Nicholls, James Ernest (No. 927758)

Nicholls, James Ernest (Jim)

Sergeant (Air Gunner)

No. 927758, 15 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Killed on active service on Sunday 14 February 1943 (aged 21)


Heverlee War Cemetery, Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium (Collective Grave 10. E. 2-8)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Newport Cenotaph

Memorial stone at Houthalen Cemetery, Helchteren, Belgium


In the CWGC Debt of Honour website it is recorded that Sergeant James Ernest Nicholls (No. 927758) was the husband of Mary E. Nicholls of Newtownards, Co. Down.  In 1944, 1945, and 1946, Marie placed Our Heroes – In Memoriam notices in the Newtownards Chronicle.  

James Ernest Nicholls was a son of James Ernest and Hilda Clara Nicholls (formerly Pring, nee Gale).  Their marriage was registered in the third quarter of 1918 in Newport, Monmouthshire and Hilda’s previous marriage to Police Constable Benjamin Pring was registered in the third quarter of 1906, also in Newport.

Benjamin and Hilda Pring (nee Gale) had at least two children:

Cicely Ivy (born 1908)

Benjamin G. (born 1912)

Police Constable Benjamin Pring died in 1915 (aged 30).

For a time, the Nicholls family lived in Canada and there is a record of them returning to Britain in May 1924 when Hilda (aged 40), Benjamin (aged 11) and James (aged 2) arrived in Liverpool having travelled from Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the RMS Montclare.  This ship was requisitioned by the Admiralty in 1939, converted to an Armed Merchant Cruiser and later converted to a Destroyer Depot Ship.  She was scrapped in 1958.

James Ernest Nicholls attended Malpas School, Newport and Bassaleg Secondary School, Newport.  After leaving school he worked for A.E. Moss and Sons (Builders and Contractors), Hawarden Road, Newport before joining the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1940.  He was a member of Newport Harriers and won the Welsh Youths’ Cross-Country Championship at the age of 15.

His half-brother, Sergeant Benjamin G. Pring, also served with the RAF.

Sergeant James Ernest Nicholls (No. 927758) was the husband of Mary E. (Marie) Nicholls of 57 Wallace Street No. 2, Newtownards and they had a son called Ernest.

During the Second World War Sergeant James Ernest Nicholls (No. 927758) served with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and on 14 February 1943 he was one of an eight-man crew aboard a Short Stirling Mark I aircraft (BF448) that took off at 6.25 pm from RAF Bourn in Cambridgeshire on a mission to bomb Cologne.  The aircraft was shot down at 8.56 pm by a German night-fighter and crashed at Helchteren (Limburg) in Belgium.  All the crew died, and they were buried at St. Truiden in Belgium and later reinterred in Heverlee War Cemetery.  As well as Sergeant James Ernest Nicholls (aged 21) the other seven crew members who died that evening were:

  • Flight Lieutenant Owen Cecil Chave (aged 30) from Highfield, Southampton
  • Flight Sergeant Lewis Lee Gladwin (aged 21), Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Sergeant James Falshaw Cook (aged 34) from Hunstanworth, Durham
  • Flying Officer William Alexander McLean Archibald
  • Sergeant Alfred Arthur Self (aged 21) from Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire
  • Flying Officer John Neville Macmillan Muir (aged 25) from Elham, Kent
  • Sergeant Thomas Frederick Stocks (aged 19) from Penwortham, Lancashire

At least eight other aircraft were shot down that night.

When Sergeant James Ernest Nicholls died, his mother was living at 24 Graig Park Road, Malpas, Newport and his father was living in Manitoba, Canada.  He is commemorated on Newport Cenotaph and on a memorial stone at Houthalen Cemetery, Helchteren, Belgium.  This memorial commemorates the crews of four RAF aircraft lost over the area.  There is an inscription on his CWGC headstone: