H. A. Nixon
Service no. L/12127
Private, Middlesex Regiment, 2nd Battalion
Died 1 July 1916, aged around 27
Remembered at Thiepval Memorial, France
Roll of Honour of the Great War 1914-1918
NIXON, H.A., Private, 2nd Middlesex Regiment.
He enlisted in 1906, and was drafted to the Western Front shortly after the commencement of hostilities. He fought in many important engagements, including those at Ypres, Loos, and Albert and did good work. He was unfortunately killed in action on the Somme on July 1st, 1916, and was entitled to the 1914 Star, and the General Service and Victory Medals.
“His memory is cherished with pride.”
31, Priory Grove, Lansdowne Road, S.W.8.
Army Service records
Nixon’s Army Service records are extensive, as you would expect with such a long service history (8 years and 128 days) and they throw up some interesting aspects of life in the military in the early 20th century:
- Nixon’s travels across the globe in the service of Empire – to Aden, India, Malta, and when the Great War, with the British Expeditionary Force to France, where he died.
- his health – inoculations against typhoid, treatment for repeated bouts of syphilis
- his regular problems with discipline
Sadly, like so many other Service Records, Harry Nixon’s are in a very bad state and difficult to read. However, I have been able to establish that Nixon joined the Middlesex Regiment at Winchester, the city of his birth, on 24 February 1908, aged 19 and 5 months. He abandoned his previous life as a “van guard” (train guard) and became a career soldier.
Nixon’s general health was good. He stood taller than average at 5 feet 6½ inches (169cm) and weighed 134lbs (just over 9½ stone or 61kg). His chest measured 37½ inches (95cm), which he could expand by 3½ inches (9cm). With a fresh complexion, grey eyes and fair hair, the British Army was happy to sign him up. He was pronounced fit to serve.
However, Nixon proved to be something of a difficult character. He remained a private throughout his long army career and possibly his poor conduct record accounted for his lack of advancement.
The following list is what I have been able to interpret from the record. No doubt, if I understood the abbreviations I would be able to pull out more details.
- In January 1910 he was pulled up for inattention on the range.
- At Dum Dum (West Bengal) he was absent from parade.
- Using improper language towards an NCO.
- At Malta he was punished for “improper conduct – walking arm in arm with other soldiers” and “using obscene language”.
- On 11 September 1913 in Aden he was punished for “using improper language towards a NCO” and promptly shipped out of the 1st Battalion to the 2nd.
- On a date I cannot decipher, in Valletta, he was disciplined for “interfering with the military police”
Venereal disease was a common hazard for career soldiers. Nixon became infected with syphilis, according to his Syphilis Case Sheet on around 31 August 1911 at Darjeeling. He sought treatment less than two weeks later on 9 September 1911 and by 1912 the Army doctors at Dum Dum were treating him regularly. His appointments were weekly, although he is often marked as “absent”, presumably because he was on operations.
Nixon was treated with mercury and iodides – neither of them very effective. Better, more modern medications were available (the German Nobel prize-winning physician Paul Erlich developed Salvarsan 606 and Neosalvarsan 614 in 1906).
When the Great War started, Nixon was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force. On 1 July 1916 he was listed as “missing’, but his next of kin were not notified until 15 August. He was eventually classed as killed in action. His effects were sent to his younger sister, Mrs Alice Maude Weaver, who lived at 42 Margate Road, Lyham Road, SW2, rather to his mother Alice/Rebecca. “I recive [sic] the photos quite safe,” she wrote in reply, “thanking you very much for sending them.”
When sent Harry’s medals in 1919, she wrote in her careful handwriting: “Recive [sic] with thanks. Thank you very much for sending me the 1914 Star, I am very proud of my Poor Brother.”
On Army form W. 5080, in which relatives give the names and addresses of living family of the deceased, Father is listed as “None” (presumably his father, Frederick C. Nixon, a general labourer, was by then deceased) and mother as “Alice Nixon” (there is some confusion over her name: she is listed on the 1901 and 1891 censuses as “Rebecca” and on the 1911 as “Alice”), 59. Two siblings were declared: Daisy Dorithey [sic] and Fredrick. All three were living at 31 Priory Grove, South Lambeth, SW8. In reality, there were or had been at least 11 siblings (of 18 born alive in 29 years of marriage), although some of them may not have survived. The form was signed by G. Robinson Lees, the vicar of St Saviour’s, Brixton Hill.
Information from the 1911 census
In 1911 Harry’s family lived at 31 Priory Grove, SW8, where they occupied 4 rooms. The household consisted of his parents Frederick C. Nixon, 55, a general labourer born in Stepney, and Alice Nixon, 49, born in Dorset. The couple had 12 surviving children (of 18). These 6 are on the census:
Alice Maud Nixon, 18, born in South Lambeth (as were all the children listed on this census) and whose occupation is given as “oatmeal stores manufactures” for a brewery
Kate Nixon, 15
Rose Helen Nixon, 11
Tom Owen Nixon, 9
Daisy Dorothy Nixon, 8
Fredrick Joseph Nixon, 6
Information from 1901 census
In 1901 Harry was living at 22 Conroy Street with his mother, Rebecca A. Nixon, 39, who worked as a bottler in the vinegar works*, and who was born in Pullin, Dorsetshire. The children registered on the census were
Fannnie Nixon, 13, born in Winchester, Hampshire, working as a greengrocer’s assistant
Charles Nixon, 14
Harry Nixon, 12
Alice Nixon, 8
Kate Nixon, 5
Rose Nixon, 1
There is no mention of Harry’s father Frederick. There were two lodgers: widower Harry Wimble, 45, a casement maker from Ileywhite, Hampshire, and Laura Wimble, 13, born in Paddington (presumably his daughter).
* Possibly the Beaufoy Vinegar Works (later taken over by Sarsons), now Regents Bridge Gardens