|Major Cuthbert Everard BRISLEY
13th Training Depot Station Royal Air Force
Date of birth: 5th July 1886
Date of death: 30th July 1918
Killed on active service aged 32
Buried at Market Drayton Cemetery Row E Grave 37
|Cuthbert Everard Brisley was born at Darba, Natal in South Africa on the 5th of July 1886 the second son of George Charles Brisley JP and Ella Maria (nee Gahagan later Holmes-Davis) Brisley of "The Pines", Umzimkulu, Griqualand East, Cape Colony, later of 18 Quian Mansions, West Kensington.
He was educated at Lancing College where he was in Heads House from September 1899 to July 1905. He was a member of the Cricket XI from 1902 to 1905 being Captain in 1904/05. He was awarded his Cricket colours in 1902 following the MCC match.
The Lancing College Magazine wrote the following of his 1902 season:-
"Plays with a very straight bat, and has more than once saved his side from defeat. Can hit hard. Played a good innings against the MCC. Has fielded brilliantly, at cover, throughout the season. Throws in well."
He was a member of the Football XI from 1902 to 1905 and was Captain from 1903 to 1905. He was a Colour Sergeant in the Officer Training Corps and was Victor Ludorum in 1904. He was appointed as a House Captain in September 1902, a Prefect in 1903 and was Captain of School in 1904.
On the 1st of October 1905, he entered Gonville and Caius College Cambridge where he achieved a BA in 1910. While he was there he played for the University Football team in 1907 and 1908, playing against Oxford in 1908/09. He was President of the Cambridge University Association Football Club in 1908.
During this period he also represented Corinthian Casuals, playing in their tours of South Africa in 1907, Paris in 1908 and in 1909 he toured Prague and Switzerland. He toured with them to Brazil in 1910 and to the United States and Canada between the 5th of August and the 19th of September 1911 where they recorded 19 wins, one loss and one match drawn. Cuthbert Brisley was regarded as central to the success of the side, scoring a remarkable four goals in the last match of the 1911 tour and was being rested in the only game the Casuals lost. He also played football for England on several occasions in the Amateur Football Association against France, Wales and Belgium. He played rugby for Harlequins Rugby Football Club. He was a Freemason and was accepted as a member of the Isaac Newton University Lodge at Cambridge in 1908 and as a member of the Caius Lodge on the 24th of February 1910.
He sat his law exams in 1910 and 1911 while living with his mother. In 1912 he was called to the bar at the Inner Temple and won the Bar Golfing Society tournament in 1914.
On the outbreak of war he was in Argentina and returned to the UK on board the SS "Aragon" landing at London on the 30th of August 1914. He then enlisted as Private 2082 in the 28th (County of London) Battalion (Artists Rifles) and was recorded as being 5 feet 9 inches tall with a fair complexion, black hair and brown eyes.
He was commissioned as a probationary Flight Sub Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Air Service on the 16th of November 1914 and was confirmed in that rank on the 14th of July 1915 with seniority from the earlier date. He received his Aero Certificate (number 1147) at the Royal Naval Air Station at Hendon on the 4th of April 1915 flying a Bristol Biplane.
On completing his training he was posted to No 4 Naval Squadron on the 10th of July 1915 and to No 2 Squadron on the 16th of August 1915 arriving for service with them in the Dardanelles on the 31st of August.
He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on the 1st of January 1916 while stationed in the UK at Eastbourne.
On the 17th of April 1916 he was at Mudros and sailed to Malta and then on to England. On the 24th of November 1916 he arrived for service in Romania but received a telegram on the 7th of December instructing him to return to England for a new posting. On his return he was stationed at the Central Flying School and was promoted to Flight Commander on the 31st of December 1916.
Shortly afterwards he was sent to Russia and was in Petrograd on the 8th of January 1917. On the 11th of January he moved on to Archangel until the 27th of January when he embarked for England arriving home on the 6th of February when he was sent on leave. He was posted to Cranwell from the 26th of February 1917 and to "B" Naval Squadron at Manston on the 15th of October 1917.
He was promoted to Squadron Commander on the 1st of January 1918.
On the 1st of April 1918 he transferred to the Royal Air Force when the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps merged and on the 24th of April 1918 he was posted to No. 13 Training Depot Station based at Tern Hill near Market Drayton, as their Commanding Officer.
On the 13th of July 1918 he took off on a training flight in Avro 504K D6361 with a mechanic, Private Fred Lythgoe as a passenger. While flying at a height of 6,000 feet he performed a loop and fell from the aircraft. Lythgoe was not experienced enough to keep control of the aircraft and he too was killed when it crashed at 11.50am near Spoonley. Cuthbert Brisley's body was found some distance away from the crash site.
The following was reported in the Wellington Journal:-
"Shortly before midday on Tuesday an aeroplane flying at a great height was observed to attempt to climb as if to loop the loop. The machine however appeared to slip sideways, then turn upside down and something was seen to fall from the machine. The aeroplane turned over once again and then descended to the earth at a tremendous speed with the engine full on and crashed into a field. A number of people working near rushed to the spot and found the machine a complete wreck with the body of an RAF mechanic lying nearby. In a field on the opposite side of the road and several hundred yards from the scene, the remains of an RAF Officer were discovered – At the inquest evidence was given to the effect that the pilot Major C.E. Brisley (32), the officer commanding a West Midland aerodrome and a pilot of considerable experience. The other occupant of the machine was stated to be 2nd class Private Fred Lythgoe (18), whose home was at Atherton, Manchester – Lieut H.J. Murphy stated that he saw Maj Brisley and passenger go up in a new machine. It had been tested the previous evening and was in a perfect condition. Major Brisley and Lythgoe were both strapped in the machine when they went up, but in witnesses opinion Maj Brisley's belt was not tight enough. After the accident witness searched the debris and found Major Brisley’s belt still fastened, and his opinion was that Maj Brisley had slipped through the belt. Several witnesses described how they saw the pilot fall from the aeroplane when it turned over. A verdict of “accidental death” was returned.
The funeral of Major Brisley took place in a Midland Cemetery on Thursday when many hundreds were present. A Company of Infantry with arms reversed accompanied the cortege, which was composed of RAF officers and men many hundred strong. A firing party fired three volleys over the grave and the “Last Post” was sounded by five buglers. Whilst the cortege was proceeding to the cemetery and during the funeral ceremony several aeroplanes hovered overhead."
He was married to Marjorie Beryl Dawson (nee Atherley) on the 5th of February 1917 in the Hanover Square area of London; they had no children.
He is commemorated on the war memorial at Harlequins Rugby Football Club.