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Top British tank ace

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1943 - 1945' started by keith A, Apr 19, 2015.

  1. keith A

    keith A Member

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    Corporal Alfie Nicholls of the 9th Lancers made at least 13 kills in the Western Desert during the 1st battle of El Alamein (9 in one day in 1942), and once source states he may have had 40 kills in total. I had never heard of him until recently.Can anyone supply any more details? I know he claimed at least three more kills in an engagement with the 26th Panzer Division in Italy. He may have been a tank gunner rather than commander for many of them but nevertheless this would make him the highest scoring British tank crewman of WW2.
     
  2. Poppy

    Poppy grasshopper Patron  

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    What kind of tank was he in...A link would be interesting.
     
  3. keith A

    keith A Member

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    He is a mystery. I can't find a mention of a decoration but he certainly is mentioned by various sources and I believe his biggest day was during B Squadron's encounter with the enemy on 3 July 1942. I am not sure what tank he was in but presume it was a Sherman although a Grant might also be feasible.

    regards

    Keith
     
  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 Member

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  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 Member

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    If you get a copy of the citation post it up and I'll post the unit's war diary pages for you that cover the citation.
     
  6. keith A

    keith A Member

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    Cheers Drew. The National Library of Scotland has a copy of Bright's book. I have ordered it up and will get a chance to see it at the weekend.

    regards

    Keith
     
  7. albowie

    albowie New Member

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    The biggest problem is that they rarely kept scores but going of memoirs, regimental histories and Diaries it is quite feasible that there were many Desert veterans who clocked up very large scores of Tanks by VE day, The likes of Harris, Dring and Kite (who got five tanks incl a Tiger on one day in Aug at Grand Bonfait) knocked out many tanks in France and Germany after racking up big scores in NA. Unlike the Germans the keeping of scores was thought un British and counterproductive to morale and unit cohesiveness. The British pushed the team aspect (with the possible exclusion of the RAF during the battle of Britian where it was good for the Civilian morale to keep tallies). Tanks don't have an operational logbook like a Pilot does so there were little in the way of records to base it on other than War Diaries and Int Summaries

    Al
     
  8. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    good points by Al.....9 kills in one day? can this be substantiated? we had a thread on tank aces before...
     
  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Given that it was at El Alamain I doubt it can be substantiated one way or the other. I don't think they went over any of the WWII battlefields like they did 73 Eastings.
     
  10. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Going to albowie's comment: Has there been a thread re the merits of the German vs. the British system? I don't seem to recall one but there could have been side mentions of it on other armored threads.
     
  11. keith A

    keith A Member

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    All scores are very subjective. The claims by British tank crews are no less credible than those by the Germans and Americans both of whom are much more likely to award decorations by statistical claims. Abandoned tanks, shared victories and the differences between the phrases "k.o'd" and "brewed up" also come into the mix when talking of the successes of one crew or another. German tanks aces made multiple claims in the target rich environment at Kursk so the El Alamein battles surely presented the same opportunities. Many of Nicholls' kills were against the lighter armoured vehicles of the Italian Army but he also was successful against the Panzers of the Africa Korps and German army in Italy. I doubt there will ever be a definitive list of British tank aces, as has been stated the method of keeping score was very unofficial, but individuals do stand out and deserve mention alongside the more well publicised tankies of other nations,
     
  12. Bob Nicholls

    Bob Nicholls New Member

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    Just to put the record straight - my name is Bob Nicholls and Alf Nicholls was my father. If anything, the stories recounted above understate his achievements during the war. His regiment was part of the 1st Armoured Division which served in North Africa and Italy and were among the first to be issued with the American M4 tanks, known to the British as the Sherman. His exploits are recounted in the official regimental history. On the day during the battle of El Alemein in which he was responsible for the destruction of 9 enemy tanks, General Montgomery was monitoring the action on the radio and immediately awarded him the Military Medal, which is currently proudly displayed on the lounge wall of his granddaughter along with his other medals.
     
  13. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    It's honor to have you here Bob......we would love to hear more stories of your grandfather if possible?
     
  14. Bob Nicholls

    Bob Nicholls New Member

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    First, just to confirm that Alf was my father, not grandfather. To add to my previous comments, I note that some doubt has been cast as to the quality of the opposition that he was responsible for dealing with. That may be true in part, but an action in Northern Italy (recounted in detail in the 9th Lancers history of WWII) when he and his tank were confronted by 3 German Tiger tanks resulted in the destruction of all 3 of the enemy vehicles with just 3 shots. Also. anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the weapons available to the German army will be aware of the fearsome reputation of the 88mm anti-tank gun. While in North Africa he and his tank engaged one of these weapons, the outcome of which was the destruction of the 88mm and its crew before they had time to fire themselves, demonstrating the speed and accuracy that he could bring to bear when aiming and firing his weapon. Obviously he survived the war or I would not be here, and his standing in the history of his regiment was marked by the commanding officer of the regiment attending his funeral in his home village of Manton, Rutland in 1989, along with the regimental bugler who played the Last Post at the graveside.
     
    steve w likes this.
  15. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, my apologies for the misunderstanding, it's fantastic to hear from his son!! Going up against 3 Tiger tanks......and killing all 3 with 3 shots......incredible....
     
  16. steve w

    steve w New Member

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    does Bob Nicholls have any images or information about his father Alf that he would be willing to post here...photos of his father in service, his service units in detail - troop,company etc., images of tanks in his unit or tanks he actually crewed in? Thanks for speaking up about your dad and bless'em for his service...Cheers!
     
  17. steve w

    steve w New Member

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    does Bob Nicholls have any images or information about his father Alf that he would be willing to post here...photos of his father in service, his service units in detail - troop,company etc., images of tanks in his unit or tanks he actually crewed in? Thanks for speaking up about your dad and bless'em for his service...Cheers!
     
  18. steve w

    steve w New Member

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    I managed to get a look at the regimental history..it details Nicholl's 9 kills at Alamein, a Mk IV in Italy and three Mk IV's at once, not Tigers, again in Italy..after his big day with 9 kills at Alamein the history stated his total in N. Africa at that point was 30..they also spell his name "Nickolls"
    I managed to get a look at the regimental history at the 9th/12th Lancers museum website - its under Journals, spells his name Nickolls, details his 9 kill day at Alamein and states he had 30 kills total after that engagement..in Italy he added 3 Mk IV's at once, not Tigers and one more Mk IV. This sounds like at least 34 total..The history author is Joan Bright.
     

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