Clive Franklyn Collett

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Clive Franklyn Collett
Born (1886-08-28)28 August 1886
Spring Creek, New Zealand
Died 23 December 1917(1917-12-23) (aged 31)
Firth of Forth, Scotland
Buried Grave no. K903, Comely Bank Cemetery, Edinburgh, Scotland
Allegiance  New Zealand
Service/branch  Royal New Zealand Air Force
Years of service 1914—1917
Rank Captain
Unit No. 11 Squadron RFC, No. 8 Squadron RFC, No. 32 Squadron RFC, No. 18 Squadron RFC, No. 70 Squadron RFC, No. 73 Squadron RFC
Awards Military Cross with Bar

Captain Clive Franklyn Collett was a World War I flying ace from New Zealand credited with 11 aerial victories. He was the first British or Commonwealth military pilot to use a parachute, in a test.

Early life[edit]

Collett was born in Blenheim, New Zealand on 28 August 1886. His father, Horace Edwin Collett, lived at Lambeth, London, England. His mother, Alice Marguerite Radford, the senior Collett's wife, resided in Tauranga.[1] After completing his education at Queen's College in Tauranga, Clive Collett chose a career in engineering.[2]

World War I[edit]

Collett was in Britain when World War I broke out. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1914. He earned his Royal Aero Club Pilot's Certificate number 1057[3] at a private flying school on 29 January 1915.[4] He was transferred to Brooklands on 17 February.[1] Two months later, he was commissioned.[4] On 25 May, he joined 11 Squadron. On 6 July, he was hospitalized for an injury suffered in an aircraft mishap at Hendon. On 30 July, he was posted to 8 Squadron at Netheravon, Wiltshire.[1]

Collett pulled an on-base transfer to join 32 Squadron on 1 March 1916; however, he was then posted to 18 Squadron on 9 March 1916 as a Vickers FB.5 pilot. After a month's service, he was admitted to hospital on 18 April with a broken nose, and returned to Home Establishment in England via the merchant ship Delta.[1][4]

On 13 June 1916, he was posted to the Experimental Station at Orfordness, Suffolk as a test pilot. His duties there included undertaking the British military's first parachute jump from an aeroplane, a Royal Aircraft Factory BE.2c, during January 1917.[4][5][6]

On 24 July 1917, he joined 70 Squadron, which had just upgraded to Sopwith Camels. As a Captain, he was a Flight Commander.[2] Three days later, he destroyed a German Albatros D.V over Ypres for his first victory. He would win six more victories in August.[4] Collett was accounted an aggressive pilot by fellow ace than James McCudden, who noted that Collett "...used to come back shot to ribbons nearly every time he went out."[5] Collett himself noted in his combat reports an incident when he continued to fire on a crashed German plane.[2]

On 5 September 1917, Collett destroyed another Albatros D.V over Roulers. Four days later, he scored a victory in each of three separate dogfights spread over three-quarters of an hour.[4] He was also wounded in the hand,[2] most probably by Ludwig Hanstein of Jasta 35. Collett was removed from combat.[4]

While recuperating, he was awarded the Military Cross on 26 September 1917.[7] A Bar in lieu of a second award followed shortly thereafter, on 18 October 1917.[8]

When recovered, Collett was assigned to 73 Squadron as they prepared their Camels for combat. On 23 December 1917, Collett was test-flying a captured German Albatros over the Firth of Forth, which inexplicably dived into the sea. He was buried in grave K903 in Comely Bank Cemetery in Edinburgh.[2]

Honors and awards[edit]

Text of citation for the Military Cross:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as a leader of offensive patrols during a period of three weeks. He has on numerous occasions attacked large formations of enemy aircraft single-handed, destroyed some, and driven others down out of control. He has led his formation with great skill, and has on several occasions extricated them from most difficult positions, and in every engagement his gallantry and dash have been most marked.[9]

Text of citation for Bar to the Military Cross:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in leading offensive patrols against enemy aircraft. Within a period of three weeks he successfully engaged and destroyed five enemy machines (three of them in one day), attacking them from low altitudes with the greatest dash and determination. His brilliant example was a continual source of inspiration to the squadron in which he served.[10]


  • Shores, Christopher F. et al. Above the Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915-1920. Grub Street, 1990. ISBN 0-948817-19-4, ISBN 978-0-948817-19-9.


  1. ^ a b c d Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  3. ^ Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Shores (1990), p 114
  5. ^ a b Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  6. ^ Retrieved 17 January 2011. Note: Latter source is a chronology that lists no earlier jumps from airplanes.
  7. ^ (Supplement to the London Gazette, 26 September 1917); Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  8. ^ (Supplement to the London Gazette, 18 October 1917) Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  9. ^ (Supplement to the London Gazette, 7 March 1918) Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  10. ^ (Supplement to the London Gazette, 7 March 1918) Retrieved 12 January 2011.