Air Ministry, 15 November 1940.
The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery : —
Flight Lieutenant James Brindley NICOLSON (39329) — No. 249 Squadron.
During an engagement with the enemy near Southampton on 16th August 1940, Flight Lieutenant Nicolson’s aircraft was hit by four cannon shells, two of which wounded him whilst another set fire to the gravity tank. When about to abandon his aircraft owing to flames in the cockpit he sighted an enemy fighter. This he attacked and shot down, although as a result of staying in his burning aircraft he sustained serious burns to his hands, face, neck and legs. Flight Lieutenant Nicolson has always displayed great enthusiasm for air fighting and this incident shows that he possesses courage and determination of a high order. By continuing to engage the enemy after he had been wounded and his aircraft set on fire, he displayed exceptional gallantry and disregard for the safety of his own life
‘For Valour’ is to date, Gregory Percival’s greatest work, and the Sculptors Flagship piece.
This well celebrated Associate of the guild of aviation artists has created ‘For Valour’ in tribute of Wing Commander Eric James Brindley Nicolson; Fighter commands only recipient of the Victoria Cross during World War II.
Nicolson was 23 years old and a flight lieutenant in No. 249 Squadron during the Second World War when he was awarded the Victoria Cross. On 16 August 1940 having departed RAF Boscombe Down near Southampton, Nicolson’s Hawker Hurricane was fired on by a Messerschmitt Bf 110, injuring the pilot in one eye and one foot. His engine was also damaged and the petrol tank set alight. As he struggled to leave the blazing machine he saw another Messerschmitt, and managing to get back into the bucket seat, pressed the firing button and continued firing until the enemy plane dived away to destruction. Not until then did he bail out, and he was able to open his parachute in time to land safely in a field. On his descent, he was fired on by members of the Home Guard, who ignored his cry of being an RAF pilot.
Nicolson survived the action, but was later killed on duty whilst serving in India in May 1945.
The sculpture is a 4 piece bronze casting which stands approx 80cm tall including the base. The section of the Hawker Hurricane is approx 60 cm long with the 30 cm figure of Flt lt Nicolson bailing out of his aircraft. The stone base is in four sections of stone bonded together with the bottom section being 40 cm square, a 15mm diameter rod sits into a stainless steel shaft which is attached to this base.
In researching the piece, Greg was granted privileged access to the aeroplanes, authentic issue pilots clothing, and the logs and licenses of Wing Commander Nicolson. To ensure Nicolson’s figure is as true to reality as possible, Greg himself attempted to recreate the body positions of a pilot ‘bailing out’ of a static display hurricane, then allowing for 200+ winds to fight against. This attention to detail and research is what has contributed to the drama of the piece being perfectly captured.
An Edition of 4 artist proofs with a regular edition limited to 25.
This edition Artist Proof AP002/004 produced in November 2019, with a brief first showing of the first artists proof to great acclaim at the Bonhams Goodwood Revival Sale September 2019
Cast in bronze and mounted on Welsh slate
Each edition is signed and numbered by the artist and comes with a certificate of issue
A special mention to Harrity Construction whose generosity paid for the very first bronze castings of this new work
‘I first encountered Gregs work whilst filming at the Boultbee Flight Academy, in Chichester back in 2015 for Channel 4. I remember the reception area was jammed full of really amazing aviation artefacts; spitfire yokes, reflector gun sights, models etc… there was one item that particually stood out amongst the rest though…
On the coffee table, in the centre of the room, surrounded by thick, heavy leather settees was this beautiful Bronze sculpture. Unlike anything id seen before, I instantly fell in love with it, it was an early edition of Gregs Albert Ball piece; ‘Knights Of The Sky’. What struck me was the energy of the sculpture, Greg had managed to capture the speed, and adrenaline of the aeroplanes action in its form. It focussed on the cockpit section and was contained in this perfectly proportioned bronze. I could picture it in my home, and for many years there after wished it was!
I had no idea back then that I would be starting the collection, but when I first conceived the idea, I knew that Greg’s work, and sculptures just had to feature. I had no idea how I was going to convince this extremely talented artist to agree, but I had to have his work!’
Arthur Williams 2019 is a BAFTA-winning British television presenter, professional paralympic cyclist and former Royal Marine.