Henry (Harry) Nankivell

St Bees Dead of the First World War
Roll of Honour
In Memoriam
Henry (Harry) Nankivell
43 rd Bn., Australian Infantry, A.I.F.
Died of Wounds Received in Action, 4 September 1918
Aged 36
Harry Nankivell is not commemorated on our War Memorials because he had left the village before the War started, and his enlistment was with the Australian Force. But he had been very much a St. Beghian and we are proud to include his name in this record.  

Harry was aged 10 at the time of the 1891 Census, the family then living next to the Post Office (now 121 Main Street). He was the son of a clergyman, and two of his brothers also became ministers of the Church. We believe he attended the village school and worshipped in the Priory Church. At the age of 17 Harry enlisted in the Kings Own Royal Lancashire Regiment. He remained with the Regiment for a little over seven years, seeing service in the Boer War and in Tibet. He was discharged to the Reserve whilst in Calcutta, where for two years he had been a faithful member of the Cathedral Choir.

Returning to St. Bees, he worked for eighteen months at Fairladies farm before seeking a supervisory post at Whitehaven Workhouse. During this time he was a staunch member of our Priory Choir, and assisted the Vicar in the care of the elder boys. Testimonials survive referring to his integrity, his uprightness of character, his capacity for work and his musical ability.

In or shortly after 1911 he emigrated to Australia. Late in 1912, in New South Wales, he married Eva Mary Nankivell, who by 1915 had borne him a daughter and a son. In that year Harry re-enlisted, this time with the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force, and after a period as an Instructor he left for France at the end of 1917. He was involved in hard fighting during much of 1918, though finding time still for singing and for entertaining his comrades. Just weeks before the Armistice he was severely wounded by shellfire, succumbing to his wounds four days later. He lies now in the Military Cemetery at Daours.

Harry Nankivell appears on a number of photographs which have survived in St. Bees, and on others held in honour by his descendants in Australia. We are grateful to his grandson not only for these, but for copies of various documents pertaining to his life. Especially are we pleased to have transcripts of nearly fifty letters – some of them very moving – which Harry sent to his wife and little children during the War.


With his family’s permission, a fuller account of his life is being prepared. It will be kept, with copies of the pictures, documents and letters, in the Local History area in St. Bees Priory.

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