herbert Nicholls : son : unm : 16 : general labourer : W. Clandon, Surrey
George Nicholls : son : unm : 14 : general labourer : Gt. Bookham, Surrey
Walter Nicholls : son : unm : 13 : scholar : Gt. Bookham, Surrey
Henry Baglett : lodger : unm : 30 : cowman : Worplesdon, Surrey

and here is his future wife Florence:

1891 Census
No. 176, Drummond Street, Bermondsey, London : PRO Ref: RG12 Piece 377 Folio 11 Page 17

Thomas Power : head : mar : 36 : — [no occupation entered] : Bermondsey, London
Margaret Power : wife : mar : 36 : — : Parsontown, Ireland
John Power : son : unm : 6 : — : Colchester, Essex
Thomas Power : son : unm : 4 : — : Bermondsey, London
Florence Power : dau : unm : 4 months : — : Bermondsey, London

The following year Walter’s father James Tickner died aged “41” [GRO Ref: Epsom 2a 22, 1892 (Q4)].

In 1899 Thomas Power died aged “43” [GRO Ref: St. Olave 1d 99, 1899 (Q2)].

The 1901 Census finds Walter still in Little Bookham and Florence still in Bermondsey:

1901 Census
[Rose Cottage] Little Bookham Street, Surrey : PRO Ref: RG13 Piece 586 Folio 139 Page 12

Emily Nicholls : head : widow : 53 : — : W. Clandon, Surrey
Herbert Nicholls : son : unm : 26 : blacksmith : W. Clandon, Surrey
Walter Nicholls : son : unm : 23 : gardener domestic : Gt. Bookham, Surrey

1901 Census
No. 428, Guinness Trust Buildings, Pages Walk, Bermondsey, London : PRO Ref: RG13 Piece 389 Folio 163 Page 60

Margaret Power : head : widow : 45 : office cleaner : Ireland
Michael Power : son : unm : 18 : labourer [in] glue yard : Colchester, Essex
Florence Power : dau : unm : 9 [sic – actually 10] : — : Bermondsey, London
(Note – the record omits Margaret’s son Thomas who has not yet been found in this census.)

Guinness Trust Buildings existed in several parts of London besides Bermondsey, having been specially built by Sir Edward Guinness to provide single-room lodgings to poor people who had been living in unsanitary conditions. The facilities included shared bathrooms with hot-and-cold running water.

The Guinness Trust Buildings in Pages Walk, Bermondsey.

Walter has not been found with certainty in the 1911 Census. The following may well be his entry but with his marital status mis-entered by his landlady:

1911 Census
Chapel Steps, Haslemere, Surrey : PRO Ref: RG14 Piece 3151 Schedule 166

Walter Nicholls : boarder : mar [sic] : 36 : [house] painter : Bookham [Surrey]
Thomas Rowles : border [sic] : widower : 40 : saddler harness maker : Lee, Kent
Henry Welch : boarder : unm : 33 : gardener “domestic” : Sheet, Hampshire
Louisa Berry : head : widow : 69 : boarding house : Alfold, Surrey

Meanwhile his mother Emily was in service in Great Bookham and Florence was in service in Lygon Place, near Victoria station:

1911 Census
Halfway House, Great Bookham, Surrey : PRO Ref: RG14 Piece 2978 Schedule 134

Albert Farrow : head : mar : 42 : dairyman : Richmond, Surrey
with his family and this boarder:
Emily Nicholls : boarder : widow : 64 : laundry : West Clandon, Surrey

1911 Census
No. 7, Lygon Place, St. George Hanover Square, London : PRO Ref: RG14 Piece 436 Schedule 53

Louisa Czarnikow : head : widow : 90 : private means : Brixton, Surrey
with 8 servants, including:
Florence Power : scullery maid : unm : 21 : scullery maid : Bermondsey, London

Florence’s employer Louisa Czarnikow was the widow of the deceased sugar magnate (Julius) Caesar Czarnikow who in the 1880s had bought Effingham Hill House whilst also holding property in Belgravia. It may be that Florence had been in service at Effingham Hill up until Caesar’s death in 1909 and had then been retained in London by Louisa. Louisa died in 1911 shortly after the census and so Florence’s employment with that family presumably came to an end then or soon afterwards. Family anecdote tells that Florence’s initial arrival in Effingham had come about through the agency of priests (probably including Fathers Edward and William Murnane – the so-called “Saints of Bermondsey” – of the Dockhead church in which she had been baptised; it was the priests from that church who provided services to the private chapel constructed in about 1896 by the great railway engineer and contractor George Craig Saunders Pauling in his Effingham property The Lodge. It is at present unclear as to how these various factors – the priests, the Czarnikows and the Paulings – determined Florence’s coming to Effingham.

In 1913 the new Catholic church “Our Lady of Sorrows” was opened in Effingham, having been built under Pauling’s design, direction and funding. Walter, a late convert to Catholicism, was the first person baptised there and so appears first in the church’s Baptism Register, on December 6th 1913; the entry gives his birthdate as October 26th 1877. In 1914 he married Florence at St. Joseph’s in Dorking [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 308, 1914 (Q1)], as “Our Lady of Sorrows” was at that time not authorised to marry people.

Their National Registration cards are shown below. Walter’s card bears a stamp for 1915, the year in which the relevant Act came into force. His age appears to have been first entered as 37 – his age during most of 1915 – and later updated to 42. He was living at Tyrrell House in Effingham when his card was first issued to him in 1915. Florence’s card is undated but indicates that she was at that address when aged 30, around 1920. Thus their residence at Tyrrell House appears to have spanned at least some of the period 1915-1920.

National Registration Cards for Walter and Florence : about 1915-1920.

The cards state that he was occupied as a manservant and she as a domestic servant. It is understood from several sources that they were working in these capacities for Pauling’s family at The Lodge. Walter has been described variously as Pauling’s valet or butler, often spending evenings drinking whisky with him, and Florence as initially a housemaid but then a carer of Pauling’s daughters Dolores Angela (born in 1908) and Jane Josephine (born in 1912) by his third wife Dolores (“Lola”) Lopez (née Guibara). The relationship between the Nicholls and Pauling families became a close and enduring one, as will become more evident as this account proceeds.

On December 10th 1915 Walter enlisted in the Army Service Corps. He evidently served subsequently in the Labour Corps with service number 504536, being ranked as a Private. He did no active service overseas and consequently received no campaign medals. On March 5th 1919 he was transferred to the Army Reserve, as recorded on his demobilisation certificate:

Walter’s demobilisation certificate in March 1919.

Walter and Florence produced altogether five (known) children:

Peter James (“Jim”) Patrick Nicholls [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 242, 1919 (Q2)]
Evelyn (“Evie”) Maria Nicholls [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 329, 1921 (Q3)]
Margaret (“Maggie”) Mary Nicholls [GRO Ref: Reigate 2a 338, 1924 (Q2)]
Thomas (“Tom”) Paul Nicholls [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 294, 1926 (Q1)]
Anthony (“Joe”) Nicholls [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 335, 1928 (Q3)]

In 1919 their first child Peter James Patrick was born. His entry in the Catholic church’s Baptism Register gives his birthdate as March 9th, his baptism date as April 13th and his parents’ home as “Westmoor Cottage, Westmoor Lane”. He was baptised by Father Bernard Kelly. His god-parents were entered as Thomas Power and Jane Pauling.

Meanwhile, George C.S. Pauling had died in February 1919. His widow Lola continued living at The Lodge, with their daughters, for about eight more years. Florence seemingly remained in their employ for some of this period, as her total time with the Paulings was stated by a later newspaper article as having been ten years. How long Walter worked for the family is not yet known.

Walter’s National Health Insurance card for the mid-1920s gives his address then as “Westmoor Lane, W. Horsley”. Records in the National Archives make clear that “Westmoor Lane” – actually in Effingham – was an alternative name in this period for today’s Orestan Lane. Family anecdote confirms that Walter and Florence lived in the early years of their marriage in Orestan Lane at Westmoor Cottage, which had an earthen floor. Westmoor Cottage was attached in a staggered fashion to the southern end of the terrace of three houses properly called Plough Cottages but was itself often confusingly referred to as “No. 1, Plough Cottages”; nonetheless, it was here that some of their children (not including the third one, Margaret) were born.

Mary Rice-Oxley’s archive includes notes made in 1991 during an interview with the latter Margaret (by then, Mrs. Biles, whose second husband Arthur William (“Bill”) was a brother of Francis Biles who died in WW2). Margaret (“Maggie”) recalled that her parents had paid a weekly rent of four, later five, shillings to Mrs. Saunders who lived on the other (southern) side of the lane at Old Westmoor Cottage (once known also as Westmore House), opposite the Plough Inn. This property, which still survives, is the one having the ornately-gabled frontage and which in the early 20th century functioned as a laundry run by Mrs. Ellen Whittington, the widowed mother of Bob Whittington who died in the Great War. Mrs. Saunders’ husband James owned Old Westmoor Cottage; Margaret suggested (but this remains to be proved) that he also owned the Plough Inn and the terrace of Plough Cottages with their appendage Westmoor Cottage. Westmoor Cottage was later demolished owing to it protruding inconveniently into the road; later still, the Plough Cottages also went.

Plough Cottages viewed from Orestan Lane.
At the right-hand end of the terrace is Westmoor Cottage ; at the photo’s right edge is Old Westmoor Cottage.

Walter evidently took an active part in the Effingham cricket club. An undated photograph exists showing him among the members, probably before or after a match. It was roughly (and confusingly) annotated by a now-deceased resident George Ranger, who described Walter as the umpire and as Pauling’s valet. By comparison with another cricket photograph dated with certainty to 1920, this one appears to have been taken well before then. The image below is the result of isolating Walter’s image from it.

Walter at a gathering of Effingham cricket club : early 20thC.

In 1921 Walter’s daughter Evelyn Maria was born. Her entry in the Catholic church’s Baptism Register gives her birthdate as July 10th and her baptism date as July 31st.

The next child Margaret Mary was born on April 6th 1924 and baptised on April 27th. She was the only child of theirs not born in Effingham. She had presented a difficult delivery for Florence who had to be taken for the birth to the nearest maternity hospital, this being in Redhill.

Thomas Paul was the next child, born on February 4th 1926 and baptised on March 7th. The family was still at Westmoor Cottage.

In February 1927 Lola’s elder daughter Dolores Angela married, at age 19 (O’Connor’s The History of Effingham mistakenly says “18”). Soon after, Lola and her younger daughter Jane Josephine departed from The Lodge. The property was taken over in 1928 by the Royal School for the Blind, Leatherhead (known also as the School for the Indigent Blind) to accommodate blind women. By 1930 it had 47 such inmates, according to Henry Wagg’s volume  A Chronological Survey of Work for the Blind [publ. Pitman & Son, 1932]. In 1932 it was taken over by Surrey County Council to accommodate up to 50 “sane epileptics”. Meanwhile, Lola and Jane Josephine took up residence at The Prebendal, a property dating back to at least 1234 in the village of Thame, Oxfordshire.

The Prebendal in Thame, Oxfordshire, home of Lola Pauling after leaving Effingham until 1938.
(Photograph contributed by Rob Farrow, copyrighted but also licensed for further reuse.)

Some of the Nicholls family at the back of Plough Cottages : about 1927.

The above photograph of the Nicholls family was taken in the late 1920s at the back of Plough Cottages. At the rear are (at left) a friend Sarah O’Connell and then Florence holding Margaret, then aged about 3; at the front are Evelyn and Peter James.

Walter’s last child Anthony was born on July 30th 1928 and baptised on August 12th. His baptism record gives the family’s address now as Church Street.

Peter James had his education funded by Jane Josephine, who was his god-mother; he was enrolled at a school in Purley, possibly Purley County Grammar School. Family anecdote tells that he hated it there, feeling like a “duck out of water”, although he seems to have told his benefactress the opposite. Four letters survive that were written to him or to his parents from The Prebendal during this period. Here are their transcriptions:

Jan 9th [presumed late 1920s or early 1930s]

Dear Peter,
Thank you very much for your letter, which you wrote me some time ago. I am very pleased to see from your last term’s report that you have made a good effort to begin well at your new school. I hope that next term your efforts will be “re-doubled”. I’m so pleased you like the school. Perhaps one day when I am near Purley I will come and see you at work.
With best wishes to you all & good luck & hard work next term.
Jane Pauling

Oct 27th /30 [1930]

Dear Mrs. Nicholls,
I am so pleased to hear that Peter is getting on so well at his school. Miss Jane pays for it out of her allowance so it really has nothing to do with me. Tell Peter to write to her sometimes. I hope you & your little family are well. How is old Mrs. Nicholls?
With best wishes from us both.
Yours sincerely
Lola Pauling

June 1st /31 [1931]

Dear Nicolls [sic]
The Public Trustee says all the cottages belonging to Mr. Pauling at Effingham must now be sold. He has been very good up till now in not insisting on the sale & so I am afraid there is now no hope of my being able to dissuade him from it further. I very much hope you will be able to make arrangements to buy your cottage at the sale if you still wish to live there. I would very much like to be able to buy them all myself & so save any of you from further anxiety as to your landlord – but it is quite impossible for me this year owing to the present Government Taxation is too high for people to be able to keep others as much as they would like to. Hoping you are all well & with best wishes to all
Yours sincerely
Lola Pauling

June 1st [perhaps also 1931]

Dear Mrs. Nicholls,
I have been wondering lately how you are all getting on? What is Peter doing now? I feel guilty at not having seen or heard of him lately as I always want to take an interest in my god son! How is the old lady? I hope still bearing up – this weather does not tend to make things bright & cheerful, does it? I have no idea whether you are still in the same cottage – but perhaps this will find you. We are all very well here, animals included. Hopeing [sic] you will have time to me a word of yourself.
Kind regards to all & love
Yours Jane

It is not known when Peter James left the Purley school, nor how he spent the remainder of the 1930s.

The photo below on the left shows Walter and Florence with their two youngest sons, Joe (the left-most) and Tom, in the early 1930s, now living at 1, Church Street in Effingham. This was the north-most of the pair of semi-detached cottages standing between “The Old Post Office” and the old forge (today’s M.P.S. firm). The photo on the right shows Walter’s mother Emily at the Church Street home and may have been taken in the same period.

Left – Walter, Florence and two sons in the garden of 1, Church Street : about 1933-34.
Right – Emily (née Lemon) Nicholls at the same property : probably early 1930s.

 

By 1933 Emily was unwell and in the Infirmary – administered by Surrey County Council – at 2, Horsham Road in Dorking. On July 20th of that year the Master of the Infirmary, Mr. J. Banks, wrote to Walter (at his Church Street address) reporting that she was well enough to come home and asking him to collect her [letter: Nicholls Family Archive]. She died the following year, aged “86” [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 345, 1934 (Q1)]. A telegram, sent from the same Infirmary and dated March 12th, was sent to the family:

Nicholls Church St. Effingham
Regret Emily Nicholls passed away this morning await arrangements
Master Dorking Infirmary

The photograph below on the left shows Florence with sons Tom and Joe with many other villagers on an excursion, probably to Bognor Regis, around the late 1930s. On the right is another photo taken in the 1930s. A relation said that thisshowed a “comic football match” in which the players dressed in various roles. At the far left is Peter James dressed as a “groom”, with his “bride” standing next to him. It is known that a “comic football match” took place at the village’s 1937 Coronation celebration, so this photo was very probably taken then.

Left – Florence, rear left, next to a Mrs Probert, with Tom (left) and Joe (front) : late 1930s.
Right – Comic football match, Peter James at left : probably at the Coronation celebration on May 12th 1937.

A former late resident (Mary Elizabeth Procter) has stated that in the 1930s Peter James saved the life of her brother, Edmund (“Ted”) Maurice Procter, who was drowning in the open-air Gilmais swimming pool that used to be near Beckley Cottages in Great Bookham, on the north side of the A246.

In WW2 Peter James (under the name “James Peter”) served as a Private in the Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey), 2nd Battalion. We do not yet know when he joined up, but the photograph below may have been taken soon after he did so.

Peter James Nicholls on a visit to his uncle Thomas Power at Beatrice Road, Bermondsey.

In a brief war diary he described the journey he and his comrades took to Palestine in early 1940. On February 14th, from their camp in Stoughton, they went by train to Southampton and thence to a dock just off Portsmouth. At 2 a.m. that night they sailed to Cherbourg where they spent most of the 15th. Just before midnight they boarded a train for Marseilles, arriving there at 9 a.m. on the 17th. In the afternoon they boarded the “Duchess of Atholl” – requisitioned at the end of 1939 as a troop carrier – and sailed for the Mediterranean.

The “Duchess of Atholl”.

After two days of rough seas they arrived on February 20th at Malta, of which he wrote “Night over Malta is a sight that I will never forget”. From there they sailed on to Egypt, arriving on the 22nd at Alexandria where they disembarked and boarded a train bound for Kantara. From Kantara a further train took them to “Liddya”, whose location is uncertain. They reached that place on the 23rd where they were, he wrote, “met by the R.S.M. and I cannot say that I like the look of him”. They were then put onto trucks which, after passing through Jerusalem, brought them to their camp a few miles from Jericho, prompting him to write “I hate the sight of the place and all I long and pray for is the day I go back to England.”

There survives [Nicholls Family Archive] what appears to be the draft of a letter, written by him around February 30th, apparently intended to be sent to his family. In it he says, of the journey out, “we passed through some wonderful places” and “we are camped in a valley and so we have hills each side which are miles high, and on the sides of the hills grow some wonderful flowers. About the only trees we see are orange, lemon and grapefruit, so you can guess that they are cheap”.

On May 5th 1940 a friend Elsie Mildred (née) Butcher in Effingham penned a letter to him, as follows:

“Dear Jim,

I hear you have arrived at Palestine safely, am glad you are well and had a good journey. I guess it’s some difference to Effingham. I have heard it’s a nice place. We are having nice weather here. I hope it will last & expect it is warm out there. My father is still keeping well and my mother really wonderful. I hope we shall have better luck this year. I am sending you a few cigs and some books. I expect you will enjoy them. I am afraid I haven’t much news. I expect your mother tells you all so will close. All the very best and a safe return, so cheerio. We all three send our very kind regards so cheerio.

Yours sincerely, Elsie Butcher.”

Elsie was one of the many children of William Butcher and his wife Edith (née Taylor). This family lived at the property known today as “Old Post Cottage” in Church Street. Here, William was occupied as Effingham’s sub-postmaster. Elsie was born, in 1903, with a deformed arm and never married. Her family had always been on friendly terms with the Nicholls family.

As these various writings have survived it seems certain that Peter James returned with them from Palestine to Effingham, perhaps on leave, before departing again for North Africa. Below are two photographs of him on active service, although it is not known just where or when they were taken.

Left – Peter James is left-most at the rear.

In North Africa in late 1941 he was seriously wounded. According to family anecdote he was machine-gunned and lost both a leg and an arm. He landed up as a stretcher case on board the steamer “Chakdina” which had been requisitioned in January 1940 as an armed boarding vessel and was being used as a supply ship plying between Alexandria (in Egypt) and Tobruk (in Libya).

The “Chakdina”.

The Chakdina was sunk on the evening of December 5th 1941. Accounts of the event differ in some details but the consensus is that, following a supply trip to Tobruk, she was returning from there to Alexandria. On board were about 600 men. Of these, 380 – including Peter James – were wounded men being evacuated from hospitals in Tobruk which had become overcrowded owing to the long period of bitter fighting in Libya. The aim was to take them to the General Hospital in Alexandria. When about 30 miles ENE of Tobruk, some time after 9 pm, the ship was attacked by three Italian torpedo bombers. The Chakdina was struck by a single aerial torpedo which exploded in an after-hold. Some on board managed to scramble out of the ship as she sank, hearing behind them “a cry, in an agony of terror, from the trapped men below”. The ship went down in just three-and-half minutes, drowning about 400 men.

Florence must have written to the Army seeking further information, evidently having not heard for certain whether Peter James had died. She received this reply, sent to her Church Street address, more than three months after the sinking, from the War Office’s Casualty Branch in Wavertree, Liverpool:

24th March, 1942.

Madam, With reference to your letter to the Officer-in-Charge of Records, Royal Army Service Corps Record Office, Hastings, dated 2nd March, 1942, regarding No. 6093106, Private J.P. Nicholls, The Queen’s Royal Regiment, I am directed to inform you, with regret, that your son was a surgical lying case on board H.M.S. “Chadkina” when the vessel was bombed and sunk off the coast of Libya. It is regretted that his name does not appear among those saved, and it is feared that the prospect of his survival must be regarded as very slight. Every endeavour is being made to secure information as to his fate and you may be assured that Mr. Nicholls will be immediately notified of any further developments.

I am to convey to you an expression of sympathy in your great anxiety. I am, Madam, Your obedient Servant, W. Gamble.

Florence and Walter must have written to the same office again on August 26th, as there survives a brief reply dated August 31st simply assuring them that their enquiry was receiving attention.

On October 10th 1942 the “Duchess of Atholl” on which Peter James had first sailed was itself sunk by U-boat torpedoes in the Atlantic, but losing only 5 of the 826 persons on board.

In late 1944, aged only 40, Elsie Butcher died [GRO Ref: Surrey Mid.E. 2a 315, 1944 (Q4)].

On December 15th 1952 Walter died [GRO Ref: Surrey S.W. 5g 1006, 1952 (Q4)]. The GRO index records his age inaccurately as “77” instead of 75. He was buried at Our Lady of Sorrows on December 18th.

On March 3rd 1964 Florence was a guest at a coffee morning held at The Lodge, still operating as a home for epileptics. Her attendance there was reported in a local newspaper’s article about the event, as follows:

One of the guests was Mrs. Florence Nicholls (76), of 9 Norwood Close, Effingham, and as she went with the others on a conducted tour of the home, she was sadly nostalgic. Fifty years ago, in the days when The Lodge was the gracious home of the Roman Catholic philanthropist, Mr. George Pauling, and his third wife, Mrs. Nicholls was “in service” there for 10 years, first as a housemaid, and later in the nurseries. She still keeps in touch with the two people [the Paulings’ daughters] who were then children in her care. Those were the days of butlers and under-butlers; of housemaids and parlour maids, with their starched aprons and muslin streamers. Mrs. Nicholls married Walter, the second butler, and their marriage was the first to be solemnised in the new Roman Catholic Church that was built by Mr. Pauling.

In 1976 Florence received a letter from Jane Josephine, then living at “Burcott” in Wing, Leighton Buzzard. By now Jane had married twice, secondly to David Glass. Dated February 3rd, the letter reads as follows:

My dear Florrie,

It was lovely seeing you on Sunday and you seemed so very well in spite of your falls, which I do hope you won’t have any more of! Here is a photo of my family to add to your collection. From Left to Right. Jane, Mark – the eldest – George, holding John (Mark’s son), Peter youngest and David, my husband. It is not a very good picture but is the only one with all of us together, because we are very seldom in one place at the same time!

We had a very nice time with the Tooles. She is a grand-daughter of Daddy’s sister – you will probably remember Aunt Jennie, Mrs. Fowler from the old days. We called in on Father Sheehy and I quite agree with all you say about him. I do hope you will soon be in The Lodge – ask Evelyn to let me know please. Yours with very best love, Jane.

“Aunt Jennie” above was George C.S. Pauling’s sister Laura Jennie, who married Arthur Christopher Fowler. Their grand-daughter Jean Veronica (née Fowler) married Patrick J. Toole. Evelyn was Florence’s daughter.

At this time Florence was almost certainly living at 14, Howard Court, but very soon after this she moved into The Lodge, which was now accommodating the elderly in general rather than just epileptics. She remained there until her death aged “95” on May 25th 1986 [GRO Ref: Surrey S.W. 17 1442, 1986 (May)].

Florence was buried with Walter in the churchyard of Our Lady of Sorrows. Their gravestone bears this additional epitaph:

“With their dear son Private James Nicholls the Queen’s Royal Regiment
 Lost at Tobruk 5.12.1941 aged 22 years”

Military Records

1. Service Record – not yet available

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission Record

Name
Rank
Regiment
Age
Date of Death
Service No.
Additional info.
Grave/Memorial Ref.
Cemetery

NICHOLLS, JAMES PETER
Private
The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey), 2nd Bn.
22
05/12/1941
6093106
Son of Walter and Florence Nicholls, of Effingham, Surrey.
Column 55.
ALAMEIN MEMORIAL