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A family tribute to our Uncle, Sgt F Alan Nelson RAFVR 1915-1941

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

In August this year I visited and stayed with my brother John and his wife Christine in East Sussex. John is our family historian and archivist, so we looked through family photo albums, and realised that, for our Uncle we never knew, we needed to try and piece together more about his short life for perpetuity, and for Remembrance Day.

Earlier this year I had been to our local Beeston library to search on UK census records for our Nelson family history and it was fascinating. Frederick Alan Nelson was born on 13 February 1915 to his parents Frederick and Lilian Nelson. They lived at 31 Trent Boulevard, Lady Bay, Nottingham. His sister Sonia (our mother) was born four years later on 31 December 1919.

Here’s some lovely photographs (above) of them together at Wilford Farm (right) (now No. 110 &112 Wilford Lane, West Bridgford) with their mother Lilian. Wilford Farm was lived in and run by Lilian’s parents, Emily and William Thompson. William was also a horse dealer and you can still see the site of the Victorian stable building now converted to semi-detached houses (behind Nos 110 & 112). From 1901 Census records, Emily & William Thompson lived at 4 Woodland Road (off Trent Blvd) before they moved to Wilford Farm.

On the left you can see Alan and Sonia with their Dad Fred very smartly dressed up for their trip to Skegness c. 1923. I love Fred’s flat cap and stripey socks! Click on the photos to enlarge.

Here’s some more photos above of the family on that special Skegness outing c. 1923.

My Facebook post link below of 12 August telling a short story about Fred and Lily Nelson (seen left).

Images Below from left to right

  1. The Thompson's Wilford Farm house now Nos 110 & 112 Wilford Lane.

  2. Entrance round the back of No 110 showing the Victorian stable block now converted to two dwellings.

  3. No 31 Trent Boulevard today.

Both Alan and Sonia went to Lady Bay School, Trent Boulevard, and then progressed to West Bridgford County Secondary School on Musters Road. The school moved to its present site in 1938 and became The West Bridgford Grammar School in 1944. After leaving school, Alan studied for a Diploma in Textiles at Nottingham College (below) and then went on to be a Textile Technician at the Khaki factory (1939 Census states). We don’t know where this Khaki factory was in Nottingham.

Alan - 4th from right - as a Textiles Diploma student at Nottingham College c.1930

Alan excelled at hockey at school and joined the West Bridgford Old Boys Hockey Club and here’s a group photo below taken c. 1937. Spot him on back row, 2nd from left.

West Bridgford Old Boys Hockey Club c. 1937

He enlisted with RAFVR (Volunteer Reserve) on 16th May 1940 at RAF Cardington, Bedfordshire. He then moved to RAF Catterick, North Yorkshire, 14th June 1940. He completed his pilot Spitfire Mark IIA training on 10th April 1941. On 21st July 1941 Alan was killed on active service, aged 26.

We always wanted to find out more about his fatal crash, as Mum had said that he lost control and went into a fatal dive during a training flight near Bognor Regis. In September and October 2020 our family obtained his service record on which was written “Killed in active service 21.7.41”. We corresponded with RAF Squadron 616 and also with Tangmere Military Aviation Museum who wrote back the following... 21 Jul. NELSON, FREDERICK ALAN . Sgt. He was killed whilst flying in Spitfire IIA, P8434 of No 616 Sqn, which was shot down by a Bf 109 (Messerschmitt) off Worthing during an escort mission. So a mystery... National Archives at Kew sent us the report: Sergeant F A Nelson: killed; aircraft accident north west of Bognor Regis, Sussex; Spitfire P8434, 616 Squadron, 21 July 1941. Date: 1941 Jan 1 - 1941 Dec 31 Held by: The National Archives, Kew.

Uncle Alan is buried at Wilford South Nottingham Cemetery grave together with his parents and our Mum Sonia Zipser. We will remember you. #Lestweforget Marysia Zipser

Three Group photographs below of Alan’s squadrons with his comments written on the back of them. Below them are old Trent Boulevard photos and more of our family.

June 1940 or 1941? D flight. Alan has written on the back “NB. Keith Hutt has been with me since I was at Cardington and Hutt & Guiton (10th from right at back) and I went up to Catterick together and came down here together. The 4th boy on the back row from the left is Dick Carrol. This fellow lived in Ennis (County Clare, Ireland) and I saw quite a bit of him while I was over there. At the moment he is in hospital with sunstroke.”

65 E India Sqdn 616 Squadron Hullavington. Alan has written on the back “Ernie Pollard (3rd row back 2nd from left; Ernie Philipps (3rd row back 3rd from left). All the best, Alan” Alan is top right

Some old photos below of Trent Boulevard courtesy of ​And below them of my great aunt Minnie Thompson at Wilford Church with her father William Thompson. My Mum & Dad c. 1941. Lady Bay School 2011.

  1. Trent Boulevard c. 1900.

  2. Trent Boulevard c. 1914.

  3. 107 Trent Boulevard, Geo. Hooley shop

  4. William Thompson at Wilford Church with his daughter, our great aunt Minnie Thompson at her marriage to Cecil Boden, date?

  5. Anyone for tennis? Mum & Dad c.1941.


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