Laurie Arnold Nicholl
Laurie Arnold Wright was born in late 1885 or early 1886 in Colchester, the second of three sons born to Agnes Madeline Wright. In the late summer of 1888 Agnes married Percy Nicholl from a prosperous Colchester family. Their family business Charrington Nicholl operated the East Hill Brewery in Colchester and owned a number of public houses in the local area.
Percy adopted Agnes’ three boys who took on the Nicholl surname. Percy and Agnes would go on to have at least nine children together, though two died in infancy.
The Nicholl family appear to have lived in several different locations over the next 20 years including Colchester, Dovercourt and Burnt Heath at Ardleigh. By April 1911 they were living at Morants in Great Bromley and Laurie worked as a Brewer.
Evidence suggests that Laurie probably volunteered to join the British Army under what was called the Group Scheme in late 1915, or early 1916. He was posted to the Army Service Corps, whose role was to supply the Army with food, equipment and ammunition. As such, anybody with experience of motor vehicles was sought after. Given the relative wealth of the Nicholl family, it is quite likely that Laurie had access to Motor Transport and knew how to drive.
We do not know exactly when Laurie was sent overseas but certainly by late 1918 he was serving with the 648th Mechanical Transport Company of the Army Service Corps. The 648th Company had originally been formed in February 1916, and were later sent overseas to East Africa. They initially operated as a Water Tank Company which delivered potable water in lorry-mounted water trucks. Later, they operated in the Artillery Support role, quite possibly moving the big guns using caterpillar tractors.
The East African campaign was one of the longest campaigns of the Great War, and lasted from August 1914 to November 1918: In a series of battles and with the use of guerrilla tactics the German colonial forces tied down British colonial forces many times their size. The German forces in East Africa formally surrendered on 25th November 1918.
On 8th December 1918 – at the height of the Spanish Flu Pandemic - Laurie died of influenza at Dar–es-Salaam, in what is now Tanzania. Laurie now rests in the Dar es Salaam War Cemetery.