Nigel Arthur Gidney was born in 1919 at Headington, Oxfordshire, the son of a Schoolmaster. After leaving school at the age of 17 years, Nigel joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1936 and served throughout this period as a Flight Cadet.
Nigel joined the RAF as a Flight Cadet and, having successfully passed through RAF Cranwell was, on 23 August 1938, granted a short service commission for five years (1938-1943) as an Acting Pilot Officer on the active list. In 1938 he was stationed at Great Rissington, thirty miles from Gloucester. On 27 June 1939 after a successful probationary period, he was confirmed as a Pilot Officer (41014). He was promoted to Flying Officer on 3 September 1940 and to Flight Lieutenant in June 1942. Nigel joined No.223 Squadron, Royal Air Force, flying Martin Baltimore twin-engined bombers. 223 Squadron had moved to Egypt in April 1941 and was deployed initially on long-range reconnaissance duties before returning to its intended operational role as a light bomber with the first operation launched on 23 May 1942. Besides his campaign medals of the 1939-45 Star, the Africa Star, the Defence Medal and the War Medal 1939-45, Nigel was also twice Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) by Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief on 24 September 1941 and 11 June 1942.
Nigel was killed in action on 27 June 1942 aged 23 years, after only one month of active operations. Following the fall of Tobruk in North Africa, the RAF mounted operations targeting the advancing Afrika Korps. On 27 June six Baltimore II aircraft of 223 Squadron took off on a mission and were attacked by six Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Nigel’s Baltimore II serial number AG771, along with one of the other aircraft, was shot down. All of the four crew of AG771 were killed – Flight Lieutenant Nigel Gidney (Pilot), Pilot Officer Roy Swan (Navigator/Bombardier) Flight Sergeant Robert Goddard (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner) and Sergeant Ivan Lucas (top turret Gunner). Nigel was buried at El Alamein War Cemetery, Grave XXXI.A.15; with the rest of the crew are buried in the same cemetery. He is commemorated amongst the eight names on the Garsington War Memorial, Oxfordshire. He was acknowledged in the Gloucester Football Club Committee minutes, dated 26 June 1946 and on the Kingsholm Stadium War Memorial unveiled in 2013.
Rugby and Other Highlights
Nigel, a centre, began his playing career for a local club, possibly the Oxford Harlequins followed by the RAF once he had enlisted as a Flight Cadet. Whilst stationed at Great Rissington, he played 5 games for the Gloucester First XV in the 1938-39 season as well as two games for the Gloucester Second XV. Nigel showed “…considerable promise…” but his appearances were limited due to his RAF commitments and an ankle injury which he picked up in his first game for the Second XV.
[With thanks to Chris Collier for providing the statistics on Nigel Gidney’s playing career for Gloucester.]