Assault Engineer Reuben Nicholls

  • Batt -
  • Unit - Royal Marines
  • Section - 41 Independent Commando
  • Date of Birth - 5/6/1925
  • Died - 31/05/1951
  • Age - 25

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Source: Leicestershire War Memorials Project.
Assault Engineer Reuben Nicholls of the Royal Marines, was taken prisoner by Chinese forces in 1950, during the Korean War. On New Year's Day in 1951 he wrote a letter to his parents, but this was the last they heard from him. Following this date, the Government was unable to establish what happened to Reuben, and his immediate family passed away without knowing his fate.

In 2008 Reuben's nephew, J.M. Nicholls, re-opened his case and spent the next three years carrying out research in the UK and US in order to find out what happened to his uncle. In 2018, he submitted the following account to the War Memorials Project:

'Reuben Nicholls of Hugglescote, Leics, was the only Royal Marine (an Assault Engineer - AE), out of 240 RMs, to be unaccounted for at the Armistice of the Korean War (1953). However, I re-opened his case in 2008 and after 3 years discovered his fate. He and a few other AEs were at the head of a convoy, removing bombs, booby traps and later blazing vehicles, sent to relieve a siege of many thousands of US troops at the Chosin Reservoir in N Korea. He was taken prisoner by the Chinese on Nov 29, 1950, taken to a makeshift PoW camp, resisted intensive indoctrination, marched back to the front line - the only Brit with 59 US men - escaped, was recaptured. and executed on May 31 by communist troops.

A sworn statement made in 1954 by a United States Marine Corps master sergeant, a military policeman, reads “Nicholls ….was an outstanding man in every respect. He was very courageous in resisting every propaganda attempt. He was well liked and helped his fellow prisoners. He had excellent morale and spirit, but his health was not too good during May 1951 since all the group were very weak from malnutrition.”

Reuben had been the outstanding recruit of the year in 1947 and had been awarded the King’s Badge on completion of his training. Prior to Korea, he had been on active service in Libya, Palestine and Hong Kong. He had been stationed in Jerusalem when the Jewish Authority declared partition and establishment of the State of Israel, on May 14th 1948, protecting remaining British facilities and evacuating British diplomats. The declaration had immediately triggered all out conflict with Arab States and an unfettered bloody civil war.

The full story has been accepted by the RM Historian and published two years ago. Subsequently, as his nephew and present next of kin, I was granted, in Reuben's honour, the award of the Elizabeth Cross. He is commemorated at the UN Memorial in Pusan, S Korea, at the National Memorial Arboretum near Alrewas in Staffordshire, in Bickleigh parish church in Devon, and on the new stone next to the clock tower memorial in Coalville.'
Photographs of Reuben Nicholls provided by JM Nicholls, 2018

Leicestershire Project Findings
  • Conflict - Korea
  • Cause of death - EXECUTED
  • Special Categories - Prisoners Of War
  • Other Memorials - Post-1945 Memorial, Clocktower Memorial Square, Coalville

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