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Wg Cdr Branse Burbridge, DSO, DFC*

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Wg Cdr Branse Burbridge, DSO, DFC*

Old 10th Nov 2016, 10:11
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Wg Cdr Branse Burbridge, DSO, DFC*

Wing Commander Branse Burbridge died on November 1st, aged 95.

Wing Commander Branse Burbridge, RAF's most successful night fighter pilot ? obituary

A conscientious objector at the outbreak of WW2, he later joined the RAF and became a night-fighter pilot with No. 85 Squadron; initially on Havocs under the command of Peter Townsend. Later, on Mosquitoes, he and his navigator - Flying Officer "Bill" Skelton - scored 21 kills, exceeding the record of John Cunningham.

After his wife's death in 2012, his family found it necessary to sell his medals to fund specialist care for his advancing dementia.

Bill Skelton died in 2003.
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Old 10th Nov 2016, 13:46
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Remarkable, but could not read the full obituary as the you now need a DT subscription to read obituaries. When did that change?
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Old 10th Nov 2016, 14:15
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Sorry, Wander00, though not sure it has changed. Despite being subscribers to the Telegraph broadsheet, we seem to be rationed to about 10 articles a week on line. Have tried entering our sub code, but without success so far. Could be finger trouble, of course.

As you know, The Times only permits non-subscribers the first few lines. Flipping nuisance when people send you links...

PS: You are right! I too can only get the first three paragraphs on line. That didn't happen in the past. Apologies to one and all.
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Old 10th Nov 2016, 15:54
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Perhaps more info here on Wiki.

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Old 10th Nov 2016, 16:52
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Once more I can only admire these guys from 'another age' (my dad was WWII aircrew).

RIP sir, you've earned it - party with your long-departed mates is always a nice thought, however fanciful.
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Old 10th Nov 2016, 17:02
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An extraordinary life. RIP, Sir
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Old 10th Nov 2016, 19:19
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Very interesting to read the wiki article (thanks AA!) and try to imagine the recruitment culture and decision making process that caused the RAF to recruit as a trainee pilot a conscientious objector who had no interest in aviation. Clearly their judgement was correct as he did well.

I have always thought that in post war years that the RAF have been the most forward looking service in terms of recruiting from the broadest range of society. Good show and may it continue.
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Old 11th Nov 2016, 08:04
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Thanks for the link to the Wiki entry, airborne artist. Looks like the Telegraph may have missed a bar on his DSO. **

Wiki contains a remarkable amount of detail of his 21 "airborne victories" with Skelton, although currently missing one or two anecdotes. The Telegraph obituary states, for example, that just after the war Burbridge was able to invite one of his Luftwaffe victims, the ace Major Wilhelm Herget, to speak at the Night Fighter Leader's School. Afterwards, he gave Herget a ride in a Mosquito. He was able also to do the same for his brother, Jarvis, who had been a PoW.

Wiki mentions the death of Burbridge's father in 1940, following an accident the previous year. One wonders if this event might have influenced the son's decision to join up.

There are minor inconsistencies of Burbridge's life before and after the war. Pre-war, the family house that overlooked the Crystal Palace must have been at Penge, before the family moved to Knebworth in Hertfordshire.

Wiki does not mention that Bill Skelton also held strong Christian convictions, which must have been a factor in their long-standing partnership. Both accounts state that Burbridge, a Wesleyan, never intentionally fired at a cockpit. But the obituary confirms that Skelton had the same policy to attack the machine, not the crew. After the war, Skelton was ordained in the C of E., and Burbridge seems to have considered becoming a minister,

The obituary states that Burbridge's ministry took him abroad to many countries, often accompanied by his wife.

** [EDIT]
No, 'twas I that missed the bar on Burbridge's DSO, which I overlooked in the Telegraph obituary.
Skelton and he were awarded the same decorations.
I may have to ask the Mods to amend this thread title accordingly...

Last edited by Chris Scott; 11th Nov 2016 at 12:40.
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Old 11th Nov 2016, 08:33
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I just read the Wiki. Extraordinary achievements by the crew. I had no idea the radar technology at the time was capable of tracking V1's and vectoring aircraft for intercept?!
Amazing..
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Old 11th Nov 2016, 10:48
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Originally Posted by Brian W May View Post
Once more I can only admire these guys from 'another age' (my dad was WWII aircrew).

RIP sir, you've earned it - party with your long-departed mates is always a nice thought, however fanciful.
Quite agree,they hardly look old enough to be in the ATC.Amazing men.
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Old 11th Nov 2016, 12:09
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John Cunningham, Bob Braham et al rightly deserve all the plaudits they received, but Branse Burbridge (like many others) doesn't seem to have received due public recognition, not that he probably would have wanted it. I first read of him in "Night Fighter" by Jimmy Rawnsley and Robert Wright and often wanted to know more about him. I believe a book was written about him, but I've never had a chance to read it. We owe them so much and especially at this time of year, it's time to remember them.
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Old 11th Nov 2016, 14:01
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As an aside. Jimmy Rawnsley's brother taught me Physics
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Old 11th Nov 2016, 15:17
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Yes - there is a book about him
"Wings and a Prayer" by Gillian Warson
Mike
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Old 11th Nov 2016, 15:46
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Wander00 - So would that have been Sp***o at HCS?
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Old 11th Nov 2016, 19:07
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Mandy - how right you are. Rumour had it that he too had been a wg cdr in the war, but I don't know what branch


PS - I was there 55-62, my Dad in the 20s
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Old 12th Nov 2016, 11:58
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W00 - More about him at Harrow County School for Boys - Mr. Lee Rawnsley, Science Master 1954-60. and this suggests he retired with the rank of Group Captain.

PS - My sentence at HCS was 53-60 and my father-in-law was also there in the 20s
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Old 14th Nov 2016, 13:56
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Thanks for the heads-up, Mike6567. The available on-line reader reviews of the book, Wings and a Prayer, range from "excellent!!" to "extremely disappointing..."

The latter comment is attributed to the RAF, and I'm wondering if the plaudits may be from those more interested in his religious journey than his flying and combat accomplishments. Without reading the book, it appears that the author may have been more concerned with the former and had comparatively little interest or expertise in the latter.

The two aspects of his character must have complimented one another or he would not have excelled in both, or even survived the war. In airline operations the overt combination can be problematic. I wonder if military combat, however, is another matter? One key difference is that, at his most successful, Burbridge was always paired with the same, like-minded buddy.

His biography might merit a collaboration between two authors from the different fields.
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Old 15th Nov 2016, 17:34
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Auster Fan,
I agree about John Cunningham, but not Bob Braham, arguably the most decorated fighter pilot of WW2, he remains mainly unknown to the UK general public. If I did not have strong connections with 29(F) Sqn, I would never have heard of him. His medals and log books lie in a drawer in the RAF Museum, mainly unseen. Full credit to all these night fighter pioneers, pilots and navs alike.
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Old 15th Nov 2016, 21:17
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Fairly comprehensive Wikipedia entry for Bob Braham https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Braham_(RAF_officer)
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Old 15th Nov 2016, 22:09
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What an amazing account of the Burbridge and Kendall team in Wiki. It seems that while based at Colerne with 85Sqn/100 Gp, during the summer of 1944, they destroyed 3 V1s by night. Perhaps it is because of the daylight film of them being chased and destroyed by Tempests etc, I hadn't realised that they were successfully intercepted by night. Surprisingly it seems that these three kills do not constitute part of the final tally of 21 aircraft destroyed, despite the great danger that downing them posed. Given his strong beliefs these three victories were the ones that he was most comfortable with I guess.
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