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Ernest Leslie Joyce

Portrait from The Weekly News; 30 August 1944 - This image may be subject to copyright

Portrait from The Weekly News; 30 August 1944 - This image may be subject to copyright


  • Title
  • Forenames
    Ernest Leslie AWMM
  • Surname
    Joyce AWMM
  • Ingoa
  • Also known as
    Nipper AWMM
  • Service number
    • NZ40770 AWMM
    • WWII 40770 AWMM
  • Gender
    Male AWMM
  • Iwi / Hapū / Waka / Rohe
  • Religion

Civilian life

About birth

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  • Birth
    17 February 1920 AWMM HamiltonWaikato AWMM
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Birth notes
  • Address before enlistment
  • Post war occupation
  • Next of kin on embarkation
    • WW2 Mother: Mrs. C. W.. Joyce. 15 Victoria St, Hamilton AWMM
    • WW2 Mrs. C. W. Joyce of Hamilton AWMM
  • Relationship status


Wars and conflicts

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Training and Enlistment

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  • Military training
  • Branch Trade Proficiency
    Pilot/Military RNZAF Biographies (R17845612)
  • Enlistment
    WW2 11 March 1940 AWMM Salesman/Civilian AWMM
  • Occupation before enlistment
  • Age on enlistment


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Prisoner of war

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  • Capture details
  • Days interned
  • Liberation date
  • Liberation Repatriation
  • POW liberation details
  • POW serial number

Medical history

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  • Medical notes
    Killed in Action, Cause of Death AWMM
    Killed on air operations AWMM

Biographical information

Biographical information

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    • Ernest Joyce was the son of Ernest Joseph and Cora Winifred Joyce, of Hamilton.

      Attended Hamilton Technical College (Source: RNZAF Biographies (R17845612)) AWMM
    • Squadron Leader Ernest Leslie Joyce (known from an early age as ‘Nipper’) entered the RNZAF as a young man in 1940 of 20 years and was to spend the following four years developing into a much more mature 24 year old leader of men.
      He trained in NZ and the UK in 1940/41. He joined 3 Squadron RAF in 1941 with another well known NZ fighter pilot, Desmond Scott. They were stationed in Scotland initially and later move to be based on Southeast England. ‘Nipper’ cheated death twice in one day, taken through barrage balloons by his CO one of the squadron being killed and then just getting out of his Hurricane fighter after landing in time as a German strafing attack was made on the airfield. On another occasion with 3 Squadron whilst undertaking mock fighter attacks and RAF pilot, Sgt Brennan of 3 Squadron, clipped Nipper’s aircraft. Brennan spun down out of control and was killed. Nipper, with great effort, managed to land his damaged Hurricane.
      From 3 Squadron Nipper boarded the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and sailed to Gibraltar. He then transferred to the carrier Illustrious and a few days later flew a Hurricane off the flightdeck of the Illustrious and flew to Malta. In this same operation nine men were killed when another Hurricane crashed on takeoff. From Malta Nipper flew a Hurricane from Malta to Egypt.
      Nipper was assigned to 73 Squadron RAF, equipped with Hurricane 1s which were soon swapped for 20mm canon equipped Hurricane IICs. Nipper did not want to leave the UK and loathed being in the Western Desert. The conditions were very harsh with poor food, poor water, sickness and sand in everything. Add to this heat, flies, second rate equipment and lack of recognition for those serving in this theatre of war and Nipper really did ‘do it tough’. He was also acutely aware that most of his RNZAF friends and fellow trainees had already been killed by the end of 1942, most of whose names he listed in his letters home and flying log book.
      His time with 73 Squadron was a very productive one in 1942 in particular. His first victory was a Junkers 88 bomber at night in late May 1942. In hectic and very intense fighting he went on to destroy nine enemy aircraft in the desert, these being five Junkers 88 bombers all at night, two Messerschmitt Bf 109s and two Italian CR 42 fighters. By the end of 1942 he had also probably destroyed three other Bf 109s and had damaged eight other aircraft.
      Nipper was awarded the Dustinguished Flying Medal in August 1942 and was commissioned as an officer. By the end of 1942 he was a Flight Lieutenant and was undertaking flying training having completed over 200 operations. At this time he was also recommended for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross but a mix-up in the recommendation process did not lead to the award being made.
      He came back to 73 Squadron in mid 1943 as their Commanding Officer, 73 Squadron having converted to Spitfire Vc fighters. He led the squadron in Sicily and relinquished command in late 1943.
      He returned to England, a move he was very happy to make. He was trained on North American Mustangs and was posted to take command of 122 Squadron RAF flying Mustangs. This was part of 122 Wing led by his old 73 Squadron CO and good friend South African Robin Johnson. Nipper shopt down one more German aircraft, a Heinkel He111 bomber. This brought his tally to ten, five at night and five during daylight.
      On 18 June 1944 Nipper led 122 Squadron over France to undertake strafing attacks. Whilst attacking a train Nipper was ‘bounced’ by a Bf 109 flown by a German fighter ‘Ace’ and shot down. His burning Mustang crashed near the French village of Marville les Bois. His body was retrieved by local French under the direction of the parish priest, from under the noses of the Germans. It appeared the German canon fire had entered the cockpit and Nipper had been killed. He was buried with great ceremony and honour, thousands of local French attending, in the cemetery at Marville les Bois.
      Li Public - John - Researcher - 23 December 2016 - Nipper's letters, telegrams, photos, log book and personal file
Read more


About death

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  • Death
    17 June 1944 AWMM
    Age 24 AWMM
    FranceEurope AWMM
  • Date of death
    • 17 June 1944 Public - John - Researcher - 27 March 2017 - I have verified this date with Commonwealth War Graves Commission using numerous records I hold, 122 Squadron Operations Record Book entries and Joyce's Defence personnel file. They have accepted this evidence and changed his date of death to the correct date of 17 June 1944. He died around 5pm local time as stated in an eye witness account and a letter from the local priest.
    • The date on Cenotaph of 18 June 1944 should be removed. The CWGC date is now 17 June 1944. Public - John - Researcher - 22 April 2018 - See my references in my previous contribution.
  • Age at death
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Death notes
  • Cemetery
    Marville-Les-Bois Communal Cemetery, Eure-et-Loir, France AWMM
  • Cemetery name
  • Grave reference
  • Obituary
  • Memorial name
  • Memorial reference



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  • Memorial name
    • Hamilton Memorial Park, Memorial Drive, Hamilton East 3216 AWMM
    • Auckland War Memorial Museum, World War 2 Hall of Memories AWMM

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  • External links
  • References
    • The Weekly News AWMM
      The Weekly News 1944 AWMM
    • Martyn, E. (1998-2008). For Your Tomorrow (Vols. 1-3). Christchurch, N.Z.: Volplane Press. AWMM
    • Information kindly provided by family AWMM
    • RNZAF [Royal New Zealand Air Force] Biographies of Deceased Personnel 1939 - 1945 (Bound Volumes) - Ib - Ly. Archives New Zealand (R17845612) - Former archives reference: AIR118 AWMM
    • Please note that the 12 volumes of the "RNZAF [Royal New Zealand Air Force] Biographies of Deceased Personnel 1939-1945" held at Archives NZ (formerly known as AIR118) should be used in conjunction with Errol Martyn's "For Your Tomorrow". FYT reflects detailed examination of all of the AIR118 bios which contain many inaccuracies and omissions. AWMM
    • List of RNZAF [Royal New Zealand Air Force] Personnel - List of Personnel Killed or Missing in Various Theatres, 1940 - 1945. [List of Killed - Officers (Canada, Pacific, Europe) - Airmen (Canada, India and Far East)]. Archives New Zealand (R17845748) AWMM
    • RNZAF [Royal New Zealand Air Force] - Historical Items - List of New Zealand Fighter aces with their Scores (Unofficial) December 1944. Archives New Zealand, Wellington (R17845799). AWMM


Command item
Command item
Add new record Refresh
DateFirst namesLocationRelationshipContact
21 May 2020Ian BanksTaumarunui New ZealandResearcher
30 May 2019Leslie DonaldTauranga New ZealandDirect descendant
22 April 2018JohnChristchurchResearcher
24 August 2017JeniferWairarapaResearcher
27 March 2017JohnChristchurchResearcher

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