Rupert Lancelot Nolan was born in Carcoar in 1894, the ninth of eleven children born to John Joseph Nolan and Elizabeth Sophia (nee Hines).
When Rupert enlisted in May 1916 he was working as a barman at his brother’s hotel in Wellington – the Great Central Hotel. Rupert enlisted in Dubbo and entered training camp there, a private in the 3rd Battalion, 20th Reinforcement. He was transferred to Liverpool camp in June 1916 and embarked for overseas service in September.
Private Nolan undertook a further four months training in England before proceeding to the Western Front in February 1917. In April Rupert’s sisters in Orange received an interesting letter from him, which they shared with the Leader:
Pte. Lance Nolan…has had the unique experience of having been taken prisoner by the Germans, and having effected his escape. He says that during his enforced stay with the Bosch lines he was put to digging trenches and never worked so hard in his life or with greater reluctance. With a comrade they effected their escape, and successfully reached the British lines. Pte. Nolan has received a slight memento of German kindness by being wounded in the hip, but is back in the firing line again.
On 4 May 1917 Rupert’s battalion was engaged in the 2nd Battle of Bullecourt on the Hindenburg line. Rupert sustained gunshot wounds to his chest and thigh and was carried to the dressing station by his best mate, Bert Corrigan. Just as they arrived a shell exploded, hitting Bert in the chest. The friends parted ways; Rupert was hospitalised initially in Rouen, but later transferred to the Reading War Hospital in England. Bert appeared to be recovering from his wounds but succumbed to pneumonia two weeks later. In July 1917 Rupert wrote the following letter to Bert’s family from his hospital bed in England:
It is with heartfelt sympathy that I write these few lines, sharing your sorrow in the sad loss of your brother and son, also my best pal. It was on May 4 that we were both wounded at Bullecourt, in the Hindenburg line. I was on a bombing post with Bert when a shell exploded and caught me in the chest and right thigh. Bert carried me back to the dressing station, about two hundred yards from where I was lying, and had just put me down when a shell landed, wounding him in the left side of the chest. He bore his wound very well, and after being dressed came to me where I lay on the stretcher and said he would walk as he felt up to it.
Next time I saw him was on the following day, May 5, on the hospital train bound for Rouen. He was in good spirits and his last words to me were (when we were removed from the train at Rouen), “Good-bye, Lance, old boy, you will be all right.” Little I thought these were to be his last words and the last I would see of him. I arrived at the hospital and made inquiries through the sisters as to where Bert was and how he was faring. He had been doing the same, for a sister came into my ward one day and asked if Nolan was in the ward. I answered, “Yes,” and she told me a friend, Corrigan, was making inquiries after me. I sent word back that I was getting along all right and learnt from the sisters, up to the time I left, that Bert was getting on splendidly. In fact, they said he was beating me easily. The last news I received was to this effect, that was on May 19, when I left for England. Had I been able to get out of bed I would have gone to see Bert, but I was pretty bad, and was removed each time on a stretcher.
After arriving in England I wrote to him but received no reply. I wrote again, and there was no reply. Then I made inquiries through the Australian Red Cross and received a reply that poor Bert died on May 20 at 5.15 p.m., having seen a priest before he passed away. It seems that pneumonia supervened, causing his untimely death. While you have lost such a fine brother and son you must be brave and keep up, for you know he would not wish other-wise. You have all reasons to be proud of him, for he was a true soldier and what is more, a man in every sense of the word.
We were pals right through—used to share whatever we had. His death was a shock to me, and while I share your sorrow I again ask you to accept my deepest sympathy, for I know none better than he. I am getting along slowly, and have to undergo an operation to have a piece of shell removed from my chest. I hope the time is not long distant when this cruel war will end and I will be back among you all again.
I forgot to mention that I forwarded the letter I received from the Red Cross to my brother Ted. It stated the number of Bert’s grave and the cemetery in Rouen where he was buried. I can’t think of the particular cemetery, but his grave number is 2723. Perhaps Ted has shown you the letter ere this and no doubt you have been advised from the War Office. In conclusion I just ask you to bear up, for Bert died respected by all who knew him.
After a long period of recovery, followed by furlough, Private Nolan was marched out to No 1 Command Depot at Perlham Downs on 28 August.
The following month Rupert was admitted to Tidworth Military Hospital, presumably to undergo the operation to remove the shrapnel from his chest. Following his recovery he was discharged to the Weymouth Training Depot until January 1918, when he embarked HMAT Port Darwin for return to Australia. Private Nolan was discharged from the AIF in April 1918 due to medical unfitness.
In 1920 Rupert married Vera Alma Matson of Dripstone at St John’s Church of England in Wellington. In 1922 he was working as a second-hand dealer in Wellington, and in January 1928 went into partnership with Daniel Vincent Roddy. The two men operated as auctioneers and property salesmen from Rupert’s premises in Swift Street, Wellington. The partnership lasted just a year; in February 1929 it was dissolved.
Rupert subsequently moved to Sydney. In 1930 he was living in Ashfield and working as a labourer. By 1932 he had moved to Strathfield and was working as a salesman. Census records for 1943 indicate that he was working as a funeral director and living in Croydon. By 1963 Rupert had retired and moved to Miranda. He remained at Miranda until his death on 23 October 1976.