Trafford McRae Nicol was born in 1921, son of James Alexander & Louisa Clara Nicol who lived in Inglis St., Seatoun, Wellington, New Zealand.
He went to school at Rongotai College, and Wellington College, and enlisted in the RNZAF in early 1941, aged 20, undergoing Initial Training (probably at Levin), then pilot training at No. 2 Service Flying Training School (2 SFTS), Woodbourne.Five other 75 (NZ) Squadron pilots appear in this group:
– middle row left, Graham Murdoch, whose path closely followed Trafford’s (see below);
– next to him, Alan Tolley, lost with all the crew of Stirling BF506, AA-P on 21st April 1943 in a raid on Rostock ;
– front row left, a very young Cyril “Mac” Baigent, DSO, DFC, AFC, later to become Wing Commander and Commanding Officer of 75, the youngest CO in Bomber Command;
– next to him, John McCullough, DFC, lost with Stirling BK604, AA-S on 3 Feb 1943.
– William Horne, who flew 2nd Pilot with S/L Ray Newton.
Trafford then sailed to England, and went through Operational Training at 12 O.T.U, Chipping Warden:Again, several of the pilots named in this photo went on to serve with 75 (NZ) Sqdn.
Sgt Johnny Wilmshurst was lost with all his crew on a daylight op’ to Duisburg on the 10th of July.
Incredibly, P/O Graham “Stinker” Murdoch and P/O Rupert John Smith, both died on the same night captaining separate aircraft, both with all crew lost, on the 9th of June during a raid on Essen.
And equally incredible, Sgt Cyril Wrightson died flying 2nd Pilot with F/S Mahood, with all crew lost, on the night of the 22nd/23rd of April during a raid on Cologne, the same operation that resulted in Trafford Nicol’s death.
75 (NZ) Squadron Operational Record Book, Form 540, March 1942: P/O Nicol, T.M. Posted to this unit from No, 12 O.T.U w.e.f. 10.3.42
Trafford was posted in from 12 OTU on the 10th of March, together P/O Graham Murdoch, and must have joined Eric Jarman’s crew within a day or two.
Sgt Eric “Rick” or “Riki” Jarman came from Yeppoon, in Queensland, Australia, and was a clerk at Rockhampton before he enlisted in the RAAF in September, 1940.
He had arrived at 75 (NZ) Sqdn in November the previous year, and had been flying as 2nd Pilot with S/L Peter Kitchin. The squadron had flown very few operations during this period as Bomber Command re-assessed strategies after a disastrous Berlin raid on 7/8 November, and then as 75 became busy training and converting from the 1C Wellingtons to the new Mark IIIs.
Jarman carried out his first Night Flying Test as Captain of his own aircraft on 9 March, a 15 minute flight in Wellington III X3587, AA-P.
The Jarman crew were:
Sgt Eric George Delancey Jarman, RAAF AUS404507 – Pilot
P/O Trafford McRae Nicol, RNZAF NZ411929 – 2nd Pilot
Sgt Stanley Frederick Hall, RNZAF NZ402182 – Navigator
Sgt John Alexander Fernie, RAF 980003 – Wireless Operator
Sgt Ron S. Davey, RAF – Front Gunner / Bomb Aimer
Sgt Richard James Harris, RNZAF NZ402999 – Rear Gunner
Stanley Hall and Richard Harris had arrived separately on Squadron only a week or so earlier, but John Fernie and Ron Davey had been on the Squadron since November the previous year.
Fernie originally crewed up with Sgt Robert Arthur Colville RNZAF, and had already flown 7 op’s.
He had very fortunately not been on board when Colville took Wellington X3355, AA-Y up for an air test on 28 February, although as was the norm at the time, four ground crew had gone along for the ride. Just after take-off, Colville lost his starboard engine, and then as he attempted to turn back to the airfield to make an emergency landing, the port engine failed as well. The aircraft crashed near Lakenheath, killing two of the ground crew, and leaving the 2nd Pilot Sgt Woodham fatally injured. Colville and the other two ground crew were seriously injured, Colville almost losing both legs.
Davey had flown 2 op’s with Sgt Giddens, but for some reason Giddens left the Squadron in December. Davey may have trained with other crews during January and February.
RIck Jarman flew his first Op as skipper on the 13th March 1943, bombing targets at Dunkirk. Twelve days later, Trafford Nichol would join the crew as 2nd Pilot for an OP to Essen and St.Nazaire on the 25th of March.
The Jarman crew would fly a further 7 Ops, before they boarded Wellington Mk.III X.3487 AA-O on the 22nd of April, that night flying to Cologne.
22/04/1942 – Operations – Attack Against Targets at Cologne
Ten Well.III a\c were detailed attack the above targets. Bomb load of 4000lbs, 100lbs, 500lbs, 250lbs, 30lb and 4lb incendiaries was dropped in the target area but no results seen owing to cloud. There were only a few searchlights active and A.A. fire was slight. Well.III, X3487 captained by P/O Jarman was attacked by a JU.88 which attacked once and broke away to port. The results of this short attack were however serious the second pilot, P/O Nicol being mortally wounded, the rear gunner Sgt. Harris being killed and the Navigator Sgt. Taylor and W/Op. Sgt. Fernie were wounded. The bomb load was not dropped on the target but was dropped in the sea. The a/c was brought back to base and crash landed. Well.III, X3705, captained by F/S. McLachlan, was also attacked and the second pilot killed (P/O. Fountain) and Sgt. Tutty was wounded. F/Sgt. McLachlan managed to reach base and crash land.
Wellington Mk.III X.3487 AA-O
a/c shot up by JU88 and crash landed on return. Sgt. Harris was killed in the attack. P/O Nicol died of injuries the day after
P/O Eric George Delancey ‘Rick/ Riki’ Jarman , RAAF AUS.404507 – Pilot.
P/O Trafford McRae Nicol RNZAF NZ411929 2nd Pilot.
Sgt. William Henderson Taylor, RAFVR 1051621/ 122053 – Navigator.
Sgt. John Alexander Fernie, RAFVR 980003/ 127783 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. R.S. Davey, RAFVR – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Richard James Harris, RNZAF NZ402999 – Rear Gunner.
Take Off 22:15 – Landed 04:40
Flight Time 06:25
Feltwell Station Log Wednesday 23rd April 1942: “0442 O.75 crash-landed (18th) last A/c.”
Rick Jarman was awarded the DFC for his part in the incident:
DFC citation E.G.D. Jarman, RAAF:
Citation DFC (Imm) (15 May 1942) “One night in April 1942 this officer was the captain of an aircraft detailed to attack Cologne. Whilst over the target area, the aircraft was hit by shellfire and sustained damage. The navigator, wireless operator and front gunner were injured, but despite this, Pilot Officer Jarman flew on to make his attack. On the return journey it was discovered that a bomb had not fallen owing to the damage caused by the enemy’s shellfire whereupon Pilot Officer Jarman altered course and headed for the North Sea so that the bomb could be jettisoned. Before reaching the sea, however, his aircraft was subjected to an attack by an enemy fighter whose fire killed the rear gunner, wounded the second pilot and inflicted further damage on the aircraft. Skilfully controlling the bomber Pilot Officer Jarman continued his flight and after jettisoning the bomb in the sea, he finally reached this country where he made a safe landing with the undercarriage retracted.”
They crash-landed at 4:40 in the morning. Trafford was badly wounded, and passed away later that day.
From “New Zealanders in the Air War”, by Alan Mitchell:
On these five operations only one aircraft was lost, but several injured men were brought back. One, Pilot Officer T. McRae Nicol, of Wellington, had been badly hit in the abdomen by shell-splinters. He was in great pain when they lifted him tenderly from the aircraft into the ambulance, but he had a smile for Olson.
” I’ve got a guts full of lead, sir,” he told the CO., almost proudly. Morphia eased the rack of the pain, but although he probably knew he had little chance of survival, he remained cheerful until he died.
Trafford’s niece, Barbara remembers reading a letter from the Squadron’s Chaplin to Trafford’s parents saying that Trafford was a great leader, was always so positive and one of his favourites. The letter also said that a WAAF had given Trafford a cup of hot tea before he was removed from his Wellington, and that the hot tea may have caused more damage to his stomach. Barbara says she always thought that it was funny how her uncle died in the war from a hot cup of tea…….
Trafford was buried with full military honours at Feltwell’s St. Nicholas Churchyard, Row C Grave 11, on the 29th of April.
His crewmate Jim Harris was buried the same day at St. Nicholas Churchyard, Row B Grave 11.
Returning from the same Cologne operation in the early hours of 23 April, another night fighter had attacked the McLachlan crew’s Wellington X3705, AA-F, killing 2nd Pilot P/O Cedric Fountain, RNZAF (NZ41981). They also struggled to reach Base, and had crash-landed at Feltwell about an hour before the Jarman crew. Trafford, Jim and Cedric were all buried at St Nicholas Churchyard on the same day, and the photograph of the funeral party suggests that the three airmen were taken on the same carriage:
Trevor Smith went on to skipper his own aircraft, but was lost with all his crew on the 9th of July, during a raid on Wilhelmshaven. Fernie and Chunn survived the war.
– Read more about the events of the night of 22nd /23rd of April, within a post about Feltwell Cemetery here (about half way down the post)
To read the crew history in full, please click here to be taken to the Jarman crew Op history page.
Again, special thanks to James and Barbara Ogilvie and the Nicol family for sharing these photos and their own research. Thanks to Anna Rhodes-Sayer and the NZ Bomber Command Assn for permission to reproduce the main crew photo