Reuben’s father died when he was 18: his mother took over his father’s trade as an umbrella maker. By 1911 Reuben was a gunner in the army, and as soon as war broke out he was sent to France.
Son of umbrella makers
Reuben Nicholls was born in 1890 into a family living in Jericho, Oxford. His father, an umbrella maker, was already aged at least 61: he died when Reuben was 18. Reuben’s mother continued as an umbrella maker and chair caner, working at home. By 1911 Reuben was a gunner in the army.
Fought at Mons
When war broke out in 1914 Reuben served in D battery in the 25th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. He was in the small professional army that was sent to France straight away. Within days they were in action at the Battle of Mons, the first engagement with the German army, on the border between France and Belgium. The batteries used horse-drawn guns and Reuben would have been part of the team manoeuvring them into position and firing them.
Fought at Ypres
The British were compelled to retreat into France, but later Reuben’s unit were redeployed to Belgium. In October they fought at the First Battle of Ypres where the war became entrenched. Their next major action was in May 1915 at the Battle of Aubers. That summer Reuben’s mother died in Oxford.
Died at the Somme
September 1915 brought action for Reuben at Loos, but no further major battles until the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, where he survived the early engagements. Then his lengthy run of luck ran out and he was killed in action on 29 July, aged 26, apparently during a lull in the Battle of Pozieres. He is buried in Mametz. He is also remembered on the war memorial of St Paul’s Church, Oxford.