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"Darling just got VC. Don't know why"

With those simple words, telegraphed to his wife Muriel, Flight Lieutenant Eric "James" Brindley Nicolson downplayed the magnitude of his award. He was singled out as the only Battle of Britain pilot and only member of Fighter Command to receive the Victoria Cross.  

On 16 August 1940, Nicolson was in combat near Southampton, having flown out from his station at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire. Nicolson and his Hawker Hurricane had been struck by four cannon shells, two of which wounded him whilst another set fire to his aircraft.

With Nicolson wounded, his aircraft on fire, Nicolson abandoned his efforts to bail out when another enemy fighter flew in front of him. 

Flt Lt Eric 'James' Brindley Nicolson

Nicolson later recalled those moments, "I couldn't see through my left eye for blood and my left heel was shattered. I remember shouting 'I'll teach you some manners, you Hun'." 

Again at the controls of his Hurricane, Nicolson fired on the enemy aircraft, scoring the victory, and then ejected from the fiery aircraft.

Coming down with severe burns and a damaged parachute, Nicolson was then fired on from the Home Guard, who initially mistook him for a German airman.  

On 18 August, Air Vice Marshal Park upgraded the recommendation that Nicolson be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross to instead receive the VC, remarking on "this outstanding act of gallantry and magnificent display of fighting spirit".

Nicolson survived and after healing from burns to his hands, face, neck, and legs, was back in the air. 

Sent to the Eastern front, he served in India and Burma and was eventually promoted to Wing Commander. He died on 2 May 1945 when the B-24 Liberator on which he was a passenger crashed in the Bay of Bengal.

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