b. 09/04/1887 Eastbourne, Sussex. d. 30/06/1916 Richebourg, France.
Nelson Victor Carter (1887-1916) was born at 3 Hybridge Terrace, Latimer Drive, East Eastbourne, Sussex on 6th April 1887. The family moved to Hailsham when he was six. His father, Richard Carter, was a fisherman in 1881, and later a general labourer at a Winter Works. His mother was Harriet nee Goldsmith. She was a charwoman. His parents were married on 22nd January 1881 at St Mary’s, Hailsham, Sussex. Nelson had eight siblings in total.
Nelson was educated at Hailsham Board School and left aged 12 in 1899 to work for Charles Goldsmith (probably an uncle) as a carter and then on Mr Simmonds farm as a general labourer. After four years, he ran away and enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery on 18th November 1902 under the name Nelson Smith. He served in 53rd Brigade RFA from 16th December. Appointed acting bombardier in February 1903, he was discharged on 17th August for being medically unfit due to a hammertoe. He re-enlisted on 23rd August 1906 and was posted to Dover on 14th September, 27th Brigade RFA on 16th November and 22nd Brigade RFA on 1st August 1907. He joined 78th Brigade RFA in Singapore on 30th October. Nelson returned to England on 17th February 1909 and was admitted to Princess Alice Memorial Hospital, Eastbourne where he underwent an operation, possibly for a hernia. He later got a bladder infection and was declared unfit for further service and was discharged in June 1909 from Woolwich.
He worked for Charles Goldsmith again before settling in Eastbourne, where he originally lived at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home. There he worked at Eversley Court, Endcliffe School, Burlington Hotel and finally as a doorman at the Old Town Cinema when it opened in December 1913. He married Kathleen Camfield at St Mary’s, Old Town, Eastbourne on 13th October 1911. She was known as Kitty, and they went on to have two children, though the first born child, Richard died aged just 3 months. Their second child was Jessie Olive Carter, born in January 1916.
When he re-enlisted, this time in 11th Royal Sussex on 5th September 1914, he had a number of tattoos, including Buffalo Bill on his left forearm, a Japanese Lady on his upper right arm and Buffalo Bill on his back. He was promoted to Corporal the same day. He was promoted to Sergeant on 29th September and Colour Sergeant on 10th November. He transferred to the 12th Battalion on 11th November and was appointed Company Sergeant Major of A Company on 28th January 1915. He was Regimental Sergeant Major temporarily between August and October.
He went to France with the Battalion on 4th March 1916. He was recommended for the Military Cross in May 1916, for carrying a wounded man 400m on his back over open ground, but it was not awarded, probably because it was overtaken by events the following month.
On 30th June 1916, at Boar’s Head, Richebourg l’Avoue, France, during an attack he was in command of the fourth wave of the assault. Under intense shell and machine gun fire he penetrated, with a few men, into the enemy's second line and inflicted heavy casualties with bombs. When forced to retire to the enemy's first line, he captured a machine gun and shot the gunner with his revolver. Finally, after carrying several wounded men into safety, he was himself mortally wounded and died in a few minutes.
He was originally buried within the trench system. His grave was lost, but rediscovered in March 1920 and his remains were identified from his identity disk. He is buried in Royal Irish Rifles Graveyard, Laventie, France. The VC was presented to his widow Kitty by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 2nd May 1917.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His daughter, Jessie, left instructions in her will that the Royal Sussex Regiment should have first refusal on the VC. It was handed over to the Regiment at a ceremony on 28th June 2003 by her son, Geoffrey Baker. The VC is held by the Royal Sussex Regiment Museum, Eastbourne.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: REDOUBT MUSEUM, EASTBOURNE, SUSSEX.
BURIAL PLACE: ROYAL IRISH RIFLES CHURCHYARD, LAVENTIE, FRANCE.
Nelson Carter is buried in PLOT VI, ROW C. GRAVE 17
(top left hand corner of the churchyard)
Greys Road, Eastbourne, Sussex
War Illustrated, 23rd September 1916
Woolwich Barracks (Terry Hissey)