Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

When William Nicholson’s WWII military records were first ordered I was well aware that it could take up to 90 days before they would become available online. In hindsight, the word ‘days’ seems to soften the blow a little. Now that I think of it in terms of months (three months to be exact) it’s no wonder my patience was starting to wear a little thin. Thankfully it held out and I can now happily say that it was most certainly worth the wait.

In my previous post on William (click here to read it) all I really mentioned about his time in the military were his enrolment details. I also  mentioned that his actions were noble. There’s no doubt that the act of enlisting in itself was noble but now that I have the records it looks as though the buck stops there.

From the moment he became a part of the military William seems to do all that he can to find a way to not be a part of it. Though I can’t see in his head, I can however see the facts. He enrolled in the General Reinforcements on 26 July 1940 and on 3 August he began his training at the Melville Training Depot. One month later, on 29 August, he was reported as being Absent Without Leave (AWL).

A soldier is considered to be ‘absent without leave’ when he abandons his post without permission often with the intention of never returning. William was absent from 23:59 on 4 August to 9:45 on 12 August; a total of eight days before he was found and brought back to camp. His punishment consisted of forfeiting eight days pay which equalled to forty shillings.

Then, on 27 September, he was found in Northam without a pass and carrying a bottle of beer. He forfeited ten shillings.

William once again tried to disappear. From 23:59 on 13 October to 15:00 on 22 October he was AWL. When he was brought back he was put into detention for 14 days and forfeited nine days pay which came to 45 shillings.

After being discharged from detention he was sent back to his unit but was soon admitted to hospital. Being ill and in hospital didn’t quell his preference to be free from authority. He was absent for four hours on the evening of 21 November and forfeited five shillings.

On 28 November he wilfully disobeyed an order from a superior officer and was admonished for such an action. This same day he was also found under the influence of alcohol on hospital premises. He once again forfeited five shillings.

His attempt at a military career soon came to a close. On 24 December 1940 he was considered medically unfit for service not occasioned by his own default and was henceforth discharged from the military. For his service (albeit short) he was entitled to receive a General Service badge.

The records also provide further descriptive details. He had dark hair and brown eyes; an oblique scar on his forehead, a scar on the bridge of his nose and another on his chest. The scars were most probably a testament to the injuries received from when he was run down by a car in 1932.

Descriptions are handy and help paint a fragmented picture of a person but, there’s nothing better than having a photo. So, I’m sure you can imagine my surprise and excitement when, for the first time thanks to these records, I was finally able to look upon the face of my Great Grandfather, William Nicholson.


Perhaps the records of his stint in the military weren’t all that I’d hoped or expected but that didn’t really matter. Before these records became available I’d never seen what William looked like and it was shaping up that I probably never would. In the end it was one small photo which ultimately held the most meaning.

The records and photos of William Nicholson have been obtained courtesy of the National Archives of Australia (NAA: B883, WX5258). They can be accessed online by visiting:

%d bloggers like this: