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Branse Burbridge

Died when: 95 years 279 days
Star Sign: Aquarius

 

Branse Burbridge Wing Commander Bransome Arthur "Branse" Burbridge, (4 February 1921 – 1 November 2016) was a Royal Air Force (RAF) night fighter pilot and flying ace—a pilot credited with at least five enemy aircraft destroyed—who holds the Allied record of 21 aerial victories achieved at night during the Second World War. Burbridge was born in February 1921 into a family with strong Christian and pacifist beliefs. Upon the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe on 3 September 1939 Burbridge registered himself as a conscientious objector but changed his mind in 1940 and enlisted in the RAF. Burbridge completed his training within a year and was posted to No. 85 Squadron RAF and claimed only one probable claim against enemy aircraft with a further aircraft damaged by the end of 1942. Burbridge was then posted to an Operational Training Unit (OTU) as an instructor before spending a year as a staff officer. In July 1943 he had reached the rank of flight lieutenant. Burbridge returned to operations in late 1943 with No. 85 Squadron, now equipped with the de Havilland Mosquito. The unit performed night defence operations over the British Isles. Burbridge was assigned radar operator Bill Skelton who flew with him. Burbridge achieved success in a relatively short time period. By the end of the German air offensive Steinbock in May 1944 he had shot down five enemy aircraft making him a night fighter ace. Both men were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in May 1944. In June 1944 Operation Overlord and the Allied invasion of German-occupied Europe began reopening the Western Front. Burbridge flew a number of sorties as an intruder pilot with No. 100 Group RAF over the front. He achieved a further two aerial victories with one probable and another damaged in combat in these operations. Burbridge also destroyed three V-1 flying bombs over southern England. In September 1944 No. 85 Squadron returned to intruding over Germany and supporting RAF Bomber Command. Burbridge was awarded a bar to his DFC in October 1944 and a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) the following month. From September 1944 to January 1945, Burbridge claimed 13 enemy night fighter aircraft destroyed—including four in one night. In February 1945 both men were awarded a bar to their DSO. After the end of hostilities in May 1945, Burbridge stayed in the RAF for a further seven months before resigning his commission. After the war he studied at Oxford University and then Cambridge University before entering the Christian ministry. He remained in its service until his retirement. Burbridge resided in Chorleywood up until his death in November 2016.
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