He attended the St Cuthbert's Grammar School on Gretna Road in Newcastle upon Tyne. He joined the RAF in February 1981 as an electronics technician; having signed up in 1980 and needing sufficient O level. In the intervening period between school and the RAF, he worked in a large DIY store, although his employers were not aware of his military plans until they sought to promote him to management and he decided to tell them.
He was commissioned as a navigator in December 1986.
On his first mission during Operation Desert Storm on 17 January 1991 which started at Muharraq Airfield, an ultra-low level daylight mission on Ar Rumaylah airfield, while acting as number two to Squadron Leader Paul "Pablo" Mason with RAF Laarbruch-based XV Squadron, his Panavia Tornado ZD791 was fatally hit by a shoulder-launched SAM SA-14, and he and John Peters were captured by the military of Iraq. 121 Sqn. ATC - News - Pablo Mason After capture he was shown, bruised, on Iraqi television. He was tortured in the Abu Ghraib prison. John Nichol was released by the Iraqis at the end of the Gulf War.He remained in the RAF until March 1996
On repatriation by the Red Cross, Nichol co-authored a book, Tornado Down, with his pilot John Peters, about this experience.
He has gone on to write fiction. He now makes occasional appearances on British television. John also makes occasional appearances on the radio as a stand in presenter on talkSport and is available as a motivational speaker. Flight Lieutenant John Nichol | speakers | Celebrity speakers | Speakers UK
Since 'Tornado Down', Nichol has written over ten books including five novels 'Point of Impact', 'Vanishing Point', 'Exclusion Zone', 'Stinger' and 'Decisive Measures'. His latest books provide extensive eyewitness accounts of World War II history and include 'The Last Escape' which tells the harrowing story of Allied POWs in the closing stages of the war, 'Tail-End Charlies' which gives an insight into the final battles of the Allied bomber campaign in WWII and 'Home Run' which recounts the experiences of escaped Allied POWs evading capture in Europe behind enemy lines.