Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 26, 1890
Place of BirthInverness
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinBrother: Archibald Duncan Nicholson, Pine View, Manitoba
Trade / CallingBookkeeper
Service Details
Regimental Number86
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionNo. 3 Canadian Field Ambulance
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Army Medical Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 14, 1914
Age at Enlistment24
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJuly 19, 1977
Age at Death87
Buried AtVictory Memorial Park Crematorium, Surrey, BC

Nicolson, Murdoch

Murdoch (Murdo) Nicolson was born on February 26, 1890 in Inverness Scotland. His father, John Nicolson, was a shepherd. His mother’s forename was Kristina/Christie (nee Nicolson). Siblings included: Donald (b. 1880), Archie (b. 1881), Rachel (b. 1884), Hugh (b. 1889), John (b. 1900) and Alexander (b. 1901). When Murdoch immigrated to Canada in April of 1909 he listed his occupation as farmer and Toronto as his destination.

However, when WW1 began in 1914 he was working as a bookkeeper for the CPR in Kenora and was among the first group of volunteers for overseas service. He enlisted on 14 August with the 98th Regiment.

During training in Valcartier, Quebec he was assigned to the 8th Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles), a new unit made up of recruits from Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. He was listed as single and next of kin was his brother Archibald Duncan Nicolson of Pine View, Manitoba. In October the 8th Battalion embarked for England, leaving from Quebec City on the SS Franconia. They were part of a convoy of 32 transport ships protected by a Royal Navy escort because of the danger from German submarines. The convoy arrived safely in Plymouth, England on October 14.

The 8th Battalion was sent to Salisbury Plain in southern England where they trained for several months. The men were billeted in tents and huts and due to the cold, wet winter weather many of them became sick with severe colds and pneumonia. They were given a period of leave for the holiday season and after another month of training the men were sent to France in February 1915 as part of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Canadian Division. The battalion spent a few weeks in the area between Hazebrouck and Armentières. In early April they were moved north to the Ypres Salient in Belgium and on April 19 they went into the front trenches near Gravenstafel. Chlorine gas was first used by the Germans on a large scale on April 22, 1915 at Gravenstafel Ridge and the 8th Battalion was hit by it during a second gas attack two days later. They suffered heavy casualties from the poison and in the fighting that followed – the Battle of St. Julien – when German infantry advanced behind the cloud of gas. From the War Diary of the 8th Battalion, April 24-25, 1915, Gravenstafel: “The trenches were all attacked at night, and all the men in the trenches except the reserves were weak from fumes –  in fact some men had already died from fumes.”

Murdoch was gassed in late April or early May and after three weeks in hospital and convalescence in reserve areas he returned to the front lines in June 1915.

In October of 1915 he was assigned in the field to the 3rd Canadian Field Ambulance and transferred from the 8th Battalion roll to the Canadian Army Medical Corps.

After a year as a stretcher bearer and providing first aid in the field he was appointed a clerk in February of 1917, which came with a boost in pay to $1.50 a day plus 20 cents field allowance from the $1 a day and 10 cents field allowance allocated received by other privates.

Working as clerk didn’t keep men out of danger, in August 1917, during the Hill 70 battle, Nicolson was gassed a second time and spent two weeks on light duty as a result.

On November 23, 1917 he was appointed to the rank of Corporal.

In February 1918 he was selected as a candidate for officer training in the Royal Flying Corps and he returned to England. In May he was instead transferred to the No. 1 Reserve Company in the Canadian Army Medical Corps.

He never did receive a commission but was promoted to Sergeant on September 13, 1918. He’d received permission to marry in August, and on October 18, 1918 in Bromley, Kent he married Evelyn Vice of Kitchener, Ontario. Evelyn had served in France with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. In February 1918 she transferred to the Canadian Army Medical Corps and served at No. 16 Canadian General Hospital in Orpington, Kent.

Murdoch returned from the war on February 20, 1919 and he and his wife settled in Kenora. The 1921 census lists the family at 356 Seventh Ave. South with two children – Murdoch age one and Phyllis, two months.

By the early 1930s Murdoch and Evelyn were living in Port Kells, British Columbia where they had taken up farming. Port Kells was on the outskirts of New Westminster in  1963 they were living in New Westminster. Evelyn had returned to nursing and Murdoch was in real estate. At some point he was also a motel owner/operator.

Predeceased by his son Murdoch Hugh in 1975, Murdoch passed away on July 19, 1977 in White Rock, British Columbia. He was cremated at Victory Memorial Park Crematorium in Surrey. His wife Evelyn died in Vancouver in 1982 and his daughter Phyllis Rhoda Hobbs passed away in 1999 in White Rock.

by Bob Stewart

Research notes:

Although his military records record his surname as Nicholson, Murdo was to spell his name ‘Nicolson’ after the war.

His attestation papers list 1892 as his birth year, but census records, immigration records and his death record all have 1890 as his birth year. He is on the 1891 Scottish census.


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