Ronald Laing NICHOLSON

NICHOLSON, Ronald Laing

Service Number: 417220
Enlisted: 31 January 1942
Last Rank: Pilot Officer
Last Unit: No. 460 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Port Augusta, South Australia , 8 December 1921
Home Town: Port Augusta, Port Augusta, South Australia
Schooling: Port Augusta High School - Prince Alfred College, South Australia
Occupation: Clerk
Died: Flying Battle, near Trappes France, 10 June 1944, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Viroflay New Communal Cemetery, France
Row B. Grave 24.
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, International Bomber Command Centre Memorial, Port Augusta District WW2 Honour Board, Port Augusta RSL Hall Circular Honour Roll, Port Augusta Swimming Club Memorial Garden and Arch, Soldiers' Memorial Band Rotunda
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World War 2 Service

31 Jan 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), 417220, No. 4 Initial Training School Victor Harbor
20 Jun 1942: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman
14 Jan 1943: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant
14 Jul 1943: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant
26 Jan 1944: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Pilot Officer
3 May 1944: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Pilot Officer, 417220, No. 460 Squadron (RAAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45

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Biography contributed by Sharyn Roberts

Ronald was born in Port Augusta on 8 December 1921, the son of James and Jessie Nicholson and brother to Douglas. Ronald's Father had served in the AIF during WW1 attached as a Driver in Field Artillery Brigades and saw action in France and Belgium.

Ronald was working as a Clerk with the Commonwealth Railways in Port Augusta when he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 31 January 1942.

He completed training modules across Parafield, Mallala, Mitcham and Bradfield Park and achieved his Flying Badge on 8 January 1943. He was promoted to Airman Pilot on 14 January 1943 and embarked for service overseas from Brisbane on 20 April 1943.

Disembarking in the UK on June 1943 he was attached for service to a RAF transport base in Ramsburry. He achieved his commission on 17 February 1944 and was attached to No 11 Base and then to No 460 Squadron on 3 May 1944.

Pilot Officer Nicholson was one of 7 crew from 460 Squadron (2 Australian, 2 Canadian and 3 British aviators) on board a Lancaster Bomber (Flight 724) which was detailed to attack Acheres (France) on the night of 10 June 1944 and failed to return to base.

An eyewitness account was reported the aircraft to have crashed near Trappes (near Elancourt) at 0100 hours on 11 June 1944. According to the accounts the aircraft was ‘completely pulverised’.  Later advice would confirm that that Pilot Officer Nicholson was one of the pilots of the Lancaster which high tension wires and crashed killing all crew.

The local villagers did their utmost to collect the remains of 5 aircrew and buried them quickly in Elancourt cemetery. The remaining  2 crew members were found on 14 July within a burned parachute in a field 2 kms West of Elancourt. Pilot Officer Nicholson was the only aviator able to be positively identified as a result of his identity card and a cigarette case within found his uniform. The recovered personal effects eventually assisted with the identification of the remaining crew.

As next of kin, Pilot Officer Nicholson’s  Father received a telegram reporting that his son was missing and a letter which was despatched from the Commanding Officer 460 Squadron dated 11 June 1944 confirming he had been Killed in Action. He was 22 years of age. His remains were to be found at Elancourt Cemetery until 1951 when authorities decided to exhume and reinter them at Viroflay New Communal Cemetery, France.

In a letter forwarded to Pilot Officer Nicholson’s father, the Commanding Office of 460 Squadron said that they had been deprived of a pilot of great promise, whose characteristic skill and courage were an inspiration to all. Words meant to provide comfort to his parents and brother whose loss and grief would no doubt have been deep and carried for the rest of their lives. For six other families similar correspondence would have been received, with similar impact.

Lest we Forget