b. 03/04/1886 Deraghland, County Monaghan, Ireland. d. 08/04/1918 Lillers, France.
David Nelson (1886-1918) was born at Darraghlan, Stranooden, County Monaghan, Ireland on 3rd April 1886. His father was George Nelson and his mother was Mary Anne, known as Annie. He had three brothers and a sister. He was educated at the local village school in Darraghlan and Monaghan Grammar School before being employed as a shop assistant.
He enlisted on the 27th December 1904 and achieved 2nd Class Education on 22nd February 1905. Having been posted to 98 Battery RFA on 22nd December 1905, he was appointed Acting Bombardier on 7th April 1906 and achieved 1st Class Education on 30th October that year. He was posted to L Battery the following year, and became a Bombardier on 8th September 1908. In 1909 he became an Assistant Signalling Instructor and was promoted to Corporal on 7th January 1911. He attended the Short Gunnery Course at Shoeburyness on 1st March 1913 and was awarded a First Class Gunnery Certificate. He was promoted to Sergeant on 5th August 1914, shortly after War was declared. He arrived in France on 15th August 1914, and was slightly wounded on 24th August, a week prior to the action at Nery.
On 1st September 1914 at Néry, France, Sergeant Nelson helped to bring the guns into action – with an officer (Edward Kinder Bradbury) and a warrant officer (George Thomas Dorrell) – under heavy fire and in spite of being severely wounded. He remained with the guns until all the ammunition was expended, although he had been ordered to retire to cover.
He was wounded during the action at Nery in the leg, right lung and ribs and evacuated to a field hospital at Baron, which was overrun by the Germans the following day. Despite his wounds, he managed to escape on the 5th, reached French lines and was taken to hospital in Dinan, where a piece of shrapnel was removed from his right lung. He returned to England on 20th October 1914 and was treated at 1st London General Hospital until 16th November – coincidentally the date that his VC citation was gazetted.
He then married Ada Jane Jessie neee Bishop at Dartford, and a son, Victor Cyril was born at the end of 1915 at Rochford. David received his VC from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 13th January 1915 and he was appointed Instructor in Gunnery at the School of Gunnery, Shoeburyness on 1st March 1915 until he returned to France on 11th December 1917. While he was at Shoeburyness, he became a Freemason, becoming a member of Priory Lodge.
On his return to France, he joined C Battery, LIX Brigade RFA and transferred to A Battery, LVIII Brigade on 31st December 1917. He was then appointed Acting Major on 1st March 1918 to command D Battery, LIX Brigade. On the 7th April 1918, he received multiple shell wounds to the left forearm, right foot and back and a compound fracture of the skull. He died the following day at No 58 Casualty Clearing Station at Lillers, France, and was buried in Lillers Communal Cemetery.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf. His VC is owned by L (Nery) Battery RHA and is on loan to the Imperial War Museum, London where it is displayed alongside Bradbury and Dorrell’s VCs.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: LILLERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY, LILLERS, FRANCE.
PLOT V, ROW A, GRAVE 16.
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the Nelson VC Stone in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
Brian Drummond – Image of Nelson’s name on the Freemason’s Memorial, London.