20.09.1941 No. 18 Squadron Blenheim IV R3843 WV-F F/Sgt. John Murray (Jack) Nickleson
Date: 20 September 1941 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 18 Squadron Motto: "Animo et Fide" ("With courage and faith").
Badge: A Pegasus rampant. The Pegasus was chosen to commemorate the unit being the first to co-operate with the Cavalry Corps on the Somme in the First World War. Authority: King Edward VIII, May 1936.
Type: Bristol Blenheim
Base: RAF Horsham St. Faith, Norfolk
Location: Zandvoort, North Holland, Netherlands
Pilot: F/Sgt. John Murray (Jack) Nickleson R/69892 RCAF Age 19 - Missing believed killed (1)
Obs: Sgt. Walter Meadows 924395 RAFVR Age 26 - Killed (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Edward (Jack) Pearson 1305075 RAFVR Age 25 - Killed (3)
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Jack Nickleson and his crew were posted to No. 18 Squadron at RAF Horsham St. Faith in Norfolk on 17 July 1941 and according to the News Chronicle of 14 August 1941 "the bombing of Cologne was their introduced to actual war". The raid on Cologne power station had taken place two days earlier on 12 August and the reporter was quick to seize upon the fact that Sergeant Pilot Jack Nickleson aged just 19 was the "baby" of the squadron and had just been through a baptism of fire.
His boyish excitement shone through as he recounted the experience.
"Gee, it was swell. Everywhere you looked there were Blenheim bombers".
"We had bad luck because our formation leader hit a high-tension wire and crashed".
"It's no use wearing a pair of shoes (parachute) at the height we were travelling over Cologne. We were less than 50 Feet above the ground at times".
We could see people waving to us all the way across Holland. Some were thumbs into the air in the typical 'thumbs up' salute; some made the 'V' sign with their fingers. I saw others jumping up and down with their arms over their heads in the form of a 'V'".
54 Blenheims each carrying two 500-lb bombs had made their fast low-level approaches to two power stations near Cologne with most of them reaching the targets. 10 Blenheims (18.5% of the force) were shot down by flak or fighters.
And just 7 days after the Cologne raid Jack and his crew were making the news again
On 9 August Wing Commander Douglas Bader had been shot down over German occupied France. He had baled out but as he descended he noticed that he was minus his prosthetic right leg, its leather belt having broken. Knocked unconscious on landing he was taken to hospital at St. Omer in the Pas de Calais. His prosthetic leg was recovered from the wreckage of his Spitfire and after being repaired was eventually returned to him.
In the meantime however the Germans had offered to guarantee safe passage to an aircraft carrying a spare leg. The offer - which would have given the Germans welcome publicity - was turned down.
However on 19 August 1941 18 Blenheims were despatched on a Circus operation to Gosnay and Hazebrouck. No. 18 Squadron contributed 6 aircraft to the force and en route to the target one of them made a special delivery.
Blenheim R3843 WV-F crewed by Sgts. John Nickleson, Walter Meadows and John Pearson dropped by parachute over St. Omer airfield, a box containing a spare artificial right leg for Wing Commander Bader.
REASON FOR LOSS
On a mission with seven other 18 Squadron Blenheims on 20 September 1941 to attack shipping off the Dutch coast, R3843 WV-F took off at 12.37 and bombed a convoy off Zandvoort, North Holland. The aircraft was hit by Flak and was seen to crash into the sea with its starboard engine burning.
The body of Walter Meadows was washed ashore at Huisduinen, Den Helder in North Holland and buried in the local cemetery on 11 October.
Eight days later on 19 October Jack Pearson's body was washed ashore on Zandvoort beach and buried at Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery.
The body of Jack Nickleson was not found.
Courtesy Operation Picture Me
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) F/Sgt. John Murray (Jack) Nickleson was born on 7 January 1922 at Toronto, Ontario, Canada the son of James William Nickleson and Edna Irene Nickleson nee Bulmer of 148 Roselawn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He had siblings Helen Nickleson born c 1921 Douglas B Nickleson born c 1919 and Allan James Nickleson born c 1913. His father was head of Wire Operations for Canadian Pacific Telegraphs at the head office of Canadian Press in Toronto. His brother Allan was staff member of the Canadian Press in New York.
Jack Nickleson was educated at John Fisher School (1927-1934) and North Toronto Collegiate (1935-1940). Whilst at school he starred at hockey and rugby and was centre and captain of the junior hockey team and captain and quarterback of the junior football team. He also engaged extensively in senior hockey, swimming, skiing and baseball and was a keen gymnast. He graduated from high school in June 1940 a few weeks later joined the RCAF.
When he enlisted at Toronto on 22 July 1940 he was described as 5'5" tall weighing 132 lbs with a medium complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.
After training at No. 2 Initial Training School at RCAF Regina, Saskatchewan, No. 1 Elementary Flying School at RCAF Malton, Ontario and No. 2 Service Flying School at RCAF Uplands, Ottawa, Ontario he was awarded his Flying Badge on 10 February 1941 and promoted to Sergeant on 22 February 1941. He was posted to the Embarkation Depot at RCAF Debert, Nova Scotia and embarked for the UK on 25 March. After No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre at RAF Uxbridge in the London Borough of Hillingdon he was posted to No. 17 Operational Training Unit at RAF Upwood Cambridgeshire. On 17 July 1941 he joined No. 18 Squadron at RAF Horsham St. Faith in Norfolk.
(2) Sgt. Walter Meadows was born in 1915 at Wigan, Lancashire the son of Walter Meadows (a Colliery Under-Manager) and Hannah Meadows nee Dootson later of Askrigg, Wensleydale, North Riding of Yorkshire. He had one sibling Alan Meadows born at Hindley, Lancashire in 1907.
Walter attended Ashton Grammar School and joined the RAFVR in May 1940. He trained as a navigator in Canada.
(3) Sgt. John Edward (Jack) Pearson was born in 1915 at Erdington, Birmingham the son of Harry Pearson (an Insurance Clerk) and Kate Edith Pearson nee Winkett of Erdington, Birmingham. He had two brothers Harry J. Pearson born 1919 and Ronald W. Pearson born 1928.
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
(1) F/Sgt. John Murray (Jack) Nickleson - Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - Panel 60
(2) Sgt. Walter Meadows was originally buried at Den Helder (Huisduinen) Cemetery and re-interred on 29 May 1947 at Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery Grave ref: Plot 30. Row A. Grave 12
His epitaph reads
The tree of liberty grew,
And changed and spread
(3) Sgt. John Edward (Jack) Pearson was buried at Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery Grave ref: Plot 85. Row C. Grave 3.
His epitaph reads
"Because I live
Ye shall live also"
St. John. XIV.19
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - April 2017
With thanks to the sources quoted below.