AWM Accession NumberART28965
Untitled ['The Fight'] Sgt. A. J. Nichol 1942
Item copyright: AWM Licensed copyright
All image content ©The Nichol Family or The Australian War Memorial, unless otherwise noted
Arthur John NICHOL 1914-1965
Graphic designer, Illustrator, black & white artist, Arthur Nichol was born in February 1914. He trained as an artist at East Sydney Technical College during the early 1930s, in the historic sandstone buildings of the City's old Darlinghurst Gaol.
Arthur quickly found work as a freelance graphic artist and designer, and as was usual practice for young artists at the time, submitted cartoons and caricatures to print publishers. He soon secured permanent work with the Sydney Morning Herald and the Bulletin Magazine, producing caricatures and illustrations in ink and gouache up until the outbreak of war in 1939, when along with his brother Harry in November 1939, he enlisted for war service in the Australian Army.
Ever grateful for the care and support given by the Australian Red Cross during wartime and the years after, Arthur made many oil paintings in peacetime, to assist the organisation's fundraising efforts. In hopes of bringing an image of each of his artworks together in our online collection, we'd like to hear from anyone who can help us locate any of the paintings won through Red Cross raffles during the late 1940s-1960s. There may be variations in his painted signature, but the one reproduced above is a typical example.
Arthur Nichol served with the 2/1st Battalion, 2nd AIF, which departed Pyrmont, Sydney, for the Middle East on January 10, 1940, disembarking on February 13 and leaving Egypt via conflict in eastern Libya, before arriving for service in Greece towards the end of March, 1941.
As the benefit of Arthur's observational skills had become evident whilst in Egypt, he was promoted to Acting Sergeant in Intelligence and sent out as a forward scout on reconaissance. He was reported missing on Jun 12 1941, having earlier been captured by German parachute troops and was finally officially reported as Prisoner of War on November 26.
The story of the 2/1 Battalion's attempt to defend Crete, is told in full on the Australian War Memorial website.
Arthur spent the remainder of the 2nd world war as a Prisoner of War of Germany. He told of being moved between various POW camps in areas such as Sudetenland, Lower Silesia and was for the majority of the next 4 years interned at Stalag VIIIB/344 in Lamsdorf, Silesia (now Lambowice, Poland), along with with thousands of other allied troops.
Despite deplorable conditions in Stalag , he was able to satisfy the demands of creativity by painting scenes of daily life in camp, as well as producing posters for morale boosting camp concerts. This and the art classes he held for fellow prisoners in several Stalag camps, was made possible by the efforts of the Red Cross, which provided art materials and other necessities to the men. Stalag VIIIB was renamed Stalag 344 in January 1944. It would be a further 16 months of imprisonment before liberation, then safe passage to England in May 1945, arrival in Sydney on July 24 and confirmation of the rank of Sergeant.
Many of the artworks produced by Arthur during his 4 years as P.O.W. and which he finally carried out in his knapsack along the 'Death March' in the 5 months between January and May 1945, have found their way into the Australian War Memorial Collection in Canberra. Cataloguing of all his work there has recently been completed by curatorial staff, bringing Arthur Nichol's wartime artwork at last to a local and global audience, through online display on the Memorial's website.
Design and Text ©Diana Nichol 2019
Self-portrait: Central Station
photo booth c.1965
Back home in Australia in 1945, Arthur returned to his job of Chief Artist at the Sydney Morning Herald and to The Bulletin magazine as a regular illustrator. He also carried on with his freelance work for the Daily Telegraph; the Sunday Telegraph; ABC Television (ABN 2), Smith's Weeky [until its demise in 1950]; Man Magazine and Man Junior. His last illustration was published in the Bulletin in January 1966, a month after his death at the age of 51.
'The Narrabri Stargazers'
AJ Nichol, The Bulletin - Jan 12,1963
AJ Nichol, QANTAS Poster 1960s
gouache on illustration board