Nelson Victor Carter was born at Eastbourne on the 9th April 1887 and was educated at Hailsham. In December 1902 he enlisted under the name of Nelson Smith into the Royal Field Artillery, where he attained the rank of Bombardier, but was discharged on the 17th August 1903 as medically unfit. Declared fully fit in August 1906 he again enlisted into the RFA and served three years with the regiment. However, whilst on service with the RFA in Singapore he was once again declared medically unfit and returned to England and discharged.
On Friday 13 October 1911 he married Catherine Camfield at St Mary's Parish Church in Old Town, Eastbourne and they set up home at 33 Greys Road, Eastbourne. He then went on to work, following a serious operation in 1912, as a commissionaire at the Old Town Cinema in the High Street, Eastbourne.
At the outbreak of war, he joined the Southdown Battalions in September 1914; he was promoted to corporal on the same day, then sergeant and later Warrant Officer Class II. He was sent to France attached to 'A' Company, 12th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment.
He distinguished himself on 30th June 1916 at the battle of Richbourg.
CSM Carter took the fourth wave into action under heavy shell and machine gun fire. Bombing matches took place, but after heavy casualties were suffered the men were forced to withdraw. He attacked a machine gun post which was causing particular trouble, shot one, or more, of the crew with his pistol before, apparently, turning the machine gun on the Germans. This bought much needed time to withdraw safely, and with this having been done he finally left the position.
The action in the support line had lasted only thirty minutes. He continued to aid in the withdrawal to the first line, and later in the day, whilst bringing in the wounded, was shot in the chest, dying almost immediately. For his actions that day he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
The Citation read as follows:
London Gazette, 9 September 1916,
Boar's Head, Richebourg l'Avoué, France, 30 June 1916, Company Sergeant-Major Nelson Victor Carter, 4th Company, 12th Bn., Royal Sussex Regiment.
"For most conspicuous bravery. 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. His conduct throughout the day was magnificent."
This is a part of a letter written by Lieutenant Howard Robinson, Carter's Company Commander to his wife.
"When I last saw him he was close to the German line, acting as leader to a small party of four or five men. I was afterwards told that he had entered the German second line, and had brought back an enemy machine gun, having put the gun team out of action. I heard that he shot one them with his revolver. I next saw him about an hour later (I had been wounded in the meanwhile and was lying in our trench). Your husband repeatedly went over the parapet. I saw him going over alone and carrying in our wounded men from 'No Man's Land'. He brought them in on his back, and he could not have done this had he not possessed exceptional physical strength as well as courage. It was in going over for the sixth or seventh time that he was shot through the chest. I saw him fall just inside our trench.
Somebody told me that about a month previously your husband carried a man about 400 yards across the open under machine gun fire and brought him safely into our trench. For this act I recommended him for the Military Cross. On every occasion, no matter how tight the hole we were in, he was always cheerful and hopeful, and never spared any pains to make the men comfortable and keep them cheery."
Company Sergeant Nelson Carter is buried in the Royal Irish Rifles Cemetery, Laventie, France.
Eastbourne Council gave permission in October 1916 for cinemas in the town to hold benefit performances for the Nelson Carter Memorial Fund. By July 1918 the fund reached £472.
I was shopping in Hailsham town center two weeks ago when I read his name on the war memorial there.