Veteran Stories:
L. H. Nelles

Army

  • The Memory Project, Historica Canada
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My name is Edward Nelles. I'm the son of Lieutenant Colonel L.H. Nelles, D.S.O. (bar), M.C., who commanded the 4th Canadian Infantry Battalion in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the Great War of 1914 to 1918.

My father was born in 1894, which would have made him eighteen at the start of hostilities. I believe there was an age requirement to get into the officer corps, which was what he wanted to do, so he lied about his age, saying he was born in 1890, which enabled him to join as an officer.

He went overseas and was Acting Major at that time. He joined the 1st Battalion overseas in 1915. Subsequently fought in the Battle of the Somme with the 1st Battalion. It was in the Battle of the Somme that he won his Military Cross. The next significant move in his career during the war was that he was sent to the British officer training facility as a teacher. His job was to educate the British officers who were about to be sent overseas as to the tactics of the Germans and the ways in which those tactics might be overcome and the Germans defeated. This was quite a feather in the cap of a Canadian officer, to be appointed as a teacher in the British officer's school, and it was something that news reports at the time held out as a shining example of what the Canadians were doing overseas.

In August of 1917, the Commanding Officer of the 4th Battalion was killed by a sniper. This, of course, then opened the vacancy for the Commanding Officer of the 4th Battalion, to which my father was appointed in August of 1917. At that time, because of his Meritorious Service at the staff college, he was also awarded the D.S.O.

They were involved in various operations until the Battle of Amiens transpired. The Battle of Amiens was the battle that broke the back of the German Army in the First World War. The Amiens battle was the first battle in the so-called 'Hundred Days', which were the last hundred days of the First World War, and at that time they were known as 'Canada's Hundred Days', not only in Canada but around the world, because in every advance of that time – and they were significant advances – it was Canadian troops that led the advance and were at the cutting edge. So the world knew that as 'Canada's Hundred Days'. Amiens was one of the two battles that I remember my father speaking about most often. It was at Amiens that he won the bar to his D.S.O., and he was injured in the attack.

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