Richard Melville Nicholls
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About Richard Melville

  • Name
    Richard Melville
  • Initials
  • Surname
  • Date of Birth
  • Birth town
  • Resided town
  • Commemorated
  • Nationality
  • Place of death
    Mutford Suffolk
  • Date of death
  • Married
  • Occupation

Service Information

  • Merchant Navy

  • Service Number
  • Rank


Richard Melville Nichols was born in 1881, the son of William, a tailor, and Sarah Ann (nee Butcher).  He was one of eleven children.  In the 1891 Census, Richard (8) was in the District Workhouse, Oulton, Suffolk with his sister Susan (6) and brother Alfred Walter (14) all described as ‘legitimate child’ of Sarah Ann Nicholls, (30) charwoman.  They are all listed as paupers, born in Lowestoft.

In 1901, Richard (18) is listed on the Census as being in the Suffolk Regiment at the District Depot, Bury St Edmunds.  In 1911, he is recorded as AB Seaman 4th Hand with the crew of ‘True to the Core’ of Lowestoft which is trawl fishing off Padstow Harbour.

On 15 October 1914, Richard enlisted with the 10th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment at Bury St Edmunds.  He gave his occupation as fisherman of 12 Chapel Street, Lowestoft, aged 29.  He was medically discharged on 9 May 1916 with varicose veins, a condition he had suffered with since childhood.  He did not serve overseas.

In 1916, Richard was serving on the Steam Drifter ‘Newark Castle’, (a type of fishing vessel using drift nets).  The vessel was sunk on 6 July 1916 around 23 miles SE of the River Tyne by the German U-Boat U23, under command of Oberlieutnant zur See Ernst Voigt.  In a three day patrol, the U-Boat sank eight British vessels of similar size.

Crew members came through Peterborough East Station on 8 July 1916 and wrote two detailed accounts of the attacks in the visitor’s books, describing how the German U-Boat U23 captured the vessels, allowing the crews off before sinking the vessels with bombs.  The crew of the “Newark Castle” were rescued by a British submarine and landed in Blyth six hours later, along with crews from “Girl Bessie” and “Petunia”

U-Boat U23 sank 51 ships until it was badly damaged by depth charges from the patrol boat HMS PC-60 off the Lizard on July 26 1917.

U-Boats under the command of Oberlieutnant zur See Ernst Voigt, sank 80 ships.  Voigt, who was highly decorated, which included the Iron Cross 1st class, died on 25 August 1917 when UC 72 hit a mine in the Straits of Dover.

Richard and his nine crewmates could possibly have been returning to Lowestoft, following their unfortunate encounter with the German submarine.

Richard died in Lowestoft in December 1920, aged 38 years.

Please get in touch if you can you tell us more about Richard.



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One Response

  1. Beverley Jones says:

    Crew of vessel torpedoed by German Submarine

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