Lieutenant James Noel Nelson

Biography of Lieutenant James Noel Nelson

James Noel Nelson was born in Glasgow on the 25th of December 1899, and was the only son of Walter and Mary Nelson. The family lived at 15 Windsor Circus, and Nelson was educated first at Glasgow Academy, then at Glasgow High School - the same school his father had studied at. Nelson was a member of the school’s OTC, and continued to drill with them even after leaving school in June 1916, with the intention of becoming a banker.

With the impact of the War intensifying, Nelson instead took up farm work in Arran, under the Ministry of National Service in the spring of 1917. He joined the University of Glasgow OTC later that year, before moving to Greenwich where he joined the Royal Naval College to train for a commission in the Royal Naval Air Service. Nelson passed his training with the highest honours, and in April 1918 was transferred to the newly formed RAF as a Flight-Lieutenant, joining the 213th Squadron on the northern lines in France.

The 213th Squadron had only been formed on the 1st of April 1918, and flew Sopwith Camels which undertook fighter patrols and escorted bombers and reconnaissance aircrafts from the Dunkirk airfields. A Belgian general referred to the squadron’s defence of the trenches as being like “angry hornets attacking the enemy aircraft”, giving the Squadron the motto “The hornet attacks when roused”.

On the 12th of June 1918, Nelson was part of a five plane patrol which was attached by an enemy formation of sixteen planes. He was wounded in the spine, but managed to safely land his plane from a height of 15,000 feet. He was taken to a Belgian Military Hospital, but succumbed to his wounds on the 14th of June.

Lieutenant James Noel Nelson is buried at Hoogstade Belgian Military Cemetery, where his headstone reads “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” – words chosen by his parents. Nelson is remembered on the University of Glasgow Roll of Honour, and by his two schools – Glasgow Academy and Glasgow High School.


Lieutenant James Noel Nelson
Rank: Lieutenant
Regiment: Royal Air Force
Degree: N/A
Awards: N/A
Comments: Died of wounds (aged 19)
Note/Press Clipping: Ch 4/4/2/3/489, 1174
Photo ID: N/A


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Glasgow High School Book of Service and Remembrance

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