24/1770 Private Nicolai Margido Olsen – Wellington Infantry Regiment

Born in Vardo , Finnmark, Norway on 2nd September 1882[i] the son of Henrietta Nicholine and Sigmund Onsloen Olsen.[ii]

As a young man Nicolai immigrated to New Zealand where he was naturalised on 20th November  1905, at the time of his naturalisation he was living in Judgeford, Pauatahanui[iii].

Nicolai enlisted on 19th October 1915 his military papers noting he was a 33 year old labourer with his last residence as Taita, Lower Hutt[iv]. Nicolai Margido Olsen entered military training camp as Rifleman Olsen, 3rd Reinforcements,
F Company, 2nd Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB). Following basic training Rifleman Olsen sailed, with the unit, from New Zealand on 8th January 1916.

The 3rd Reinforcements arrived in Egypt on 7th February 1916 and Rifleman Olsen was posted to the 2nd Battalion, NZRB. In the reorganising of the NZ Expeditionary Force prior to going to France and the Western Front Rifleman Olsen was posted on 10th March 1916 to the 2nd Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment as Private Olsen.

Private Olsen sailed with the 2nd Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment on 9th April 1916 for Marseilles, France. In
France the NZ Division was moved up to the quiet sector Armentieres to learn trench warfare on the Western Front. In
July 1916 there were a number of trench raids carried out by the 1st & 2nd Battalions, WIR to keep the Germans engaged and to gather intelligence.  The combat associated with the raids did result in casualties to the Wellington Battalions as
did the retaliatory shell fire. On the 9th July 1916 Private Olsen was reported wounded with lips and deafness noted on his military file the wounds potentially either as a result of grenades thrown by the Germans on their side of No-Man’s land or retaliatory shell fire when the Wellington Battalion was back in their trenches.

Private Olsen was evacuated from the field to the No 13 General Hospital in Boulogne on 11th July 1916 he was then evacuated to England and admitted on 13th July 1916 to the City of London Military Hospital for treatment. Private Olsen was discharged to the NZ Convalescent Camp, Grey Towers on 7th August 1916. The wounds to Private Olsen’s face may have healed but there were concerns about his deafness as he remained in the convalescent camp for three days and was then posted to No 2 NZ General Hospital, Walton-on-Thames  for duty on 10th August 1916. There are no medical files on file but Private Olsen may have been considered as fit but not fit for frontline service.

Private Olsen remained, on duty,  at No 2 General Hospital  duty through 1916 / 1917 / 1918 and while there he meet
Alice Maude Holmes. Alice had worked for Lord Kitchener's Household[iii],  prior to his death on 5th June
1916. Lord Kitchener was onboard HMS Hampshire travelling to Russia when the vessel struck a German Mine and sank.
Alice then gained employment at the No 2 General
Hospital.  The couple married on 14th July 1917 and
their first child Edward Oscar Olsen was born
on 23rd September 1918.

NZ Wounded at Walton-on-Thames 

The Armistice was signed on 11th November 1918 and
the NZEF started to repatriate troops from various
theatres back to New Zealand. On 14th March 1919
Private Olsen, his bride and young son were embarked
on SS Ionic for the voyage back to New Zealand.  The
Olsen family arrived in New Zealand on 25th April 1919
and Private Olsen was given a month’s leave then on
22nd May 1919 Nicolai was discharged from the NZEF
‘on termination of his period of engagement.’

On the 2nd August 1919  Nicolai , along with other returning soldiers was given a Pauatahanui reception as reported in the Evening Post. 
                                Eight residents of the Pahautanui district who saw service in the war –
                                Gunner F. Attwood, Trooper J. Barber, Private E. Draper, Gunner A. Greig, Private H Harris,
                                Private N. Olsen, Private A. Sims (M.M.), and Fitter A. Trevor – were the guests at a “social”
                                held at Pahautanui last night. During the evening, Mr. R. A. Wright, M.P. for Wellington Suburbs,
                                on behalf of those present, handed to each man a gold albert chain and maltese cross suitable
                                inscribed. Mr. W. H. Field, M.P. for Otaki rReplied, on behalf of the soldiers, and the rest of the
                                evening was spent in dancing, music provided by Mr. E. J. King and Mr. W. C. Tanner.  

Nicolai and Alice made their home in Pauatahanui where Nicolai is listed as a labourer and also in the late 1920’s as a roadman for the Hutt Country Council. The couple had three more children, Kenneth Albert born in 1920 and Stella Mary Olsen  in 1923 and Agnes Elizabeth Olsen in 1932. All four Olsen children attended the Pauatahanui School[vi].

Following retirement Nicolai and Alice moved to Levin where Nicolai died on 24th July 1962. He is buried in the Returned Services section of the Levin cemetery, Alice died in 1968[vii.

Nicholo Olsen is commemorated on the Pauatahanui Roll of Honour in the St Alban’s Church, Pauatahanui[viii].

Nicolai is remembered in Pauatahanui as a man with piercing blue ‘kingfisher’ eyes and for being born above the Arctic Circle[ix].

Nicolai and Nicholai are variations used the most common useage in official documents is Nicolai so that has been used in this article.
Nicolai and Alice’s daughter Stella Mary Olsen married a US Marine Private First Class (PFC) Robert Allen Vautier in 1943. There was a large
US Marine Corp camp on the Motukaraka Point, Pauatahanui during the period before they moved to combat in the Pacific[iix].  
Nicolai and Alice's eldest son Edward Oscar Olsen served in WW2 as 49168 Gunner Olsen with campaigns in the Pacific and Italy. 
Nicolai and Alices's younger son Kenneth Albert Olsen served in WW2 as 71508 Gunner Olsen 

Paperspast Online
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 
Online Cenotaph Auckland War Memorial 
Pauatahanui – a local history
Pauatahanui School Roll: 1873 – 2005
Pauatahanui notes – oral history
Olsen Family - oral history 

Wellington Battalion on the Somme: RSA collection
Walton on Thames: private postcard

[i]     Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 24/1770 Private Nicolai Margido Olsen 
[ii]    Ancestry: Harrison – family tree
[iii]   Archway Archives General Files: Memorial on Naturalisation Nicolai Margido Olsen
[iv]   Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 24/1770 Private Nicolai Margido Olsen
[v]    Olsen family history 
[vi]    Pauatahanui School Roll
[vii]    NZ BDM
[viii]  Pauatahanui – a local history
[ix]    Notes from Pauatahanui
[iix]     Weddings, 4th December 1943, Evening Post

Wellington infantry dig in on the Somme