Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Marshal Sir John Nicholls (58144)

John Moreton               b:   5 Jul 1926                          r:  31 Jul 1980             d: 17 May 2007

KCB – 3 Jun 1978, CBE – 13 Jun 1970, DFC –2 Jun 1953, AFC – 1 Jan 1965, DFC (US) – 30 Oct 1953, CCMI (CIMgt, CBIM).

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

AC2: xx xxx xxxx, Plt Off (P):  14 Jun 1946, Fg Off (WS): 14 Dec 1946, Fg Off: 14 Jun 1947, Flt Lt:  14 Dec 1949, Sqn Ldr:  1 Jul 1956, Wg Cdr:  1 Jul 1961, Act Gp Capt:  15 Apr 1965, Gp Capt:  1 Jul 1966, A/Cdre:  1 Jul 1970, AVM:  1 Jul 1973, Act AM:  28 Sep 1977, AM:  1 Jan 1978.

xx Jun 1945:         U/T Pilot, (3012584)

14 Jun 1946:        Appointed to a Short Service Commission (4 years on the  active list)

xx xxx 1946:        Pilot, No 28 Sqn.

16 Aug 1948:       Appointed to a Permanent Commission in the rank of Flying Officer

xx Sep 1949:       Attended Meteor conversion course.

xx xxx 1949:        Pilot Attack Instructor, No 257 Sqn.

xx xxx xxxx:         Pilot, Central Fighter Establishment

xx Apr 1952:       F-86 Conversion training, Nellis Air Force Base, USAF,

xx Jun 1952:        Pilot, 335th Fighter Sqn, USAF.

xx xxx xxxx:         Flight Commander, No ? Sqn.

xx xxx 1953:        Tactics Instructor, Fighter Leader's School.

xx May 1958:      Exchange posting, 435th & 83rd Fighter Sqns, USAF.

xx Jun 1959:        Fighter Command Liaison Officer, English Electric Co - Lightning Project.

2 Apr 1962:         Officer Commanding, Air Fighting Development Sqn.

xx xxx 1964:        Attended Joint Services Staff College.

12 Oct 1964:       Staff, Department of Air Secretary

15 Apr 1965:       Deputy Director, Air Staff Briefing.

 9 Jun 1967:         Officer Commanding, RAF Leuchars.

xx xxx 1970:        Attended Imperial Defence College.

18 Jan 1971:        SASO, No 11 Group.

22 Nov 1971:      Personal Staff Officer to the Chief of the Defence Staff.

31 Oct 1973:       SASO, HQ Strike Command.

20 Mar 1976:      Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operational Requirements).

28 Sep 1977:       Air Member for Supply and Organisation

30 Jan 1979:        Vice Chief of the Air Staff.

 Having served in the ATC, he volunteered for the RAF immediately after his 17th birthday, but it was June 1945 before he was called up.  On graduation he was posted to the Far East and No 28 Sqn flying Spitfires.  Shortly afterwards 28  Sqn received a new CO in the form of Ivor Broom.  At the time of his arrival, a story was circulating that their new CO was a transport pilot leading them to think they had been sent a piece of 'deadwood' as a CO.  However, they were soon impressed by this ‘transport’ pilot's ability to fly a Spitfire and even more surprised, when at the first formal dinner that learnt that their new CO had both the DSO and DFC with two Bars and had actually flown Blenhiems and Mosquitoes during WW2, not transports.  Retuning from the Far East, he completed a Meteor conversion course and joined No 257 Squadron as their Pilot Attack Instructor, after which he joined the staff at the Central Fighter Establishment.

During the Korean War, John Nicholls was seconded to the USAF flying the F-86 with the 335th Fighter Squadron flying 100 operations from Kimpo airfield near Seoul.  He damaged two MiG-15s in August 1952 during a combat over the Yalu river.  He eventually destroyed a MiG in air-to-air combat during his 99th mission, thereby becoming the first RAF pilot to destroy a MiG.  His final mission was flown on 9 December and it was for these operations that he was awarded both the British and American DFC as well as the American Air Medal.

After Korea, he returned to normal flying duties with RAF until becoming an instructor at the Fighter Leaders School, after which he returned to the USA on a second exchange posting.  His next posting would put at the forefront of the very latest develops, when he was seconded to the English Electric Company to take in the development work on their new supersonic fighter, the Lightning.  At the end of this work he took command of the Air Fighting Development Squadron, where he was heavily involved in weapons development with the Lightning, including an unusual trial in which he flew a Spitfire in mock combat against a Lightning.

Following attendance at the Joint Services Staff College and a tour in the Air Ministry, he took command of RAF Leuchars.  Attendance at the Imperial Defence College was followed by his appointment to No 11 (Fighter) Group as Senior Air Staff Officer.  His next appointment was as Personal Staff Officer to the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Peter Hill-Norton, which was followed by SASO at  HQ Strike Command and then a return to the Ministry of Defence as Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Operational Requirements.  In September 1977 he was promoted to Acting Air Marshal and appointed Air Member for Supply and Organisation and later Vice Chief of the Air Staff.

Retiring in 1980, he was appointed Director in charge of BAC (later British Aerospace) in Saudi Arabia, but two years later he was invalided home having been diagnosed with a serious illness.  From 1993 he was a non-executive Director of James Paget Hospital NHS Trust.

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