Jeff Nicklin

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Nicklin while serving with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion

Lieutenant-Colonel Jevon Albert "Jeff" Nicklin OBE (c. 1915 – March 24, 1945) was a Canadian soldier and football player. He was one of the first Canadians to jump on D-Day and to jump into German territory. Nicklin was killed during the latter action.

Football career[edit]

The native of Winnipeg was born in about 1915, the son of Percy Harold Nicklin and Eva Louise Nicklin.[1][2] He played Canadian football as a back with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1934 to 1940.[3] In 1935, Winnipeg became the first Western team to capture the Grey Cup. While Nicklin was there, the club advanced to the Grey Cup twice more in 1937 and 1938, before losing in the finals.[4] In 1939, Winnipeg returned to capture the 27th Grey Cup by defeating the Ottawa Rough Riders.[5] Nicklin received Western all-star honours as an end in 1937 and 1938, and as flying wing in 1939.[4]

He also played in the Tea Bowl for the Canadian Army football team against American Army team at White City Stadium on February 13, 1944 in London, England (the Canadians won 16-6, and Nicklin scored the final touchdown).[6]

Military service[edit]

Nicklin served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War, and worked his way up through the ranks from private.[5] In 1942, he deployed to Europe with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles.[5]

Nicklin received parachute training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and then returned to Canada to establish the country's first parachute unit at Camp Shilo, Manitoba. He took command of 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion just before November 1, 1944 and was promoted to lieutenant-colonel on November 10, 1944.[5][5] Nicklin was one of the first Canadians to jump on D-Day and later one of the first to jump into Germany.[1][5]

On D-Day, he landed in the midst of a German position at Varaville. His parachute was ensnared on a rooftop, and he received fire from German soldiers before he cut himself free and took cover.[5] He eventually rejoined his unit, and was later wounded by shrapnel.[5][7]

He was killed in action on March 24, 1945[5] During an airborne assault across the Rhine northwest of Wesel as part of Operation Varsity, Nicklin's parachute became tangled in a tall tree, and as he attempted to free himself, he was shot and killed by German soldiers.[1] He is now buried in Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. He left a widow, Mary Eileen Nicklin, in Port Credit, Ontario.[2] On July 12, 1945 it was announced that he had been appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire, "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in North-West Europe (to be dated the 30th June, 1945)".[8] The original recommendation for the honour describes how he was able to "rectify certain aspects of the B[attalio]n's life which were not satisfactory" and credited him with "the smooth working and unparalleled success which has met the inclusion of a Canadian B[attalio]n in a British Brigade", the recommendation concludes, "throughout the present campaign his example of courageous leadership has been an example to all who have come into contact with him."[7]

Legacy[edit]

The Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy for the Canadian Football League West Division's most valuable player is named in his honour.[9] Nicklin was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.[4] Sportswriter Vince Leah placed Nicklin atop his list of all-time greatest Winnipeg players in A History of the Blue Bombers.[4]

A documentary film about Nicklin, Jeff Nicklin: Hero of the Gridiron and the Battlefield, has been produced by the War Amps of Canada.

References[edit]