169. W R Nuttall

NUTTALL William Richard 1999
59 B   DoW 17/6/18

William Nuttall was born in Heidelberg in 1891. Unfortunately the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour was not completed and so there are no details of his early life and schooling.

Private Nuttall enlisted in January 1915 (11/1/15). The enlistment – including the medical – was at Traralgon. At the time he was 23 yo and single. He gave his occupation as ‘printer’. His religion was listed as Church of England. He gave his father – William Henry Nuttall – as next-of-kin. Over the time of his son’s service, the father changed address several times: from Collingwood to Lock (Gippsland) and then to Packenham. The mother – Jane Nuttall – appeared to reside in Fitzroy.

It appears that William Nuttall worked at the local paper in Traralgon, the Traralgon Record. There are numerous references in this local paper to his enlistment, his service both on Gallipoli and the Western Front and his death. For example, the edition of 15/1/15 referred to his enlistment and the fact that he had been on the staff of the “Record”. The edition of 16/7/18 referred to his death:

In the list of casualties published in the dailies last week, we notice the name of W R Nuttall. The initials are the same as those of Mr Nuttall who was formerly on the staff of this paper, and we very much regret to hear of his death from wounds. He was a fine, manly young fellow who did not hesitate to step into the ranks of the brave men who have fought and died for their country’s honor. He was wounded several times, and showed such conspicuous bravery on one occasion that he was awarded the military medal [see below]. Mr Nuttall was very popular with the young people, and his death will be much regretted by a large circle of friends.

William Nuttall’s name appears on both the soldiers’ memorial in Traralgon and also on the town’s honour roll. Traralgon was also given as his ‘place of association’. Clearly, he was strongly linked to Traralgon. However, there was also a link to Yarram, approximately 70Km from Traralgon. For example, his death was reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 12/7/18, earlier than it was in the Traralgon Record (16/7/18):

Yesterday’s dailies report that Private W. Nuttall has been killed. He was highly respected in Yarram, and played football with the Yarram team.

As well as playing football, it also appears that he played cricket for Yarram. He was listed in the Yarram team in a report on a match published in the local paper on 4/3/14. However, the fact that his name appears on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial suggests that his link to Yarram went beyond just sport. Then again, his name does not appear on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor. Nor does his name appear on the electoral roll for Yarram. Another complication is that while the name Nuttall was not common in the local area, there was a report in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 18/1/18 about the experiences of an A B Nuttall – probably Alfred Barker Nuttall – who had gone to the UK as a ‘munition-worker’. Most likely, he was some relative but it is not possible to establish this link. Overall, while there was clearly a link to the Shire of Alberton it is not possible to describe exactly what it was; and contemporaneously, there was another, stronger link to Traralgon.

On enlistment, Private Nuttall joined 7 Battalion and his group of reinforcements left Melbourne for Egypt in April 1915 (17/4/15). He joined his unit on the Gallipoli Peninsula in early August, and within 3 days he had been wounded at Lone Pine. It was described as ‘Shock & Wnd Head’. He was taken by hospital ship to Heliopolis and discharged to ‘light duty’ in late September. Early the following month (6/10/15) he was again hospitalised, this time with dysentery, and did not rejoin the battalion until January 1916.

In late February 1916 he was transferred from 7 Battalion to the newly formed 59 Battalion. He was promoted to lance corporal in March. The battalion reached Marseilles at the end of June 1916. It was involved in the fighting at Fromelles in July 1916.

In late October 1916, L/Cpl Nuttall was admitted to hospital with a ‘septic thumb’ from barbed wire and was repatriated to England, to Clacton-on-Sea Hospital. He was discharged 2 months later (19/12/16) and at this point was given some leave. He took another 7 days without permission and was charged as AWL from 21/12/16 to 27/12/16. He was reprimanded and lost 7 days pay. He rejoined 59 Battalion in France in January 1917. There was another lengthy period of hospitalisation (unknown cause) in France from 21/3/17 to 22/5/17 and he eventually rejoined the battalion in August 1917 (2/8/17). At this point, he reverted to the rank of private ‘at own request’.

On 26/9/17 he was again admitted to hospital. This time the official cause was given as ‘shell shock’. It was the second occasion he had been wounded. In the file there is a copy of Army Form W3438. The heading of this particular report reads,

Report to be rendered in the case of officers and other ranks who, without any visible wounds, become non-effective from physical conditions claimed or presumed to have originated from effects of British or enemy weapons in action.

The form was dated 22/10/17 and on it Private Nuttall’s condition is described, explicitly, as ‘shell shock’. The report stated that Private Nuttall was … blown up and buried by a shell in a bunker at Polygon Wood. His condition on admission was described as ‘Tremulous, complains of headache’. The form features a formal declaration:

I certify that the above named was subjected in the course of his duty to exceptional exposure of the following nature: heavy shell fire whilst at Polygon Wood.

The advice sent home (19/12/17) to inform the next-of-kin also explicitly referred to ‘shell shock’.

Private Nuttall did not rejoin the battalion until the end of the year (23/12/17). Then in early 1918 he had leave in the UK from 4/2/18 to 20/2/18.

He was wounded on 16/6/18 – gunshot wound to chest – and although he received emergency attention he died the next day. He was buried at Querrieu British Cemetery, about 20 Km from Albert where he had been wounded. Rev H J G Matthews officiated at the funeral.

Even though there was only one day between the time he was wounded and the time he died from wounds, the family in Australia received two telegrams: the first (28/6/18) advising that he had been wounded and the second (1/7/18) that he had died. The first telegram also noted that this was the third occasion he had been wounded.

The war diary for 59 Battalion for 16/6/18 reveals that the battalion had just moved into the line in the Albert-Morlancourt sector. The overall entry for the day highlighted the relatively quiet nature of activity:

Shelling was light during the previous 24 hours … A few pineapples were thrown on right Company and a Machine Gun was active against the same sector, but apart from these the enemy attitude was relatively quiet – practically no movement was observed.

The official casualty report for the day had 1 killed and 3 wounded. All casualties were other ranks. One of the 3 wounded would have been Private Nuttall.

Two packages of personal items were returned to Australia, in February and March 1919:

1 YMCA Wallet, Cards, 1 Notebook, 1 Metal Wrist Watch & Guard, 1 Letter

and

1 Disc, 1 Whistle & lanyard, 1 Protractor, 1 Badge, 2 metal souvenirs, 1 Button, 1 Razor, 1 Testament, 1 Diary, 1 Wallet, Photos, 1 pipe Lighter, 1 Certificate, Stamp, Belt.

There are 2 pieces of correspondence in the file worth noting. One is from a Miss Doris Kinna of Traralgon dated 30/11/17. She writes seeking information about the condition of Private Nuttall,

Reports of various kinds have reached us and we are very anxious to receive something definite. Trusting to receive a reply as soon as possible & thanking you in anticipation.

This was just after L/Cpl Nuttall had been hospitalised with shell shock. The reply from Base Records (5/12/17) was very general:

In reply to your letter of the 30th ult. I have to inform you that Lance-Corporal William Richard Nuttall, was in October last, reported to be suffering from an illness, the nature of which had not been diagnosed.

The other item of correspondence is an earlier letter written by a Mrs Maria Lear of James Street, Yarram in November 1916. It suggests a connection between Private Nuttall and Yarram.

Could you let me have the present address of Private W. Nuttall when left Melbourne was in 7th Batt. 5th Reinforcements. But I believe was transferred to 59 Battalion D Company 15 Brigade Signaller Sect.
I want his number as he knows of my son 4130 I J Lear which (sic) was missing on 19th saw him wounded.
I cannot communicate as I have not got the last address..Hoping you will oblige me at your earliest…

Base Records replied on 8/11/16 with the address details.

Private Isaac James Lear 4130, who was also in 59 Battalion, went missing at Fromelles on 19/7/16. [See Post 74] He was determined to have been killed in action on the same day by a court of enquiry, but this was not until August 1917. Obviously, the mother at the time she wrote this letter (November 1916) was trying to establish her son’s fate. There is a presumption that Mrs Lear recognised Private Nuttall as a local (Yarram) boy who would have known her son. Further evidence of this connection comes from the earlier reference to Nuttall having played cricket for Yarram, because it appears that at that time – 1914 – he played against at least one Lear cousin – William John Lear who enlisted in June 1915. It is not known if Mrs Lear ever managed to contact Private Nuttall over the fate of her son.

There is a suggestion in one of the reports in the Traralgon Record (3/11/16) that L/Cpl Nuttall was recommended for the Military Medal. Further, as noted above, the same local paper claimed (16/7/18) that he had, in fact, been awarded this honour. While there is no official record of this having been the case, recommendations for such awards were often something of a lottery. Further, there is no doubt that Nuttall’s overall service record saw him involved in some of the heaviest fighting of the War, including Gallipoli, Fromelles, Polygon Wood and Villers-Bretonneux.

References

Traralgon Record
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for NUTTALL William Richard
Roll of Honour: William Richard Nuttall
First World War Embarkation Roll: William Richard Nuttall

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