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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. J B Nicolson


James Brindley Eric Nicolson was born in Hampstead on 29th April 1917 and went to Tonbridge School from 1930 to 1934. He joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his elementary flying training at 13 E&RFTS, White Waltham on 12th October 1936. Nicolson was posted to 10 FTS, Tern Hill on 16th January 1937 and joined 72 Squadron at Church Fenton on 7th August.

He went to 249 Squadron, then reforming at Church Fenton, on 15th May 1940 as a Flight Commander.

On 16th August Nicolson was shot down in a surprise attack by Me109's over Southampton. Wounded in the left foot and with a perspex splinter through his left eyelid, Nicolson prepared to abandon his burning Hurricane, P3576.

As he did so a Me110 appeared in front of him. Nicolson slid back into his seat and fired at the enemy fighter. His cockpit was now a mass of flames and he was being burned but he continued firing until it became impossible to remain and he baled out at 12,000 feet. Nicolson's hands were severely burned, parts of his face also, his eyelid was all but severed and his wounded foot was becoming ever more painful. Near the ground he was fired on by LDV volunteers and wounded in the buttock by shotgun pellets.

Nicolson was taken to Southampton Hospital and three weeks later moved to the RAF Hospital, Halton. In early November he was convalescing at Torquay. Awarded the VC (gazetted 15th November 1940), Fighter Command's only one of the war, Nicolson was decorated by the King at Buckingham Palace on 25th November.



He was posted to 54 OTU on 24th February 1941 as an instructor. He regained his operational category and on 22nd September 1941 was given command of 1459 Flight at Hibaldstow, a Turbinlite Havoc unit. Nicolson was posted to India in early 1942 and on 17th March began a staff job at HQ 293 Wing, Alipore, moving in December to Air HQ, Bengal.

On 4th August 1943 Nicolson was given command of 27 Squadron, operating in Mosquitos from Agartala, Burma. He was posted away to HQ 3rd TAP, Comilla, Bengal on 11th August 1944 and awarded the DFC (gazetted 11th August 1944) as a Wing Commander.

In April 1945 Nicolson was appointed Wing Commander (Training) at 3rd Tactical Air Force HQ at Comilla, Bengal. On 2nd May he went on a bombing sortie in Liberator KH210 of 355 Squadron as an observer. After taking off from Salbani, the aircraft was 130 miles south of Calcutta when one engine caught fire. The Liberator crashed into the sea and there were only two survivors from the eleven aboard.

Nicolson is remembered on the Singapore Memorial, Column 445 (below).


(Photograph above courtesy of Jonathan Morford and Captain Robert L Koprowski, US Army (Veteran))


Nicolson is also commemorated by a plaque at Tonbridge School (below).


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