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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. R C Nutter


Reginald Charles Nutter, known throughout his life as Reg, was born on 5th January 1921 in Dover, his mother's home town. His parents were married there in 1919. His father, Charles John Nutter, was a Londoner serving in the Royal Navy.

The family moved to Portchester, Hampshire in 1923/24 when Nutter Snr. was posted to HMS Warspite. When the battleship sailed to join the Mediterranean Fleet in 1926 the family, including Reg's younger brother Geoffrey, followed to Malta, highly unusual then for the family of a Petty Officer.

They lived in Malta for three years and a sister, Rita, was born in the King George V Hospital, Floriana. In 1929 HMS Warspite struck some uncharted rocks in the Aegean Sea and, after being made seaworthy in Malta, sailed for England for a complete refit and modernisation. Reg's mother and baby sister returned by P&O liner while the two boys were deemed old enough to be able to sail back onboard with their father. They had a great time after being firmly told which parts of the ship were 'out of bounds'.

In the Spring of 1931 Reg won a County of Hampshire Scholarship which enabled him to attend Price’s School at Fareham. Also that year his father was posted to Plymouth on standby for a new ship due for completion in late 1932. It then departed on a 'showing the flag' deployment around Africa for the next two and a half years.

Reg left school in 1938 and started working at Lloyds Bank. He was already interested in flying, partly inspired by his uncle Commander Victor Flowerday of Imperial Airways. He captained the aircraft that took Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on his famous third and final visit to Adolf Hitler.

Nutter joined the RAFVR in March 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot and began his flying training at 3 E&RFTS Hamble on evenings and weekends, making his first solo flight on 6th June 1939 . In July he moved to 46 E&RFTS Portsmouth for more advanced training.



Called up at the outbreak of war, he was posted to 3 ITW Hastings, moving on to 5 FTS Sealand for No. 44 Course, which ran from 6th November 1939 to 13th May 1940.

Awarded his wings in April, Nutter completed the course and was posted to 601 Squadron at Tangmere in May.

He recorded the following incident in 2010:

On reading Daily Routine Orders I noted that I was Duty Pilot next day. This meant that I had to report to the Control Tower at 8am and would be on duty for 24 hours. My main job would be keeping track of aircraft that flew in and out of the airfield during that period. At night I had to remain in the Tower, where a bed was provided. I had just settled down when about midnight the phone rang. On the other end was the Operations Room to say that they were diverting 12 Whitley Heavy Bombers to our aerodrome as their home base was blanketed in fog, and the first would be arriving in 50 minutes. My first job was to rouse the Flare Path Crew who also slept in the Tower and to get the Flare Path laid out on the airfield. Prior to this I had telephoned the Orderly Officer and the Station Duty Officer appraising them of the situation and getting them to provide personnel to help with parking of these machines, arrange for the necessary sleeping quarters for the aircraft crews, and to provide a hot meal for them! Everything proceeded very smoothly and by 4 am all aircraft were safely down. When 8 am finally rolled around I headed to the Mess for a quick meal and then to my quarters for a well-deserved sleep only to find that they had been allocated to one of the diverted crews! I ended up sleeping on the sofa in the Mess Games Room.

However on the 21st he was posted to 257 Squadron, then reforming at Hendon.

He again recorded:

However on 21st May I was posted, with Sgt. Don Hulbert, to 257 Squadron which was being re-formed at Hendon. After going through the usual reporting-in procedure we met our new Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Bayne. I was assigned to A Flight commanded by Flt/Lt. HRA Beresford. Our Spitfire aircraft were arriving in twos and threes and after a short ten minute check flight in a Miles Master with F/Lt. Beresford I was authorised to make my first flight in a Spitfire.

The weather was very warm and I was warned by the ground crew not to spend too long taxiing around on the ground or the aircraft would overheat. On take-off I was very impressed by the power of the Merlin engine and the consequent rapid rate of climb of the aircraft. In the air I found the Spitfire a beautiful aircraft to handle because it was so light on the controls. I was somewhat disconcerted when it came time to land as Hendon looked like a small green postage stamp completely surrounded by houses. However, I managed to make a very creditable landing and feeling quite proud of myself took off again and made another one.

Most of the pilots joining the squadron had never been in a fighter squadron before nor had they flown Spitfires. So we all spent the next three weeks or so working-up on Spitfires, before they were taken away from us and we were re-equipped with Hurricanes. These began arriving in the first week in June, and on the 14th June I made my first flight on this type of aircraft. I found it much heavier on the controls and far less responsive and somewhat slower than the Spitfire.

While all this was going on the squadron was non-operational, meaning that it was not ready for combat. We were kept busy learning such things as correct radio procedure, formation flying, air gunnery, both air-to-air and air-to-ground, and many other procedures.

During this working-up period Don Hulbert and myself were sent to RAF Station Uxbridge for a course on radio procedures. This course proved to be quite interesting as it had a twofold purpose - to train pilots in RT (radio transmission) procedure and to train controllers who would later control us from Operations Rooms. Marked out on the playing fields at Uxbridge was a large map of the British Isles and part of Western Europe. We pilots were given tricycles which had formerly been used to sell ice cream. In the box on the front of the tricycle was a TR9 radio which at that time was standard aircraft equipment. We wore headphones and were surrounded by a set of blinker-like boards which restricted our vision. We just had a small hole which gave us very limited forward vision. The driving chain and sprockets were arranged in such a way that when we pedalled about 25 turns the rear wheel turned just once! Thus our speed across the map matched the speed of fighter aircraft across the ground at normal throttle settings. Down in the stadium a complete operations room had been built. This was fully manned by the controllers who were undergoing training, WAAF plotters, etc. On top of the stadium was a spotter who passed our position and the position of the person designated as 'the enemy' down to the ops room. The W/T controllers could then vector us by radio to make interceptions. We both learned a lot from the course but found it somewhat difficult to sit down on our return to the squadron. Pedalling around in the hot sun in a serge uniform made one quite sore in a certain portion of one's anatomy!

By the end of June S/Ldr. Bayne had us all whipped into pretty good shape. We had all done a good deal of formation flying, air-to-ground firing, and air-to-air firing. Around the beginning of July the squadron moved to Northolt where we were able to practice scrambling from proper dispersal points. This airfield was also big enough to allow us to do some dusk and night landings.

From my log book it would appear that the squadron was declared fully operational about the 20th of July.

At first we were used as a mobile squadron and flew down on a daily basis to the area where there was the most air activity, returning to our home base in the evening. In early August we were declared fully operational and joined 11 Group of RAF Fighter Command.

About this same time a change of command occurred with S/Ldr. Harkness replacing S/Ldr. Bayne. We seem to have spent a good deal of the rest of the month operating on a daily basis out of Hawkinge near Folkestone with a return to Northolt each evening.

Early in August three pilots from the squadron, P/O The Hon. David Coke, P/O Capon and myself were chosen to perform VIP escort duties. My log shows a flight to Christchurch escorting an American VIP. On 7-8th August we escorted the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, in a De Haviland Flamingo piloted by a Flt/Lt. Blenner-Hassett from Hendon to Northcoats, Manby, Coltishall, then back to Hendon. This trip remains quite vivid in my memory as the PM persuaded Blenner-Hassett to do some very low flying for his benefit across the Wash.

During the first half of August the squadron also operated on a daily basis out of North Weald to provide convoy escort to ships proceeding up or down the East Coast. It also operated out of Tangmere on a daily basis to provide fighter cover for ship convoys in the English Channel. On the 8th August while on one of these convoy escort patrols members of the squadron tried to intercept bombers who were attacking the convoy but were themselves jumped by enemy fighters. In this first major action involving the squadron we suffered the loss of three pilots, F/Lt. Hall, F/O D'Arcy Irvine and Sgt. KB Smith. This loss coupled with the recent change in command dropped squadron morale very sharply.

About 15th August the squadron moved to Debden. This airfield had only just been completed and was very modern. From here the squadron operated on a daily basis out of Martlesham Heath. Again we did a lot of convoy escort but did do some interceptions on larger raids in the London area. Sometime toward the end of the month Debden was heavily bombed and the squadron moved to Martlesham temporarily because Debden was out of action. It is funny how things stick in one's memory but I remember that the Sergeants' Mess at Debden had a grand piano. The only one I ever saw in an NCO's mess, but the last time I saw it, just after the bombing, it was trying to hold up the concrete roof! During this period Sgt. Girdwood was shot down and slightly wounded, and P/Os Chomley and Maffett were killed.

September was a very busy month with the squadron flying many sorties and getting involved in plenty of air fighting. During this period the Germans were putting up really large fleets of bombers with heavy fighter escort and the squadron suffered further casualties including F/Lt. Beresford, F/O Mitchell and P/O Bonseigneur who were all killed.

F/Lt. Beresford was replaced as 'A' Flight Commander by F/Lt. Pete Brothers. It was during this month that we had another change of command with S/Ldr. RR Stanford-Tuck taking over from S/Ldr. Harkness.

On 2nd September while the squadron was patrolling off the North Foreland I managed to get some fairly good bursts at a Me109 which swung in front of me while attempting to attack the squadron from the rear. He immediately dived, streaming coolant etc., but I lost sight of him in the thick haze.

On 3rd September while intercepting a force of bombers attacking North Weald, I foolishly allowed myself to watch the fall of their bombs on the airfield instead of watching my tail. I was promptly pounded upon from the rear by a Me110. Although the aircraft was quite badly shot up with a fairly large hole in the starboard wing, and leaked petrol all over me, and I had received shrapnel wounds to my right side and legs, I did manage to make it back to Martlesham Heath.

On or about 7th October the squadron moved to North Weald. The daylight raids by large fleets of bombers had ceased by this time, and the night raids on London and other major cities had begun. During daylight hours the Germans began employing their Me109's and Me110's as fighter bombers. These were nuisance raids intended to keep the British defences on a constant state of alert and to demoralize the civilian population by the constant sounding of air raid alerts. These sorties flew at very high altitudes and were mixed with fighters carrying no bombs. Trying to intercept these nuisance raids was very tiring work because we had to fly with no form of pressurised cabin or flying suit at high altitude. Sgt. Bobby Fraser was lost intercepting one of these raids over the South Coast. On 29th October we were caught on the ground at North Weald by a low level raid by Me109's and Me110's. During the ensuing attempt to scramble and intercept, Sgt. Jock Girdwood had the misfortune to take off right over a bursting bomb and was instantly killed.

At the end of October, now that replacement pilots were beginning to arrive, I must have been granted a well-deserved leave for my log book indicates I did not fly between 29th October and 12th November. During my absence the squadron had moved to Martlesham Heath. On 11th November, led by F/Lt. Blatchford it intercepted the only attempted raid by the Italian Air Force against the UK. The force consisted of Fiat BR20 bombers escorted by CR42 biplane fighters. A Polish pilot P/O Karl Pniak forced one of the bombers to surrender. This was indicated to him by the upper rear gunner who stood up in his turret with his hands above his head. He attempted to guide the aircraft to Martlesham but the Italian pilot decided to make a crash landing near Woodbridge, Suffolk. After this the weather deteriorated rapidly and in consequence there was little major enemy air activity and a good deal of our time was once again spent on convoy patrols.

I also have a whole kaleidoscope of memories which I cannot put into time perspective. I can remember how glad we were when the old TR9 radio, which required hand tuning, was finally replaced by a push button VHF set and we were actually able to communicate with one another. I am sure that many early casualties were caused by the inability of pilots to communicate with one another quickly and clearly. To illustrate a case in point I can clearly remember being at the rear of the squadron with P/O Capon when we were jumped by Me109's over the South Coast. I attempted to warn him of one on his tail but, on talking to him later after he had bailed out and had been returned to the squadron, I found that my transmission had not reached his ears. I can also remember David Coke returning from a battle over Portsmouth as mad as a hornet because some German gunner had nicked him in the little finger of his throttle hand, and Don Hulbert with a bullet in his leg from the rear gunner of a Ju88. I can remember chasing a lone Dornier 17 reconnaissance aircraft in and out of clouds along the South Coast while listening to jazz music emanating from an American station which was coming in on the squadron frequency and rendering all other communication almost impossible.

On 17th December the squadron moved to Coltishall, Norfolk. The next day I left the squadron to take up my new posting as an instructor in Training Command at 9 FTS Hullavington. I had completed 112 operational flights with 257 Squadron, and I said goodbye to the only two remaining pilots who had been with it since its formation some seven months earlier, P/O The Hon. David Coke and P/O Carl Capon.


On 18th December 1940 Nutter was posted to 9 FTS Hullavington as an instructor. He went to Canada in February 1941 and began instructing at 34 SFTS Medicine Hat.

Commissioned in June 1941, Nutter was posted to 36 SFTS Penhold, Alberta in November and then joined 133 (RCAF) Squadron at Lethbridge, Alberta in June 1942. He was posted to No. 1 (Fighter) OTU at Bagotville, Quebec in September as an instructor. In March 1943 Nutter went to 31 SFTS Kingston, Ontario to instruct FAA pupil-pilots.

His account again:

Then on 27th February 1941 along with nearly 700 other RAF personnel under the command of G/Capt. A ap Ellis I sailed on the Polish ship 'Batory' from Gourock to Halifax, Nova Scotia. After travelling by train for four days and four nights we arrived at our destination on 14th March – Medicine Hat, in southern Alberta – to establish 34 SFTS. (The Canadian Government had commenced work on the airfield in the summer of 1940, and also on a prisoner-of-war camp close to this small city of about 10000 population. The RAF personnel received an impressive reception from the townspeople, who conveyed them in a relay of private cars to the airfield, about 2 miles out of town). After a couple of days to settle in I began advanced flying training began using two main types of aircraft - the single-engine North American Harvard and the twin-engine Airspeed Oxford.




The official opening of 34 STFS took place in April and it was at this function that I met a young local lady named Hilda Flynn. In June 1941 I was commissioned as a P/O and on 11th November I was posted to the new 36 SFTS Penhold, training with Airspeed Oxfords. On 31st January 1942 Hilda and I were married in Medicine Hat, and on 1st February I was promoted to F/O – a very nice wedding present!

In June 1942 I was posted to the new 133 (RCAF) Lethbridge, Alberta. After Pearl Harbour the Japanese had become quite active in Alaska and had actually invaded some of the Aleutian Islands. Higher Command decided that some Home Defence Squadrons should be formed and 133 (RCAF) was one of these. Practice was begun in formation flying, radio procedure, air gunnery, etc.


Above: Nutter, standing second from left.


In early September the squadron moved to the West Coast, however, I was posted to No.1 (Fighter) OTU at Bagotville, Quebec, as a flying instructor using Canadian-built Hurricanes. My wife and I drove there at 40mph, this limit having been imposed after Pearl Harbour in order to conserve fuel and rubber. It was a long tedious trip! Also I found that I had run into another atrocious winter with temperatures as low as -50F and 19ft of snow. We did manage to get some flying done but really very little. We were not broken-hearted therefore in March 1943 when I was posted to 31 SFTS, Kingston, Ontario. This time the pupils were British and training to be FAA pilots, who would be taking off and landing on aircraft carriers, Needless to say the instruction was totally different from that used at the other SFTS’s in Canada, and as much of our flying was done over Lake Ontario, we also had on station a Walrus amphibious rescue aircraft ! In June 1943 I was promoted to Flight Lieutenant.

He returned to the UK in March 1944 and was attached to HQ ADGB. In April Nutter was posted to 61 OTU Rednal for a refresher course on Spitfires and in May he joined 175 Squadron, 83 Group 2nd TAF on Typhoons. In August he went to Aston Down for a conversion course on Typhoons and then joined 245 Squadron at Antwerp.

His account again:

In March 1944 I was posted to a Manning Depot at Moncton, New Brunswick, in readiness to return to the UK, and sailed in RMS 'Andes' for Liverpool. I was interviewed on board before disembarking, given three weeks leave to see my parents after an absence of 3 years, and told to report to Air Defence Headquarters on its expiry. I was given another interview at ADHQ, and in April went to 61 OTU Rednal for a refresher course on Spitfires but when my posting came through in May it was to 175 Squadron who flew Hawker Typhoons – an aircraft with which I was not familiar! It was about twice as big as a Hurricane or Spitfire. I had to do a series of practice flights to find out how it handled and acquaint myself with the various systems it carried for dropping bombs and firing rockets. But I never made an operational sortie before D-day because I went down with severe sinusitis, and was sent to Morecambe in Lancashire for treatment and recuperation. This eventually was successful and a Medical Board declared me fit for flying duties in August 1944.

I then joined 245 Squadron at Antwerp in Belgium, and the first operational sortie I made was to try and render some assistance to the airborne troops who were unsuccessfully attempting to capture the bridge at Arnhem. About two weeks later the squadron moved to an airfield at Volkel in Holland, located about half-way between Eindhoven and Arnhem, and remained on this airfield throughout the Winter of 1944-45 operating over Germany and occupied Holland.




While on leave Reginald went to visit his brother Geoffrey, serving in the Navy but then recovering from appendicitis at a hospital in Basingstoke.

While there he went over to speak to a wounded soldier in the bed opposite. The man told him he had been shot by German snipers hidden in the church tower at Venlo in Holland and was expecting to be finished off when a flight of three Typhoons swept in and demolished the tower with rockets.

'Yes I know' said 'Reg 'I was flying the lead Typhoon'. 


Above: Volkel 1945 - Nutter, standing, centre.


In early February 1945 I moved back to 175 Squadron, located on the same airfield, as B Flight Commander. By this time it was obvious that preparations were being made for a big push into Germany in the spring. Units of the Army and Air Force were moved as close as possible to the west bank of the Rhine, and 175 Squadron ended up at an airfield designated B100 located at Goch, Germany. The Wing consisting of three Squadrons was the first Royal Air Force Unit to be stationed in Germany during WW2.

Then came the big surprise. In April 1945 the W/Cdr. told me I was to be temporarily removed from flying and attached to the British 7th Armoured Division, the famous 'Desert Rats', advancing from the Rhine to Lubeck. I was responsible for communications with pilots, and at one stage was in a tank equipped with nine radios, directing aircraft onto specific targets or to carry out reconnaissance. We reached the southern outskirts of Hamburg quite quickly, and here we stopped because it was obvious a surrender was going to occur at any time. I bid the Army farewell and rejoined the squadron at Celle airfield. VE-Day was a day or two after I arrived, and then we moved to a large airfield at Schleswig-Jagel. It was here that I learned that I been awarded the Air Efficiency Award and the DFC accompanied by the following citation (gazetted 14th September 1945):

This officer has completed numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which he has at all times displayed outstanding courage, fortitude and devotion to duty.

After a short time we moved to Kastrup airfield, Copenhagen, and stayed until there first week in September, then moved back to Schleswig. Then on 29th September 1945 I led 175 Squadron back to Dunsfold for disbandment. I received some leave but then found myself heading back to 83 Group HQ in Schleswig, as ‘Officer in Charge of Aircraft Accident Investigation, No. 83 Group’. I remained in this staff position until released from the RAF on 26th April 1946.



Nutter emigrated to Canada in June 1946 and began employment with the Canadian Pacific Railroad as a Trainman at Medicine Hat, Alberta in August. By 1949 he and his wife were firmly established with two young children and a brand-new home and he was promoted to Conductor in 1951. However as the 1950s progressed it was clear that diesel locomotives would replace steam locomotives, and fewer crews would be needed.

In 1959 he enquired whether the Company would be willing to grant him a leave of absence during the less-busy winter period so that he could attend university. In September 1960 he enrolled in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta, Calgary, and graduated with a Bachelor of Education (with distinction) in 1964.

After a family holiday back to England for the first time since 1946, he began teaching at St. Marys School for the Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education. This followed the footsteps of his wife and brother and sister who were also teachers.



Above: Reg Nutter at a commemoration in 2008.

Below: his medal group.

Nutter served as Chairman of the Diocese of Calgary Pastoral Council for several years and was a member of both the 3rd and 4th Degrees of the Knights of Columbus. He retired from teaching in January 1986 and remained in Medicine Hat with his wife, Hilda, until 2003 when they moved to Calgary to be nearer their children. Hilda passed away in Calgary on 4th July 2005 and Reginald passed away on 9th December 2014 also in Calgary.

Reginald was very proud to have a Canadian grandson join the British Army and receive a commission from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2011. His grandson is currently serving (2015) with the Second Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment.




Reginald Nutter's autobiographical notes and all photographs courtesy of his daughter Pamela and his nephew Anthony Blackman.

Data on the the Canadian pilot training scheme courtesy of 'Prairie Wings: RAF 34 Service Flying Training School Medicine Hat 1941-1944' by David J Carter (Eagle Butte Press Ltd, Canada 2001 - ISBN 0968411118).



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