Desmond Fitzgibbon

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Desmond Fitzgerald Fitzgibbon
Born (1890-11-01)1 November 1890
Hampstead, London, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1916–1919
Rank Flight Lieutenant
Unit No. 3 Wing RNAS
No. 10 Squadron RNAS
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Cross

Flight Lieutenant Desmond Fitzgerald Fitzgibbon DSC (b. 1 November 1890) was a British flying ace who served in the Royal Naval Air Service during World War I, and was credited with eight aerial victories.[1] He returned to serve in the RAF for a few years in the early 1920s, and again during World War II.

Early life[edit]

Desmond Fitzgerald Fitzgibbon was born in Hampstead, London, on 1 November 1890, the younger son of Gerald FitzGibbon and Margaret Mary (née Matthews) of "The Lodge", Steele's Road, Hampstead.[2]

World War I[edit]

Fitzgibbon joined the Royal Naval Air Service on 28 May 1916.[3] He received Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate No. 3529 after flying a Maurice Farman biplane at Royal Naval Air Station Cranwell, on 14 August 1916,[1] and was promoted from probationary flight sub-lieutenant to flight sub-lieutenant on 11 October 1916, with seniority backdated to his date of enlistment.[4]

Fitzgibbon was eventually posted to No. 3 Wing RNAS, based at Luxeuil-les-Bains Aerodrome, in March 1917. The unit had been created the previous year to carry out strategic bombing raids, and equipped with the Sopwith 1½ Strutter Type 9700 light bomber, but was now in the process of being run down,[5] as its aircraft were rendered obsolete by the introduction of the Handley Page 0/100 twin-engined heavy bomber. Fitzgibbon arrived in time to take part in its final mission, a raid on Freiburg on 14 April 1917. As part of "B" Flight, he dropped his bombs on the target in the face of heavy enemy anti-aircraft fire, observing several fires on the ground. However, while heading home engine problems reduced his speed, and he lost contact with the rest of the wing, finally crossing the lines alone and landing at Ochey. No. 3 Wing was then disbanded.[6]

Fitzgibbon was one of five pilots assigned to "C" Flight of No. 10 Squadron RNAS in early 1917,[7] being posted there on 5 May;[8] the four Canadians in the flight with him all became casualties or were transferred.[7] He scored his first two victories (both shared) on 5 June 1917, flying a Sopwith Triplane. Two further victories followed on 15 June, and his fifth on the 25th.[1] On 27 August he was appointed an acting flight-lieutenant, with seniority from 3 August.[9] The squadron having converted to the Sopwith Camel, he scored his final three victories on 14, 26 and 27 September.[1] On 1 October he was promoted to flight-lieutenant,[10] and on 15 October he returned to England, and was reassigned to the Home Establishment.[1]

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, which was gazetted on 2 November 1917,[8] his citation reading:

Distinguished Service Cross
Acting Flight-Lieutenant (now Flight-Lieutenant) Desmond Fitzgerald Fitzgibbon, RNAS.
For exceptional courage and determination in leading offensive patrols against enemy formations, although often out-numbered by them. On 14 September 1917, he and his patrol of seven machines attacked a hostile formation of eight enemy scouts. In the combat that ensued three hostile machines were brought down completely out of control, one of these by Flt.-Lieut. Fitzgibbon, while the patrol suffered no casualties. On 26 September 1917, he attacked with his patrol of eight machines fifteen hostile scouts. He himself engaged four different machines, one after the other, finally driving one down completely out of control.[11]

List of aerial victories[edit]

No. Date/time Aircraft Foe Result Location Notes
1 5 June 1917
@ 0850 hours
Sopwith Triplane
Serial number N5466
Albatros C two-seater Set afire in midair; destroyed Wervik, Belgium Shared with Raymond Collishaw, Gerald Ewart Nash, Ellis Vair Reid, and Gerald Nash
2 5 June 1917
@ 0900 hours
Sopwith Triplane
s/n N5466
Albatros C two-seater Driven down out of control Northeast of Poelcapelle Shared with Raymond Collishaw
3 15 June 1917
@ 1055 hours
Sopwith Triplane
s/n N5458
Halberstadt D.II Driven down out of control Saint-Julien
4 15 June 1917
@ 1740 hours
Sopwith Triplane
s/n N5458
Albatros D.V Driven down out of control Moorslede, Belgium
5 25 August 1917
@ 1930 hours
Sopwith Triplane
s/n N5389
Albatros D.V Driven down out of control North of Polygon Wood, Belgium
6 14 September 1917
@ 1630 hours
Sopwith Camel
s/n B6202
Albatros D.V Driven down out of control Tenbrielen, Belgium
7 26 September 1917
@ 1100 hours
Sopwith Camel
s/n B6202
Albatros D.V Driven down out of control Westrozebeke
8 27 September 1917
@ 1610 hours
Sopwith Camel
s/n B6202
Albatros D.V Driven down out of control Northeast of Westrozebeke

Post war career[edit]

Fitzgibbon was promoted to captain, being confirmed in his rank in January 1919,[12] but on 10 April 1919, he relinquished his commission on being transferred to the unemployed list of the Royal Air Force.[13]

He temporarily returned to RAF service two years later, being granted a short service commission with the rank of flying officer on 28 February 1921.[14] After several years of active service, he transferred to the Reserve of Air Force Officers, finally relinquishing his commission on completion of service on 28 February 1929.[15]

At some point he was resident in Ceylon, marrying Phyllis Muriel at the Holy Trinity Church at Nuwara Eliya, where his son Gerald Maurice Fitzgibbon was also baptised.[16]

World War II[edit]

Fitzgibbon returned to service during World War II, being commissioned as a flight lieutenant in the Administrative & Special Duties Branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on 1 September 1939.[17] He was promoted to temporary squadron leader on 1 March 1942 (with seniority from 1 December 1941),[18] and on 1 January 1945 received a mention in despatches.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Desmond Fitzgerald Fitzgibbon". The Aerodrome. 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles, ed. (1929). Armorial Families : A Directory of Gentlemen of Coat-Armour. 1 (7th ed.). London: Hurst & Blackett. p. 679. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Franks (2004), p.78.
  4. ^ "No. 29786". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 October 1916. p. 9953. 
  5. ^ Rickard, J. (3 October 2008). "Sopwith 9700 Type 1½ Strutter bomber". History of War. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Peason, Bob (2014). "More Than Would Be Reasonably Anticipated: The Story of No. 3 Wing". Over The Front. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Franks (2004), p.7.
  8. ^ a b Shores (1990), pp.156.
  9. ^ "Royal Naval Air Service". Flight. IX (453): 899. 30 August 1917. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "No. 30324". The London Gazette. 5 October 1917. p. 10297. 
  11. ^ "No. 30363". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 October 1917. p. 11321. 
  12. ^ "No. 31157". The London Gazette. 31 January 1919. p. 1537. 
  13. ^ "No. 31380". The London Gazette. 3 June 1919. p. 7071. 
  14. ^ "No. 32250". The London Gazette. 8 March 1921. p. 1899. 
  15. ^ "No. 33474". The London Gazette. 5 March 1929. p. 1578. 
  16. ^ "Nuwara Eliya Birth/Baptism Records Ceylon (Sri Lanka) (F)". The Kabristan Archives. 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  17. ^ "No. 34727". The London Gazette. 7 November 1939. p. 7503. 
  18. ^ "No. 35503". The London Gazette. 27 March 1942. p. 1392. 
  19. ^ "No. 36866". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1944. p. 64. 
  • Franks, Norman (2004). Sopwith Triplane Aces of World War I. London, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1841767284. 
  • Shores, Christopher F.; Franks, Norman & Guest, Russell F. (1990). Above the Trenches: a Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915-1920. London, UK: Grub Street. ISBN 978-0-948817-19-9.