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Hero of the Month: Hldr Nicholas-James Hart (1988 – 2022)

2024-06-01

Hldr Nicholas-James Hart was a playful father, rugby-loving husband and respected soldier in the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Over his 12-year military career, Nicholas completed operational tours of Iraq, Kabul and Afghanistan.

On the 5th of February 2022, Nicholas died by suicide. He was 34 years old. His stepson, Aiden, was 17, while his son, Kian, was just 5. His daughter, Sophia, was born two months after his death.

Hldr Nicholas-James Hart

“He became the main character in every room,” says his wife, Sara. “He was very outgoing and no one ever had a bad word to say about him. He loved the craic and always knew where to find a joke. The military was a massive part of his life, and when his 12 years were up he got a recommendation from Glasgow to re-enlist because he was so good at what he did. For him, going on operational tours is what military life was all about. He found being stationed at a base a bit repetitive, and thrived when we was away and constantly doing something different.” 

As a dad and stepdad, Nicholas loved being active, having fun and being his children's best friend. Nicholas’ son, Kian, was born on Father’s Day 2016.  

“Nicki couldn’t have been more in love with him. He always said Kian was going be a mummy’s boy, but at heart Kian was always a daddy’s boy in every way. They would go on walks together and wear their Welsh stripes together when games were on. Whenever I took photos of them both, Kian would always imitate whatever funny face his dad was pulling, and he still pulls those faces to this day whenever I take a photo of him.” 

Nicholas carrying Kian on his shoulders

When not at work, making people laugh or spending time with the kids, Nicholas could normally be found watching rugby. And if he wasn’t watching it, he was probably thinking about it. 

“He was Welsh through and through, so rugby was a huge part of his life. It didn’t matter who was playing – if it was rugby, he was watching it. You always knew when it was Wales vs Scotland, though, by all the shouting at the TV. He played rugby occasionally on the military base, but he was quite an injury-prone person, which stopped him doing it as much as he might have done.” 

In addition to rugby, Nicholas also enjoyed running, cycling and rock climbing.  

“He was a bit of an adrenaline junkie,” says Sara. “If there was ever a chance to do some climbing or exploring on training, then he would take it. He even completed the Loch Ness marathon. My uncle is also ex-Army, so they had that military bond and often went out and did things together, too, like climbing Ben Nevis.”

Nicholas and Sara cutting their wedding cake

Nicholas also loved getting out and about– going on walks, having fun at the beach and exploring the wilderness. All traits he’s passed on to his children. 

“I see little traits of him in all the kids. Sophia never met her dad, but she shares so many of his habits that it can feel like she did. Kian is totally fearless, just like his dad. He’ll talk to anyone and everyone and loves anything to do with the Army. He really looks up to his dad, in that way. Aiden is more like me, a bit timid and shy, but Nicki still helped him grow that adventurous spark. If it's nighttime and he’s out and he’s with his friends, he won’t come in. He’d be out all night if he didn’t need to sleep.” 

Sara has countless fond memories of Nicholas, but one in particular springs to mind when she thinks of him: “Before Nick and I got married, I would say he was going to cry at our wedding. He was a very composed kind of person and insisted that he wouldn’t. Come the day, he burst into tears while I was walking down the aisle. I told him he was such a liar!”

Nicholas taking a photo with his family and Kian copying him

He may no longer be with them, but Sara and the kids have found ways they like to remember Nicholas throughout the year. 

“Every year on his birthday, the 12th of August, Nicki’s sister comes up from Wales and we hold a little family birthday celebration in memory of him. Then, on our wedding anniversary, I tend to go and out and visit his grave. It’s a quieter day, but I prefer it that way. Kian talks about his dad all the time and is always putting on his kit and medals.” 

Maintaining a military connection is also something that helps Sara and the children feel close to Nicholas, particularly over the Remembrance period. 

“Keeping a military connection is really important for us,” she says. “Every Remembrance Day we attend our local Remembrance parade and Kian wears his dad’s medals while marching with the veterans and the band. I think he actually really enjoys it, as it helps him feel close to his dad. The rest of us also march through town and lay a poppy down for Nicki.”

Nicholas on an operational tour

Since joining Scotty’s in 2022, Kian and Sophia have benefitted from access to Scotty’s breaks, grants, group events and optional one-to-one bereavement support. Through these opportunities, they’re able to meet lots of bereaved military children who can understand and relate to what they’ve been through. 

“I followed Scotty’s long before Nick died, so I already knew about the charity and everything it did. I never thought we’d be part of it,” says Sara. “When it happened, we felt completely cut off, but thanks to Scotty’s the kids still feel part of that Army life. Sophia is still quite young, so I keep her Scotty medal and other gifts in a memory box to open when she’s a bit older. Kian gets excited whenever he receives a present from Scotty’s and wears his Scotty’s bag to school and his Scotty’s wristband on Remembrance Day. He tells his teachers about Scotty’s and I can tell it makes him feel very proud.”

READ OUR PREVIOUS HERO OF THE MONTH

Nicholas with Aiden and Kian

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