A member of The Orders and Medals Research Society (UK), Simon Muggleton, is currently researching the life and career of Allan Nicol, of Whiting Bay. Simon contacted the Voice to see if readers might have any information relating to Allan and which could assist Simon with his research. Simon bought Allan’s medals in auction recently and he is keen to research his naval career. Allan who was born on the Isle of Arran, was the Chief Engineer aboard the MV Brisbane Star, who in August 1942 was part of convoy WS21S (Operation Pedestal) taking supplies to Malta. The ship was torpedoed in the bows just a day away from Malta but thanks to the Captain, Frederick Riley DSO and Chief Engineer Allan Nicol the ship got into Valletta Harbour safely with their supplies. Sadly Mr Nicol died on 17th April 1944 in Liverpool (circumstances unknown) and is buried at Kilbride Old Churchyard, Whiting Bay on the Isle of Arran, his birthplace (b 12.12. 1886).
“I am missing a photograph of Allan and wondered if anyone on the island may have one, or any other information on him (parents, school attended, first job etc..). During WW1 he was an Engineer Lt with the RNR on the minesweeper HMS Princess Margaret and was married to Lillian Mabel, living in Sheerness Kent.
“The earliest information I have on his naval career is that he was commissioned as a temporary Sub Lieutenant Engineer Officer in the Royal Naval Reserve on the 6th March 1915 and joined the minelayer. He served in this capacity, rising to the rank of Engineer Lieutenant on the HMS Princess Margaret until the end of hostilities, when he returned to live in Sheerness in Kent.
“At some stage he returned to the Merchant Navy signing on with the Blue Star Line and eventually becoming the Chief Engineer aboard the MV Brisbane Star. This ship was one of fourteen other Merchant Ships that took vitally needed food, oil, and aviation fuel to the besieged island of Malta from 11th-15th August 1942.
“These fourteen ships were protected by the largest fleet of Royal Naval vessels at that time, 3 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships,7 cruisers, 24 destroyers, 2 tankers (for refuelling) 4 corvettes, and 8 submarines. Despite this protection, only 5 merchant ships made it into Valetta Harbour with their 32,000 tons of supplies, being attacked en route by 21 submarines, 784 Axis aircraft (537 carrying bombs or torpedoes),18 Motor Torpedo Boats, 6 cruisers, and 11 destroyers of the Italian and German navies. MV Brisbane Star was hit by a torpedo in it’s bows causing a massive hole, but Captain Riley and Chief Engineer Nicol managed to get the ship into harbour safely (even whilst shadowed by a submarine and various enemy aircraft).
“The ship was in fact, finally protected by an ‘umbrella’ of Spitfires that had taken off from Malta. The Captain was decorated with the Distinguished Service Order and Mr Nicol received the Distinguished Service Cross, for their actions in saving the ship.
“His family obviously thought his remains should be returned to the Isle of Arran on his death in April 1944 (circumstances unknown).
I would welcome a photo of Mr Nicol (at any age) and any further information on his early life. As a member of The Orders and Medals Research Society I often research medals awarded to veterans of WW2, and then write a short article for our quarterly ‘Journal’.”
Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any information we can pass on to Simon.
Featured image shows the HMS Princess Margaret.