Dambuster of the Day No. 25: Lawrence Nichols


Sgt L W Nichols
Wireless operator
Lancaster serial number: ED887/G
Call sign: AJ-A
First wave. Fourth aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine dropped accurately, causing small breach. Aircraft shot down on return flight.

Lawrence Nichols was born in Northwood, Middlesex on 17 May 1910, and therefore died on his 33rd birthday. He is thought to be the oldest person who took part in the Dams Raid.
He had a wife and two children and had worked as a haberdasher in Oxford Street and then as manager of a branch of Currys in North Harrow before volunteering for the RAF in 1940. After qualifying as a wireless operator/air gunner he crewed up with his colleagues in 1660 Conversion Unit at RAF Swinderby, and went on one operation to Berlin on 16 January, with Plt Off V Duxbury as pilot. Melvin Young joined the Conversion Unit later, in early March and met up with his new crew there.
During the raid, one of the extra tasks for the wireless operator was to start the motor which span the mine, and check that it was revolving at the correct speed of 500 rpm. He would have done this before the aircraft made its final run in.
His colleague, front gunner Gordon Yeo, told his parents in a letter sent shortly before the crews took off on the raid that ‘Larry (Nichols) our Wireless Operator went to Windsor races last Saturday (1st May) and won about £12, but he was born lucky.’ Maybe he was, but sadly his luck ran out when he died along with the rest of the crew when they were shot down by a gun battery at Castricum-aan-Zee.
Nichols is buried in Bergen General Cemetery. 

More about Nichols online:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Undated newspaper article
Entry on bombercrew.com

KIA 17 May 1943.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources: Arthur Thorning, The Dambuster who Cracked the Dam, Pen and Sword 2008
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

Dambuster Sgt Lawrence Nichols

Some of the most interesting things I have found out since I started serious Dambuster research are the pieces of information about some of the less well known participants in the Dams Raid. It’s extraordinary how little is known about many of the 133 aircrew who took part. Fifty-three men died on the raid and another 32 later on in the war, so it’s perhaps understandable that not a lot is known about them. Many of the 48 who survived the war lived out quiet lives, with few people knowing that they had taken part in such an iconic event.
In this blog, I have posted material that I have come across on the internet about some of the less well known participants, and I want to keep on doing so. Here is the latest: an undated local newspaper clipping about Lawrence Nichols, the 33 year old Currys shop manager from Northwood, Middlesex who became the wireless operator in ‘Dinghy’ Young’s aircraft, AJ-A, and who died along with his colleagues when it was shot down on the way back from the Eder dam. Like David Maltby, the experienced pilot Young had been allocated a new and relatively untested crew, most of whom had only flown on one operation. All seven are now buried in the cemetery in Bergen in the Netherlands, along with about 250 other Allied aircrew. There is more about Lawrence Nichols here.