Jutland veteran's life in the Navy


HMS Benbow

At the age of 44, Luton-born Gunner Seaman Frederick William Nicholls had been in the Royal Navy since a teenager when he served on HMS Benbow (pictured - Wikipedia) during the Battle of Jutland in 1916. He was single and the son of widow Mary Ann Nicholls, of 19 Bolton Road, Luton.

In answer to letters he had received, he wrote to The Luton News to say he had come through the battle with "all four - that means my limbs - and am still smiling, waiting for another smack".

In his letter Seaman Nicholls said he first joined the Navy on June 8th, 1890, as a boy of 16. His first ship was the Boscawen training ship at Portsmouth.

After going through the course there he joined HMS Canada and served two years in the West Indies, after which they were paid off at Portsmouth. He then spent nine months at the Gunnery School at Sheerness [Kent] training to be a Seaman Gunner.

His next ship was HMS Ramillies [Royal Sovereign class battleship] on October 7th, 1893, to relieve HMS Victoria that was sunk in a collision with HMS Camperdown in the Mediterranean. Then followed two years on HMS Empress of India, Channel Fleet. The next ship, his last for foreign service, was HMS Theseus, on which he served from January 3rd, 1899, until May 24th, 1902, when the ship was ordered home from Malta.

His remaining time was served on the destroyer HMS Snapper, finishing in January 1904, when he entered the Royal Fleet Reserve for ten years, completing that in January 1914. When war broke out he immediately volunteered for service and was immediately accepted by the Admiralty and sent to HMS Benbow, the ship on which he served through the Battle of Jutland and on which he was still serving.

His military record shows he served on the Benbow from October 7th, 1914, until October 9th, 1918. He continued his naval career into the 1920s and died in Luton in 1940 at the age of 67.

[The Luton News: Thursday, August 17th, 1916]