Frederick Britnell

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Frederick John Shaw Britnell
Born (1899-04-16)16 April 1899
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England
Died 1980 (aged 80–81)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Royal Air Force
Rank Captain
Unit No. 213 Squadron RAF
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross

Captain Frederick John Shaw Britnell DFC was a flying ace in the Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force during World War I. He was credited with nine aerial victories. He returned to service for World War II, remaining in the Royal Air Force until 1954.

Early life[edit]

Frederick John Shaw Britnell was born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England on 16 April 1899.[1]

World War I[edit]

Just past his 18th birthday on 3 June 1917, Britnell was appointed a Flight Officer in Royal Naval Air Service on the same day as John Denis Breakey.[2] On 27 October 1917, he was promoted to temporary Flight Sub-Lieutenant.[3]

By early 1918, he had been posted to 3 Naval Squadron; he scored his first aerial victory with them on 10 March 1918. His victory streak with them continued as the unit transitioned into 203 Squadron RAF, culminating in his destruction of an observation balloon on 2 October 1918.

His bravery was rewarded with a Distinguished Flying Cross, although the citation for it was not gazetted until after war's end, on 8 February 1919:

This officer has flown about 500 hours on active service, and on all occasions, when engaged with the enemy, has shown great dash and marked courage. He has carried out some 162 special missions, and has engaged enemy troops, transport, &c., from very low altitudes with great success.[4]

Post World War I[edit]

Britnell survived the war. On 30 August 1919, he transferred to the Royal Air Force's unemployed list; with that, he dropped from history's eye for almost two decades.[5]

On 10 May 1938, he was commissioned in the Equipment Branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as an acting Pilot Officer with seniority from 15 May 1936.[6] On 10 November 1938, he was promoted to Flying Officer.[7] On 16 December 1941, he was promoted from Flight Lieutenant to Squadron Leader.[8]

On 10 February 1954, he relinquished his commission while retaining the rank of Squadron Leader.[9]

Britnell's retirement life and eventual death remain unknown.

List of aerial victories[edit]

No. Date/time Aircraft Foe Result Location Notes
1 10 March 1918 @ 1315 hours Sopwith Camel serial number B7251 Albatros D.V Destroyed Two miles southeast of Lens
2 24 March 1918 @ 1530 hours Sopwith Camel s/n B7258 Albatros D.V Driven down out of control Vaux[disambiguation needed] Victory shared with Edwin Hayne, Arthur Whealy, Frederick Carr Armstrong, & four other pilots
3 15 May 1918 @ 1050 hours Sopwith Camel s/n B7251 DFW C.V Driven down out of control One mile east of Pont-du-Hem Victory shared with Whealy
4 16 May 1918 @ 1120 hours Sopwith Camel s/n B7251 Pfalz D.III Driven down out of control North of La Bassée
5 27 August 1918 @ 1210 hours Sopwith Camel s/n D9611 DFW C.V Destroyed South of Combles Victory shared with Whealy
6 16 September 1918 @ 1840 hours Sopwith Camel s/n D9611 Fokker D.VII Set on fire; destroyed Haynecourt
7 20 September 1918 @ 1530 hours Sopwith Camel s/n D9611 Fokker D.VII Driven down out of control Haynecourt
8 26 September 1918 @ 1315 hours Sopwith Camel s/n D9611 Fokker D.VII Set on fire; destroyed Haynecourt
9 2 October 1918 between 0800 and 1000 hours Sopwith Camel s/n D9679 Observation balloon Destroyed Vicinity of Cambrai

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Frederick John Shaw Britnell". 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  2. ^ "Royal Naval Air Service". Flight. IX (24): 592. 14 June 1917. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  3. ^ "Royal Naval Air Service". Flight. IX (44): 1146. 1 November 1917. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "No. 31170". The London Gazette. 8 February 1919. p. 2035.  Note: Special missions were often those that took agents or spies behind enemy lines.
  5. ^ "No. 31751". The London Gazette. 23 January 1920. p. 984. 
  6. ^ "No. 34509". The London Gazette. 19 May 1938. p. 3026. 
  7. ^ "Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve". Flight. XXXV (1575): 221. 2 March 1939. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  8. ^ "No. 35383". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 December 1941. p. 7120. 
  9. ^ "No. 40180". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 May 1954. p. 3064.