Second Lieutenant Oswald Nixon

Regiment:  4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment Essex Regiment & Royal Flying Corps
Date & place of birth: 3 May 1896 at Cape Town, South Africa
Date & place of death: 17 September 1916 (aged 20) near Cambrai, France.

Oswald Nixon lived at Commonside, Rogate, with his parents. He was the brother of Commander George Russell Nixon who was swept off the bridge of HMS Albermarle in November 1915.

Family background

Oswald Nixon was born on 3 May 1896 in Cape Town, where his father Lieut. Col Francis Nixon of the Royal Engineers was stationed. Oswald was the youngest surviving child born to Francis and Edith in a family of fourteen children.

By 1901 the family had returned to England and lived in Orpington, Kent. In 1911 Oswald was at All Saints School, Bloxham near Banbury in Oxfordshire and later in that year he went to Felsted School in Essex, where he was a member of the School’s Contingent of the Officer Training Corps. He left Felsted in July 1913 and went to the Hampshire County Agricultural School at Basing.

Commonside, Rogate in 2014
Commonside, Rogate in 2014

At the 1911 census, Lt. Col. F.W. Nixon was living at Chapmans Mead, Five Ashes near Mayfield, Sussex with his wife Edith Eliza née Malet. The census stated that the couple had been married for 38 years and had 14 children, two of whom had died.

Sometime between 1911 and 1914, Francis and Edith Nixon moved to Commonside, Rogate.

Military service

Oswald signed up to join the 4th Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment at Horsham on 13 August 1914. He was a private from this date until 7 October 1914, [during which time he lived at Commonside] when he was gazetted for a commission. By 4 December 1914, he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 10th Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment and attended a course at Dover between 8 and 20 February 1915.

In May 1915, he relinquished his commission to enter the Royal Military College at Sandhurst from where in October 1915 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the Essex Regiment.  He was subsequently attached to the Royal Flying Corps, moving to France with 70 Squadron in late August 1916.

Death and commemoration

On 17 September 1916, 2nd Lieutenant Oswald Nixon was on a reconnaissance flight with 2nd Lieutenant Edgar Wood from Louverans, just west of Cambrai when his engine failed and he landed about 15 miles away behind the German lines. 2nd Lieutenant Wood was wounded and made a Prisoner of War but Oswald was reported as missing.

Initially it was hoped that Oswald had also been taken a prisoner and the British Red Cross on 28 December 1916 confirmed that they had received two reports saying that he was a prisoner, but because of the passage of time and the fact that Oswald was not named on the German official list they thought that, if he was still alive, Lt Col & Mrs Nixon would have heard by now from other sources.

Further enquiries were made to the War Office by Oswald’s parents during the early months of 1917, together with a letter from a Miss Marjorie Lavender and correspondence with George Wood, the father of 2nd Lieut Wood but on 11 May 1917 the War Office wrote to Col. Nixon to say

“The Army Council are in consequence regretfully constrained to conclude that this Officer died on or since 17 September 1916, and I am to express their sympathy with you in your bereavement.”

Oswald Nixon was originally buried by the German army near to where he crashed in the churchyard at Hervilly, 20 miles south of Cambrai, after they had removed any identifying items from his uniform, including buttons, badges of rank etc.

In May 1929, his body was exhumed and re-interred at Serre Road No.2 cemetery, 28 miles north-west of Hervilly, although at this time he was only identified as a second lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps. In 1992, after further enquiries, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission finally identified the body as that of 2nd Lieut. Oswald Nixon, and the headstone was replaced. At the same time, his name was removed from the Arras Flying Services Memorial to airmen who had no known grave.

Oswald Nixon is commemorated on the Rogate War Memorial.

Other family members

Oswald’s brother, Commander George Russell Nixon, was swept off the bridge of HMS Albermarle in November 1915.

Note

Bloxham School have a biography of Oswald Nixon on their “War Dead” website. Unfortunately, this contains several errors regarding Oswald’s family history. It also includes a slightly different version of the events surrounding his death.

 

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project