HORATIO HARLE BRIGHT (1898 - 1917)

In March 2009, the following information was posted onto the excellent Sheffield History Forum

It appears that Horatio's son died in 1917 whilst serving with the Royal Flying Corps in France. He has no known grave

Name: BRIGHT, HORATIO HARLE
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Airman 2nd Class
Regiment/Service: Royal Flying Corps
Unit Text: 60th Sqdn.

Date of Death: 23/09/1917
Service No: 89279
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Memorial: ARRAS FLYING SERVICES MEMORIAL

There is a discrepancy between the date given on the card and the date of death held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The ARRAS FLYING SERVICES MEMORIAL commemorates nearly 1,000 airmen of the Royal Naval Air Service, the Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Air Force, either by attachment from other arms of the forces of the Commonwealth or by original enlistment, who were killed on the whole Western Front and who have no known grave. The British Air Services originated in the use of balloons for purposes of reconnaissance. The balloon gave way to power-driven air machines and in 1911 an Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers was formed. In 1912 the Air Battalion was superseded by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) which was organised into two branches; one military (army) and one naval. However, divergent priorities prompted the Royal Navy to form its own air arm, the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) which was officially recognised in July 1914. Towards the end of the First World War, on 1 April 1918 both the RFC and the RNAS were merged to form the Royal Air Force.

In March 2012 a descendent of the Bright family brought to my attention an article which appeared on the excellent Sheffield Soldiers of the First World War Site
 

Horatio Harle Bright Born 26/8/1898 Sheffield Royal Aero Club Card *AIR MECHANIC SECOND CLASS H. H. BRIGHT* 0n the Air Services Memorial at Arras there are about 1,000 names of FRC, RNAS and RAF personnel with no known grave. On the side facing you as you approach the memorial are recorded members of the RFC, with Lanoe Hawker VC as the top name and then descending in rank order. The right face of the monument records the balance of the RFC casualties. The back face has the names of the RAF casualties with the top name being Major R R Barker and the next Major Mick Mannock VC. The left face has the balance RAF missing, plus those of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. On the right hand side of the monument almost at the bottom is the name of Air Mechanic Second Class H. H. Bright who was the only air mechanic killed as a pilot in the British flying service and his story is a sad one.

Horatio Harle Bright was born in Sheffield on 26 August 1898. He attended Sherborne Preparatory School and Marlborough and was still at school in October 1914. Volunteering for the RFC, he was instructed to join at Brooklands on 1st July 1915. He was posted to Netheravon on 11th August 1915 but the War Office did not realise he was only sixteen years of age! Correspondence passed between the Deputy Director of Military Aeronautics, Bright's father and the Royal Aero Club. His father wrote to the military, stating he would not attribute any blame upon the government if his son was injured, as long as he could continue flying. The Royal Aeronautical Club was prepared to issue Bright's 'ticket' if the War Office accepted him. In the event, the powers that be declined, and Bright's Royal Aero Club certificate, No. 1648, was issued on his 17th birthday, 26th August 1915. He graduated from CFC on 19th October and arrived in France on 29th October with a posting to 6 Squadron RFC.

After six months with them he joined 1 Squadron but was only there for two weeks, before transferring to 29th Squadron. Hopitalised in July and September, he left this unit on 6th September 1916 for a medical board. After a bout of influenza, he joined the Aeronautical Inspection Department at Filton, near Bristol, as a test pilot, on Boxing Day 1916. Unfortunately for reasons unknown, Bright's behaviour became erratic. There were complaints of extremely dangerous flying, such that he was, after several warnings, forbidden to fly by the officer commanding Filton. He was also forbidden to use the officers mess on account of passing worthless cheques and was taking women into Filton and giving them unofficial flights. In addition, he was absent on a number of occasions.

On 29th May 1917 he was arrested and three days later tried by General Court Martial. There were two charge sheets, involving a total of eight charges. Four of these involved having in his possession photographs of various parts of Filton and Bristol, then showing them to unauthorised individuals in such a way that it was calculated to /be useful to the enemy. /Of the eight charges he was convicted of six of them, he was sentenced to cashiered and imprisoned for twelve months without hard labour. On the recommendation of General Officer Commanding, Southern Command, the imprisonment was remitted due to Bright's young age and war service and the fact that there was no traitorous intent. As far as the photography charges, he was deemed to have behaved with "extraordinary folly." On 23rd August 1917 the Director of Recruiting, 16th Recruiting Area, at Bedford, attempted to contact Bright but he had already enlisted in the RFC and on 6th September 1917 proceeded to France. Joining 60 Squadron at Ste Marie-Cappel he carried out his first practise flight on 22nd September 1917.

Later that day (22nd September 1917) he flew on Offensive Patrol, from which he had to return temporarily, due to Vickers machine gun trouble. In the evening he delivered a new machine from No. 1 Aircraft Depot. St. Omer to the squadron. At 09.00 hours the next day, he left on a five man patrol, led by the great New Zealand ace Captain Grid Caldwell, from which he failed to return. Nobody saw what happened to him and there does not seem to be a relevant claim from the German side.

Extract from *Airfields and Airmen (Arras) by Mike O'Connor

Clearly part of the article is incorrect - his father Horatio had died ten years earlier, and so the correspondence regarding his enlistment would have been with his legal guardian. Nevertheless it was a sad and tragic end to a brave young man and I'm sure that his father would have been inordinately proud of him

Sources

Sheffield History Forum

Sheffield Soldiers of the First World War Site

CWGC

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This page was last updated on 12/03/12 11:03