William “Billie” Nicol



DATE OF BIRTH:  17/08/1892

William “Billie” Nicol enlisted for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force on February 22. 1915 in Toronto, Ontario.  His “Attestation Paper” was witnessed by G. Fowler and certified by the Lieutenant Colonel commanding.

William “Billie” Nicol was 5 feet 9 inches tall with a complexion described as “Fresh”.  His eyes were listed as “Blue” and his hair “Fair”.  His distinctive marks included a mole low on his back and 3 vaccination marks on his left arm.

As William “Billie” Nicol could see at the required distance with either eye, and because his heart and lungs were healthy and he had the free use of his joints and limbs, and because he asserted that he was not subject to fits of any description he was considered “Fit” for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force by the medical officer attending.

William “Billie” Nicol had been born in London, England and had emigrated to Canada on his own at the age of 14. He’d worked on farms north of Toronto and around Davidson, Saskatchewan and at the McLaughlin Carriage company plant in Oshawa, Ontario.  When he received a small inheritance from England he enrolled at Elliot Business College in Toronto to study accounting and graduated from the program.

In May 1915 William “Billie” Nicol was back in England as a soldier in the Canadian Army. He’d made sergeant.  He landed at Plymouth and boarded a train to Dibgate Military Camp near Folkestone where his unit was put up in tents.

A Legend Is Born

Due to the vagaries of war-time military requirements William “Billie” Nicol found himself on a boat sailing back to Canada just as his unit was due to sail for France.

He’d been ordered to escort, with other NCOs (non-commissioned officers), a group of soldiers deemed mentally unfit for duty who were being returned home for further treatment.  Upon fulfilling this duty William “Billie” Nicol went on three month’s leave. He finally sailed back to England and was posted to Witley with the rank of Staff Quartermaster-Sergeant.

Sergeants On A Spree

As Staff Quartermaster-Sergeant William “Billie” Nicol was in charge of the disposition of rations for all troops and horses at Witley and passed most of the war in this duty.  It wasn’t until 1918 that he found himself in France where he continued his quartermaster duties and was involved in the final push, as it was called, at the Somme.

Aside from the occasional bombing run by German planes the greatest danger William “Billie” Nicol faced during the war to end all wars was the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.

He contracted the virus at St. Omer and became seriously ill.  In a short autobiographical sketch written in March, 1972 he put his survival down to the ministrations of a German prisoner of war who spoke very good English and who managed to nurse both Nicol and a fellow NCO, both of whom had been quarantined in a tent and left to fend for themselves, back to health.

William “Billie” Nicol was repatriated to Canada with his bride and received his discharge from the army in Toronto in December, 1918.  Within a short period of time he moved with his wife and young child to the west coast of Canada.

William “Billie” Nicol.  Soldier, actor, writer, bookkeeper, survivor.  Past president Royal Canadian Legion Branch #142.  Died December 2, 1975 White Rock, BC.


That is all.





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A Closer Walk

Ever feel the need? The need to get down on your knees and pray?  California dreaming? Many years.  Many years…

“Sail along silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine all your dreams on their way. See how they shine. If you need a friend. I’m sailing right behind like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind. I’m on your side when times are rough. And friends just can’t be found. I will lay me down.”

“When you’re down and out. When you’re on the street. When evening falls so hard I will comfort you. I’ll take your heart, oh, when darkness comes. And pain is all around. I will lay me down. When you’re weary. Feeling small. When tears are in your eyes I will drive them all away.”  Etc.

So As I Have Seen Thee In The Sanctuary And Meditate On Thee In The Night Watches

Citrix has been acting up and the site keeps wanting to shut down but it only works for a few seconds and bounces back and we’re on again.  I can’t log off.  It won’t let me.  It’s like this thing has a natural life of its own, it just doesn’t want to go away, and I’ve no idea, but in reality it’s simply a help desk thing because my shift is done. Chad will follow up. Nobody said anything about overtime. My mistake was ticking “Remember Password.”  I want to be an author and commentator now.  It’s like “Experienced parking lot sweeper”. Something that looks great on your resume.

Plus it’s October Fest.  And the one thing that really goes with October Fest is Ocktoberfest Bier.  Brought to you once again by our friends at Paulaner

Don’t worry about the prompt are you old enough to be at the site, yes or no.  Nobody’s checking and you can lie your face off.

The perfection of this bier.  Just back from München and nothing’s changed. The screams of the tourists.  “Hofbräuhaus!  Hofbräuhaus!”

I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto The Hills, From Whence Comes My Help. The Sun Shall Not By Day Nor The Moon By Night

It was that platter of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Greatest Hits” I saw in the dumpster that got me off on the wrong foot here.  I had to hear it.

It was never intended as a prayer stool as built but that in fact is exactly what it is, Mr. Unger.  Step up to the Lord and kneel in supplication if you must.  We call it the utility stool. It can’t just be about prayer.  You need more than that or you’re not well-rounded.




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Scarborough Fair

“The troop was at Quan Loi, northwest of Saigon, in 1969.
The terrain was different from the Hiep Duc-Que Son Valley area.  The war was different now.  Here were dense, lowland jungles, occasionally broken by the straight rows of rubber plantations.  The most dangerous assignment in the troop was now the Scouts.  They cruised along at treetop level, looking for targets and being targets.

Mr. Murray was a slightly built scout pilot with a thin mustache and the kind of swagger I have since seen only among the Irish street kids of Boston.  He was damned good and he knew it.

He was the only scout pilot that the Blue Platoon ever got close to.  We were often sent out to bring back the bodies of the Scouts, and didn’t particularly want to know them first.  But Mr. Murray was different.  He survived.  He was a special pilot that every scout gunner wanted to fly with, because he was the lucky one that would bring them home after each mission.

As time went by, other scout pilots would last a day or a week or a month, but Mr. Murray kept flying.  The Blues began to regard him as a good-luck charm and, the rarest of things, began to talk to him.  He was different—a philosopher who thought about history and astronomy and the reasons that things had to be the way they were.  We could talk to him about any subject and he would listen and give us an answer.  The officer-enlisted man gap suddenly didn’t exist.  I still remember his favorite song, “Scarborough Fair.”

“Doc told me that some of the old Blues had gone home, and others had been hit in an ambush on May thirty-first.  The Blues had made landings around Khe San in March, but most of the NVA had fled before the Cav arrived.  The troop had also been the first Americans into the Lang Vei Special Forces Camp, which had been overrun by NVA tanks in February.  Doc said that Khe San had looked like a huge garbage dump after the siege, filled with trash and demoralized, shell-shocked Marines.  He said the way you could spot the newly arrived cavalrymen at Khe San was the way they behaved during rocket attacks.  The cavalrymen would wait for the black explosions and take pictures.  The Marines would dive for the nearest foxhole or ditch.”

President Bannon Heads Out For Burgers

“The scouts were enjoying “good hunting.”  The Communist divisions were massing southwest of Saigon for another Tet offensive, but this time the big bombers would crush them before they left their jungle camps.  One morning a scout chopper surprised a long column of NVA coming out of the jungle, walking along a streambed , and re-entering the jungle further ahead.  The LOH hovered over the streambed and the gunner shot a number of NVA, he wasn’t sure how many.  Then the little chopper landed while the gunner loaded aboard a 57mm recoilless rifle, a .30 caliber machine gun, and some rifles.

They were put on display at Quan Loi.  I was looking at the  weapons when Bolten walked up.  It was the first time I had seen him at close range in twelve months, and he looked ten years older.

He looked fondly at the trophies.  “Aren’t they something, Sarge?”

“Yeah.  Did you have anything to do with getting them?”

“Of course.  The gooks never knew what hit them.”  He had made the proper impression, so he turned to leave.

“Bolten?  Can I talk to you a minute?”

He looked like a caged cat.  “Why?”

“You’ve been here a long time.  You know, the first time I ever saw you was the day you killed that tax collector near Bong Son.”

“I remember.  He was my first gook.  The lieutenant kept the money for the squadron orphanage, right?”

“Right.  I know it’s none of my business, but what I was wondering is, are you ever going home?”

I got a quick answer.  “No!  The Cav’s my home.  I don’t want to leave.”

Photo Globe&Mail.  Quotations Matthew Brennan.  “Headhunters” and “Brennan’s War”

Now stop all this foolishness and get some rest


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