Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Marshal Sir Gilbert Nicholetts (16080)

G E Nicholetts - 1922Sir Gilbert Edward NicholettsGilbert Edward                         b: 9 Nov 1902                    r: 1 Jul 1959                d: 7 Sep 1983

KBE - 31 May 1956, CB - 1 Jan 1949, AFC - 1 Jan 1931, Bar - 24 Feb 1933, MiD - 1 Jan 1941, MiD - 1 Oct 1946.

Plt Off: 20 Dec 1922, Fg Off: 20 Jun 1924, Flt Lt: 27 Feb 1929, Sqn Ldr: 1 Aug 1936, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1939, (T) Gp Capt: 1 Sep 1941, Act A/Cdre: xx xxx xxxx, (T) A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1946, Gp Capt: 1 Oct 1946 [1 Jan 1946], A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1947, AVM: 1 Jan 1951, Act AM: 15 Sep 1955, AM: 1 May 1956.

Photo (Far left) - taken from his RAeC Certificate

Photo (left) - Sir Gilbert Edward Nicholetts

by Walter Stoneman
bromide print, 1954
NPG x186838

National Portrait Gallery, London

 3 Feb 1921:            Flight Cadet, 'A' Sqn, RAF College.

20 Dec 1922:          Attended School of Naval Co-operation, Lee on Solent.

 5 Feb 1923:            Attended Seaplane Pilots' Course, RAF Base Calshot

29 Apr 1923:           Pilot, No 440 (Fleet Reconnaissance) Flight FAA.

 5 Sep 1924:            Pilot, No 402 (Fleet Fighter) Flight FAA

15 Jul 1925:             Pilot, No 440 (Fleet Reconnaissance) Flight FAA.

17 Oct 1926:           Staff, SHQ, RAF Donibristle

17 May 1927:          Pilot, Far East Flight/No 205 Sqn.

18 Dec 1930:           Embarked on SS Cremer for 169 days leave on posting to Home Establishment

 2 Jun 1931:             Pilot, No 209 Sqn.

 7 Jan 1933:             Pilot, Long Range Flight.

16 Jun 1933:            Air Staff, HQ No 23 Group.

21 Jan 1935:            Attended RAF Staff College.

28 Jan 1936:            Air Staff, AHQ Iraq.

15 Aug 1938:           Staff Officer, Deputy Directorate of War Organisation.

 9 Nov 1939:           Officer Commanding, No 228 Sqn.

xx xxx 1941:            Officer Commanding, RAF Haifa.

xx xxx 1941:            Officer Commanding, RAF Shallufa.

xx xxx 1941:            Far East.

xx Feb 1942:           RAF Base Control Officer

xx xxx 1942:            Prisoner of War.

24 Apr 1946:           SASO, HQ No 25 (Armament) Group.

 7 Oct 1946:            AOC, Central Photographic Establishment.

18 Oct 1948:           Director of Organisation.

 1 May 1951:           SASO, HQ Coastal Command.

 1 Nov 1953:           AOC, No 21 Group.

xx Sep 1955:           AOC in C Flying Training Command

26 Jan 1956:            AOC, AHQ Malta/Deputy C in C (Air), Air Forces Mediterranean.

 1 Jan 1958:            Inspector-General of the RAF.

Educated with possibly a Naval career in mind at Osbourne and Dartmouth, he entered the RAF College at Cranwell in 1921, shortly after it's establishment, having achieved a score of  8,486, in the competitive selection tests, held in late 1920.

He represented the College at Rugby and attained the rank of Flt Cdt Cpl.  However, his early education was not wasted as he was posted to RAF Calshot to fly seaplanes and flying boats.  In 1924 he joined the Mediterranean Fleet as a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm, which at that time was still part of the RAF, serving aboard HMS Eagle.  Having become a navigation specialist, he was assigned to the Far East Flight in 1927 which undertook the first RAF reinforcement of Singapore.  Led by Group Capt H M Cave-Browne-Cave the Flight of Short Singapores was redesignated No 205 Sqn on it's arrival at it's Far Eastern Station.  It was whilst serving in the Far East during this period, that he became involved in the establishment of the Singapore Flying Club together with fellow RAF pilot, Flt Lt D V Carnegie.

An expert navigator, he was selected to replace Flt Lt D G Bett who died  after a practice flight from Cranwell to Abu Sueir in Egypt.  In February 1933 the postponed attempt on the long distance record got under way with Flt Lt Nicholetts navigating Sqn Ldr O R Gayford as pilot in the Fairey Long Range Monoplane from Cranwell to Walvis Bay, South Africa, covering 5,341 miles in 57 hours 25 minutes, and thereby setting a new world long distance record.

Citation for the award of the Air Force Cross

NICHOLETTS, Gilbert Edward, F/L - Air Force Cross - awarded 1 January 1931 in Birthday Honours List.  Invested with award at Buckingham Palace, 25 June 1931.

"This officer has been engaged on many difficult and arduous flights with No.205 (Flying Boat) Squadron, Singapore, during which he has shown the greatest courage and determination under conditions of considerable hardship.  He took part in the first South-West Monsoon Cruise to Rangoon and Calcutta in June and August 1929, and also carried out important survey work between Singapore and Borneo, and on the West Coast of Malaya.

"Flight Lieutenant Nicholetts acted as second pilot in the aircraft which flew from Singapore to Akyab in July last to assist in the search for two missing aviators, Messrs Hook and Matthews.  The safe return of the aircraft from this flight, in the course of which the worst storms ever experienced by the squadron were encountered, was largely due to his skill as a pilot and his devotion to duty.

 (Source - Air 30/84)

Recommendations for the above

Re:  F/L Gilbert Edward Nicholetts, Unit 205 (Flying Boat) Squadron, R.A.F. Far East

"This Officer acted as second pilot on the first South West Monsoon Cruises from Singapore to Rangoon and Calcutta in June and August 1929.  He also acted as second pilot in the aircraft which flew to Akyab from Singapore in July 1930 through exceptionally bad Monsoon weather, to assist in the search for the missing pilots Hook and Matthews.

In December 1929, he acted as second pilot in one of the flying boats surveying the Burma coast, and in May and June and September he carried out, as first pilot, survey cruises from Singapore to Borneo and the East Coast of Malaya.  In all these flights, some of which were carried out in extremely bad weather and under conditions of considerable hardship, he showed the greatest courage, determination, and devotion to duty."

(Recognition recommended:  Air Force Cross)

(Signed by Commanding Officer ????, Squadron Leader, Unit 205 (Flying Boat) Squadron, 16/10/1930)

Covering remarks of Officer Commanding, R.A.F., Far East

"I agree with the above and wish to strongly recommend this award.  When flying Southamptons in the heaviest part of the monsoon rains on the Burma coast, it is usual for F/L Nicholetts, as second pilot, to fly the aircraft whilst the first pilot concentrates on attempting to see, and on navigating the aircraft in the strong and constantly changing winds, to keep it clear of the many islands which must be passed in making the landfall.  The storms experienced during the flight to look for the aircraft flown by Messrs Hook and Matthews, which had been wrecked by an earlier storm, were the worst 205 (Flying Boat) Squadron had experienced, and the safe return of Southampton S.1419 was largely due to the skill and devotion to duty of F/L Nicholetts."

(Signed by H.M. Conan????, Group Captain, Officer Commanding, R.A.F. Far East, Singapore, 16 October 1930)

(Source - AIR 2/1027)

Extract from the London Gazette 24 February 1933

"The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the undermentioned rewards to the officers named in recognition of their achievement in establishing a world's long-distance record by their, non-stop flight from Cranwell to Walvis Bay, a distance of 5,340 miles, on 6th to 8th February, 1933 :

Air Force Cross.

Squadron Leader Oswald Robert GAYFORD, D.F.C.

Bar to the Air Force Cross.

Flight Lieutenant Gilbert Edward NICHOLETTS, A.F.C."


By the end of 1941, he was serving in the Far East.  It was here during the British withdrawal from Sumatra that much RAF equipment was left behind in Oesthaven on the orders of the British Military Embarkation Officer.  Two days later, when the Japanese had not arrived in the port, Gilbert Nicholetts returned with 50 volunteers aboard HMAS Ballarat.  They spent 12 hours loading valuable spares and equipment aboard the ship before successfully making their getaway.  He was mentioned in despatches for his service in the Far East. 

This page was last updated on 19/12/23

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