Norman was born in Sydney in 1893 to parents Thomas and Lilian Niccol. Along with his younger brother Thomas Roy Niccol they originally lived at Leichhardt on the fringe of the city of Sydney.
By the age of twenty Norman had completed his electrical apprenticeship while employed with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for 4 years .
In 1914 he enlisted with the 1st Field Company Engineers as a Sapper.
On Sunday the 18th October 1914 the men of the First Field Company Engineers embarked for a seven week voyage at sea. A few false starts and weeks of delays, the loss of one of its original members and 8 weeks of training and finally the men were about to head off for the great adventure. The drum beat sounded – Reveille – at 5.00 a.m and the 1st FCE broke camp at Moore Park and marched to the trams to take them to the wharf at Woolloomooloo Bay. They were then taken by Ferry to board the troopship A19 – Afric.
The fading signature of Norman Niccol appears in the bottom left corner of the original postcard of the Afric belonging to fellow original 101 John Hoey Moore.
Coincidently John Moore and Norman Niccol had consecutive regiment numbers 101 and 102 respectively, so it very likely they were tent mates at Moore Park when they enlisted and in the same section of the 1st FCE.
Norman served continuously at Gallipoli until the evacuation, when he returned with the rest of the company to Alexandria, Egypt on the troopship Caledonia on the 27th December 1915.
While camped at Alexandria, Norman was appointed lance corporal 22.1.1916 but was quickly reduced to rank of sapper after he was found guilty for disobeying the command of a senior officer and was absent without leave for 22 hrs.
In March 1916 Norman proceeded to France and then onwards with the 1st FCE to the western front.
On the 20th August 1916 he was wounded, an injury to his left hand. After a quick recovery he was granted leave and had taken only 3 days and rejoined the unit in the field where shortly after in September he was transferred to the No.4 A.D.S Col (Australian Division Supply Column) as a Driver.
On the 31st May 1918, a number of ammunition lorries from the supply company that Norman was attached were parked at Allonville on the Somme, near Amiens. Two high explosive shells landed among the lorries where Noman and his mate 5451 Roland Rose were sleeping. A shell fragment punctured the floor of the lorry and ripped through Normans legs. Roland Rose was not wounded and managed to drive Norman to the casualty clearing station all the while Norman was conscious and holding onto what remained of his severely injured legs.
Norman ‘s legs were amputated in an attempt to save his life , unfortunately later that evening Norman died from his wounds.
Norman’s service record shows he has the rare distinction of serving continuously in France from the 28th March 1916 to 31st May 1918 except for 3 days leave. Over 2 years at the front in any capacity was extraordinary.
Norman Jack Niccol was buried in a small British War cemetery in the town of Longueau which is situated on the south-eastern outskirts of Amiens, the cemetery located on the eastern side of the town.
Longueau British Cemetery was begun in April 1918, when the Allied line was re-established. The cemetery contains 204 First World War burials, 14 of which are unidentified.
102 Norman Jack Niccol – Photo source; CSR A record of war Service of Members of the staff 1914 – 1918
Photo by Len @ findagrave.comuserprofile48488629
Photo by Len @ findagrave.comuserprofile48488629
Norman’s memory is honoured at the wall of remembrance in Canberra.
Norman Jack Niccol’s name will also be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on the following dates:
Thu 28 June 2018 at 7:23pm
Sat 11 August 2018 at 12:01am
Sat 29 September 2018 at 2:01am
Original Postcard photo – Courtesy Jack Moore Private collection
Photo by Len @ findagrave.comuserprofile48488629
Photo source: CSR – A record of war service of members of the staff 1914 – 1918
164 James Page was born in Springston, New Zealand in 1886 to William Thomas Page and Margaret nee Delahunty. James had served 1 ½ years in the Canterbury mounted rifles before arriving in Australia in January 1910 and started working for the NSW Railways, his war record showing he was a union member.
Shortly after arriving James had met and married Gertrude Alice Ryan in Sydney in 1911 . Gertrude was born in 1882 in Forbes, New South Wales and in 1907 gave birth to a daughter Hope Merea Ryan and the father was declared unknown. When she married James, he adopted Hope.
James and Gertrude later also had a son together, Neville John was born on 12th July 1914 . Five weeks later his father enlisted on the 19th August 1914.
Jim as he became known by his fellow engineers enlisted as a driver and embarked on the Afric on the 18th October 1914, his signature appears ( 2nd top left) on the John Hoey Moore postcard recording many other originals in the company that shared the journey.
As a driver Jim was stationed off shore during the Gallipoli landing. “The Short Account” of the formation of the 1st FCE explains how the “drivers of the company could not land their horses on the Peninsular they returned to Egypt and were encamped at mex near Alexandria during the whole of the occupation of Gallipoli”.
James during his time in Egypt had one minor indiscretion and was found in Alexandria on leave without a pass and was fined 3 days pay.
On the 16th December 1915 the Drivers arrived at Zeitoun Camp near Heliopolis, Cairo. On the 21st the drivers together with 9th and 11th reinforcements entrained for Tel-el-Kebir.
On the 28th March 1916 James and the 1st FCE embarked for France and the western front and later in June 1916 James was remustered as a sapper.
In September 1916 the 1st FCE were stationed at Ypres and relieved the Canadians on this sector. Major Richard Dyer reported that the “trenches were in a shocking condition, no work appears to have been done for some time, the mud in some places being two feet deep”
It wasn’t long before the men of the 1st FCE were busy revetting, duck-boarding and reclaiming many of the trenches despite continued poor weather and enemy bombardments.
The poor weather continued and on the 20th September work was delayed by rain and enemy snipers who were particularly active, forced the working party that James Page was attached, to “seek cover on many occasions”.
The following day the men pushed on determined to reclaim the trenches before the winter set in. On this day the 21st September 1916 James Page was fatally wounded by a sniper.
The company war diary confirmed that James had been sniped through a sandbag and killed by a gun shot wound to the forehead .
“A careful reliable witness” Sapper Willock also gave his account of Jim’s death, however his mention of James having seven children was doubtful.
There had been some confusion over the final resting place of James and in 1921 it was finally confirmed that his burial was actually at the Railway dugout burial ground. ( grave 27 Row N Plot 6) Zillebeke , Belgium approx 1 ½ miles south, south east of Ypres.
In July 1917 a plea to obtain his wallet containing photos was made to base war records. This wallet must have been of considerable sentimental value and Gertrude perhaps still too grief stricken to write herself, had a good friend Mr R Bowmaker write to the war office on her behalf . He also made inquiries regarding a gunners certificate stating that James had written to his wife and told her he had successfully passed the examination for 1st class gunnery instructor
A month later in August 1917, James Page personal effects were returned home to his wife Gertrude. A machine gunners certificate was included in his effects, a testament and a copy of the Gospel showed that he was a god fairing man and a small collection of personal items such as his hair brush, razor, photos, letters, a note book and what was described as a linen case….. perhaps this linen case was the wallet so treasured by his loving wife.
Hopefully his memory lives on with the possibility of his son and daughter both having married and perhaps having children of their own.
The AFRIC No. A19 was a 12 thousand ton transport ship embarking from Sydney carrying units of the 1st Australian Division, including the 1st Battalion Infantry, Army Service Corp. and Engineers. It was among the first fleet of eleven ships designated to embark troops and horses in Sydney. The final count was made up of 48 officers, 1372 men and 8 horses.
On Sunday the 18th October 1914 the men of the First Field Company Engineers were finally ready to embark for a seven week voyage at sea. A few false starts and weeks of delays, the loss of one of its original members and 8 weeks of training, finally the men were about to head off for the great adventure. The drum beat sounded – Reveille – at 5.00 and the 1st FCE broke camp at Moore Park and marched to the trams to take them to the wharf at Woolloomooloo Bay and then they were taken by Ferry to board the troopship A19 – Afric.
53 Thomas Drane in his diary mentions the large crowds of people waiting at the Quay and the police having to hold them back and 29 Bob Lundy described a similar scene with bands playing, flags waving and large crowds cheering.
151 Ernest Murray recalled how ” there was a good deal of excitement on the way down”, however he was disappointed he did not see any loved ones at the wharf. 213 Roy Denning described it as being on the threshold of a new, harsh and adventurous life. – The Great Adventure had started……
On Board the Ferries
Boarding the Afric A19 – courtesy State Library NSW
The Afric left Sydney at around 5.00 pm. It was raining heavily and they were experiencing gusty winds and rough seas. Many men at sea for the first time were sick as soon as they had left Sydney Heads. The ferry whistles, launch sirens and all the farewell cheering and music had faded in the distance and now as Spr. Roy Denning described, everyman was now silent, occupied by his own thoughts.
101 John Hoey Moore also made some interesting observations. “In about half an hour the first boy began to show signs of uneasiness and a little while later took his position at the rail. Before bedtime about half the sappers, had joined him and I could not say they were holding their own. I notice that most of the anti sober and hardest case brats when in camp or on leave, are the steady ones tonight on their feet. I am sorry for some of the boys, one fellow lost his false teeth first hit.”
The men of the 1st FCE were finally on their long-awaited voyage and after a rough and tumble start they were headed with the fleet of the 1st Australian Expeditionary Force to Albany in Western Australia where they would be joined by the New Zealand Fleet.
From the pages of John Hoey Moore, Ernest Murray’s letters and diaries and the correspondence from the enthusiastic Ernest Tubbenhauer it’s possible to recapture some of the spirit of the 1st FCE and the troops on their voyage on the Afric.
140 Sapper Ernest Tubbenauer from Mudgee NSW gave his initial account of the voyage………… Ernest couldn’t wait to ply his civilian trade in printing and liked the idea of being a journalist. Ernest would became the ‘unofficial’ war correspondent for his home town regional newspaper, the Mudgee Guardian. He also couldn’t wait to join the printing staff of the onboard Newspaper ‘The Kangaroo’
Off to the War.
Letter from a Mudgeeite
Mr. E. Tubbenhauer, late of Mudgee, and now a member of the Australian Expeditionary Force (1st Field Company Engineers), writes from s.s. Afric at sea, under date of October 24: —
‘We sailed on Sunday afternoon at about 5 o’clock, and cleared the Heads about 5.30. The sea was very choppy, and the majority of troops were soon sick, including myself. Seasickness is a ‘lovely’ sensation. I was bad on Sunday night and Monday morning, but on Tuesday I ‘was right’ and am eating like a tiger now. As soon as I was right I hunted up the printing office, and got a place on the staff, and have been working hard ever since.
We are bringing out a daily ‘rag.’ It is the biggest paper ever printed at sea. There are five off us working in the office, and we have a fine little plant. Part belongs to two of the chaps working in the office, and part was given by the State Government printer, Mr. W. A. Gullick. ‘We are just nearing Albany, and have to have our letters ready for post by 6 o’clock to-night. There are over 1400 troops on board the Afric— about- 1000 Infantry (including Harry Collins), 200 Engineers, and about 240 Army Service Corps. We are having a tip-top time — plenty of games and reading. The parades are very light. There is not enough room to do much work. We have to get out at 6 o’clock and fold hammocks; physical exercises 6.30 to 7.30 a.m.: break fast 7.30; parade 9 to 10.30; knotting and splicing 11; fire drill; dinner 12 noon; parade 2 to 4 p.m. (semaphore signalling), tea 5 ; swing hammocks 7; lights out at 9;15. That includes the day’s work. I am exempt from all parades to work in the ‘Kangaroo’ office. ‘We expect to be at Albany for A couple of days.
All the transports meet there, and leave together under escort. There will be 28 transports from Australia (20,000 troops) and 11 from New Zealand (9000 to 10,000 troops)— 39 transports altogether ; it will be a grand sight, and only seen once in a lifetime.’ Source:nla.news-article156830216 – Published 19th November 1914
The ‘Kangaroo’ was the name of the onboard daily newspaper which Ernest mentioned in his first unofficial correspondence. It was a single sheet, about the size of a sheet of the “Herald,” and was printed on one side generally in the style of a six columned newspaper. It was printed on a cotton rectangular tabby weave fabric and printed with red paint. The Union Jack and the Australian flag were pictured in the heading, and a kangaroo on the left and the emu on the right give each other a friendly glance. Below was the announcement: “The representative newspaper of the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force (1st Battalion.)”published on the troopship “AFRIC”.
On Sunday 24th October the Afric arrived at Albany and the troops spirits were high. John Hoey Moore tells the story…………………………………….. “This morning finds us in the port of Albany and we expect to be here for some days. Only twelve of the troopships are here so far and even then it is very interesting to see so many big ships in one spot. Albany is a dreary looking place from our point of view but perhaps if we could get ashore we would make some fun, the three hotels would do a good trade I know.”
Within a few days the New Zealand Fleet had also arrived…………………………………
” I watched the Maorilanders or “Pig Islanders” as the Australians call us, arrive in port. Perhaps I should have been with them for here was I, a true New Zealander, going off to war with the Australians. ” John Hoey Moore had just embraced the idea of the ANZAC spirit before it was known as ANZAC.
The men had responded to the call, they had been training for weeks and now on the long voyage to war, they were allowed to let off a bit of steam while on board, hair cuts, glee clubs, a Neptune ceremony, drill competitions and boxing tournaments followed.
“Time goes very quickly on board and the boys make the pace fast and positive, last night being one of the most amusing on record so far. Some of the boys with pretty curly or silken locks had refrained from getting them cut off in direct disobedience to the strict troopship orders. Some of the engineers organised a good strong team and armed with hair clippers, proceeded to carry out the duty of barbers which, although rough, had the desired effect. Each long haired soldier was set upon and held down while the clipper man took a patch out of his locks. The rest of the hair was removed at the victim’s request next day by the official barber.”– John Hoey Moore
“A boxing tournament is to be set in motion and I see some kind friend has appended my name to the list of those representing the engineers. I guess that means some hard work and a sore head at the finish.” – John Hoey Moore
Letter from a Mudgee Boy
“Following is a letter from Mr. E. Tubbenauer, who is a member of the Australian Expeditionary Force now in Egypt:- S S Afric at sea
“Sunday, Nov 1 1914 We arrived at Albany last Sunday and left there this morning at about 7.30. We were in the harbor about a week, waiting for all the other transports. The boats make a fine sight- 30 in all, sailing in three lines of 13 each with five warships as conveys up to the present. An officer told me this morning that we are going via the Suez and that our next port of call is Colombo, so that is where I will post this letter. There are in all 39 transports with 30 000 troops — 28 transports from Australia (20,000 men) and 10 from New Zealand (10,000 men). We were allowed ashore on Friday afternoon last for a route march. We did about six or seven miles in all. It was tip- top after being on the boat a fortnight.”
Source: nla.news-article156860248 – Published Mudgee Guardian
After four weeks at sea the AFRIC had arrived at Colombo on the 15th November and within a few days they left without setting foot on land. Ernest Murray thought it was a beautiful mountainous island rich in green foliage and the bay area the same only with buildings adding colour with white walled buildings and fine hotels. Bob Lundy thought the same, admiring the beautiful scenery, the fancy large hotels with tennis courts and lawns.
The next few days sailing conditions were perfect, Boxing and rifle drill competitions had taken the spotlight on board, the Engineers were favoured to win the rifle drill . The boxing tournament was also set to be a great success for the Engineers with“Maorilander”John Hoey Moore into the Semi Finals and up against another Maorilander.
John described the match-up ………” it was rather comical as my bout was with a Maori and we were talking to one another in Maori. The boys from Australia could not make it out at all.”
John scored again and had won his way through to the final. A few days later ……..“was pitted against a crack this time and came off second best. All the same I am quite pleased with myself to win second place and a prize of £3 for my troubles.”
The big excitement for the troops surrounded the Rifle drill competitions on board. The engineers had put up two teams , A.S.C two teams and 1st Battalion eight teams. According to most accounts the Engineers came first and second place, the ASC 3rd and fourth. The division corps had easily outclassed the infantry.
Ernest Murray recorded the winners in his diary and Bob Lundy must have been very pleased with the outcome as he earned top honours and it was also his birthday.
Names of winners of Rifle Drill Competition L Cpl Lundy Sec Cpl Dobbie L Cpl Baldwin L Cpl Shoosmith Sprs Bird Sprs Finnie Sprs Murray Sprs Smith Sprs Waters Sprs Sutherland Sprs Turbet Sprs Hay Sprs Murray. E. Sprs Wells Sprs Lytton Sprs Gatty Sprs Banks & King Sprs Cridland & Stock.
According to Bob Lundy, the follow up night was a real celebration, they had a “royal time” eating, drinking, speeches and plenty of music from the “Bijou Orchestra” who gave a special concert at the sharp end of the ship. Bob said he “could not have had a better day for his birthday”.
The following day on November 26th the troops on board the Afric had news that they were not going to England. Kitchener had ordered the troops to disembark at Alexandria for Egypt to finish training there. Apparently winter conditions in England were quite severe and they would be unable to accommodate the growing troop numbers.
The Great Adventure – Part 2 – Breaking Ship……….coming soon.
The Engineers Signatures
The souvenir card of the AFRIC above is a precious moment from the past. From the private collection of Jack Moore , son of 101 John Hoey Moore, he has kindly provided a high quality digitized copy of the card showing many of the originals signatures. On the back of the photo John has written “This photo has survived a fire and a flood”…. John at the time could not have envisaged it surviving the war and a further 100 years.
The following is a list of signatures from the AFRIC Souvenir Card
Interestingly some signatures are from a few non original members but obviously good friends of John as well as two originals on board the Clan Maccorquadale which John Hoey Moore must have obtained after the voyage.