3 Squadron LIFETIMES

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Donald Keith “Donny” NICHOLLS

WW2 Instrument Fitter.
23 Aug 1922 – 2 June 2018. Aged 95.

Foggia, Italy, 1943.  Instrument Fitter LAC Don NICHOLLS, of Springhurst, Vic., sits in the cockpit of a Curtiss P40
fighter-bomber aircraft, “CV-B” of No.3 Squadron RAAF, and talks with the Kittyhawk’s pilot, Flying Officer
Arthur DAWKINS of Gawler, SA.  The aircraft are ready for a swift take off from an advanced airfield.
[AWM MEA0847]

Donny’s funeral was held in the beautiful Victorian alpine town of Bright.  Our Secretary, Vicki CRIGHTON, attended on behalf of the Association.

In WW2, Donny worked in the highly-skilled job of “Instrument Fitter”, he enlisted in October 1940 and arrived on Operations with 3SQN in Tunisia (North Africa) on 20 March 1943. 

Donny witnessed “Victory in Africa” less than two months later and was fully involved in the Squadron’s heavy workload during the invasion of Sicily (July 1943) and then Southern Italy (September 1943). 

He continued making a vital contribution through to the end of the war in Italy (May 1945).  After returning from Europe he was demobbed on 6 March 1946, with the rank of Leading Aircraftman.\


A Tribute for Donny, from Margaret DEACON: 

I first met Don in Bright about five years ago. 
I approached him to ask for an interview about his World War Two experiences and memories during his time in North Africa and Italy alongside my father
[Laurie WHITFORD] in 3 Squadron RAAF.  This was for a university research project.  Don was very willing to share what he could remember and described his tasks as an Instrument Fitter.  However, his memory of many wartime experiences had faded a great deal.  

I was struck by his strong sense of character, his humble temperament, his sense of humour, and his wonderful generosity of spirit.  One aspect that Don was able to convey clearly was the camaraderie surrounding the entire Squadron, and the sense of support that the men gave to each other, whether they were pilots or ground staff.

I have met Don subsequently at the Anzac Day marches in Sydney and so enjoyed his company.  
I’m so fortunate to have known Don and to have had the opportunity to spend short periods of time with him.  He will be sadly missed.           


Vicki CRIGHTON’s address at the funeral: 

I first met “Mr Nicholls” when I was a child, attending Association events with my father (Curly MORRISON, who, like “D.K.”, served in the Middle East during WW2).  Their mateship, which was formed back then in 1942, lasted through to my father’s death in 2000 - around 58 years.  It was not only forged with my father, but with all his mates, because they served in those days 24/7 on the frontline

- Lived in tents (air conditioning: open/close the tent flaps, depending on the weather). 

- Main diet bully beef (if lucky, chicken - when it could be bartered). 

- Haircuts by mates… 

Foggia, Italy, 1943. LAC Don Robertson gives Donny a trim.

- A quart of water per week for washing. 

- Mail – occasionally from family or friends (no phone). 

- Entertainment - occasionally a leave pass to a Red Cross dance or to see the sights. 

- On return to Australia, being able to get together with each other, to catch up, tell stories and remember.

D.K.’s friends from those days who have survived him could not make it today; but they care.  Whether Slim MOORE or Gus THOMSON, who marched with him in Sydney on Anzac Day; or Felix SAINSBURY from W.A., all groundcrew together.  Or Arthur PARDEY, the only remaining WW2 pilot.

Thanks to Ian, Diana and your family for what you’ve done for D.K. and his wife Gwen.  I remember him telling me when he was moving from Riverwood to Bright, he would still be attending Association events because,
“Ian promised to bring me,” which you have done.

You, D.K. - made (and were) part of our HISTORY.  


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