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World War II by sea

While Jack Nicholls now lives along the Gulf St Vincent, he spent the early 1940s travelling the world’s oceans as part of Britain’s World War II efforts.

Born in London in 1926, Mr Nicholls joined the British Merchant Navy as a 16-year-old.

“I couldn’t wait to get to sea; I was very proud to be part of the war effort,” Mr Nicholls, a resident of ACH Group’s Yankalilla Centre Residential Care Home, said.

“I was following in the footsteps of my father and older brother, both were members of the Merchant Navy.”

While he was fortunate to not experience direct warfare from the Germans, he said there was always plenty of action around the ships he was on.

Britain’s Merchant Navy played a vital role in the Allies’ victory by transporting soldiers, food, and weaponry throughout the war effort including in the historic Battle of Atlantic and the Italian Campaign, for which Mr Nicholls was awarded medals. He was also awarded a Pacific Area medal.

“We transported American and Canadian soldiers who would be involved in D-Day, and injured soldiers from Italy to Egypt,” he said.

“Food supplies were much needed in England. We would travel to New Zealand on a three-month return trip to bring back items like lamb, cheese, and butter.”

Mr Nicholls’ main role was to ensure the cabin quarters remained in order and his fellow seamen were comfortable.

“The living conditions were pretty good; however, the hours were long. In times when we didn’t work, we would sit on the deck and sing or play guitar,” he said.

“We had a ration of two bottles of beer a day and were paid four pounds a month and received another four pounds for danger money per month.”

Mr Nicholls said Canadians, Americans, and New Zealanders were all wonderful people, so much so Mr Nicholls and his wife Anne had their sights on migrating to New Zealand in the late 1960s.

“At the time, New Zealand wanted bricklayers and carpenters, but I wasn’t skilled in these areas. Instead, we moved to Adelaide where I worked at Holden,” he said.

“Anne and I have enjoyed living in South Australia with our favourite hobbies having been caravanning and cruising.”

ACH Group’s General Manager Customer Care Linda Feldt said, “Within the ACH Group community there are many customers and residents who have been involved in war efforts.

“It is an absolute privilege to hear about their life experiences at war. Their stories are honourable, and it is so important for younger generations to hear the important contributions and sacrifices they made.”

Anzac Day will be marked with several services within the ACH Group community to pay respect to the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country.

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