Ronald Bannerman

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Ronald Burns Bannerman
Born (1890-09-21)September 21, 1890
Invercargill, New Zealand
Died August 2, 1978(1978-08-02) (aged 87)
Gore, Southland, New Zealand
Allegiance New Zealand
Service/branch Aviation
Years of service 1917 - 1945
Rank Captain (later Air Commodore)
Unit No. 79 Squadron RAF
Awards Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar
Other work

Air Member for Personnel in the RNZAF November 1942 - October 1945

Aide de Camp to the Governor-General 1943-1945

Air Commodore Ronald Burns Bannerman CBE DFC * was a flying ace during World War I, as well as serving as a high level administrator for his native New Zealand's air force during World War II.

Early life and training[edit]

Ronald Burns Bannerman was born on 21 September 1890 in Invercargill, the youngest of three children of accountant William D. D. Bannerman (1859 - 1942) and Agnes Gibson McEwen (circa 1858 - 1931).[1] The younger Bannerman's education took him from Otago Boys High School onward to study law at Otago University. He was living at 35 Neidpath Road, Mornington in Dunedin when he enlisted for service in New Zealand's Armed Forces.[2] By 2016 he had risen to the rank of sergeant-major in the 4th Otago Regiment.

He enrolled in March 1916 at the New Zealand Flying School which was located at Mission Bay in Auckland. One of 12 pupils at the school, he was the last of them to qualify, obtained his flying certificate (with only four flying hours in his logbook) in a Curtiss Flying Boat on 16 December 1916.[2][3]

After a voyage to England,[4] he joined the Royal Flying Corps on 29 March 1917[5] and undertook further training, amassing 53 hours solo flight time.[4] After initial instruction on a Farman Shoehorn, he gained experience with the Avro 504, before progressing onto the more powerful Bristol Scout, Sopwith Pup, SPAD S.VII, Sopwith Dolphin and the SE5a.[6] During his training in England Bannerman was nearly killed while sitting in his Avro aircraft when another aircraft accidentally landed on top of his, reducing it in Bannerman's words to matchwood.[7]

War service[edit]

He was posted to France in February 1918 joining the freshly formed No. 79 Squadron RAF.[8]

He flew a Sopwith Dolphin, scoring his initial victory on 4 August 1918 by destroying a Fokker D.VII.

During August and September he shot down 12 aircraft and a balloon before a period on leave. Upon his return to the front he added more victories to bring his total to 17, with his last triumph coming on 4 November 1918, a week before war's end. His first 15 wins were achieved flying Sopwith Dolphin #C3879; his last two were scored from Dolphin #E4716. His final tally included 16 enemy airplanes destroyed and 22[9] driven down out of control. He was also a balloon buster, having downed a Drachen on 24 August for his fourth victory. [5] What makes Bannerman's string of victories more remarkable was that the engine of the Dolphin was notorious for its unreliability and his log book records many engine failures, which would have reduced his time in the air.[10] Also 79 Squadron was tasked for ground attack work; none of his victories were scored above 5,000 feet altitude.[4] Indeed, there were only four other aces in the unit: Francis W. Gillet, Frederic Ives Lord, John McNeaney, and Edgar Taylor.[11]

Bannerman ended the war a Captain with two awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross.[5] He had 396 hours flight time and approximately 190 combat sorties.[4] He was New Zealand's top ranking ace.[12]

List of victories[edit]

Victory nº Date Hour Bannerman's unit Bannerman's aircraft Opponent/s aircraft Location
1 4 August 1918 0840 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) Fokker D.VII Neuve Eglise
2 20 Aug 1918 1845 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) LVG C Estaires
3 22 Aug 1918 0945 79 Sopwith Dolphin (D8075) DFW C West of Bailleul
4 24 Aug 1918 1305 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) Balloon West of Armentières
5 29 Aug 1918 1740 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) Hannover C East of Estaires
6 31 Aug 1918 1915 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) LVG C Northeast of Estaires
7 07 Sep 1918 1100 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) LVG C NE of Ploegsteert
8 16 Sep 1918 1145 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) LVG C N of Hollebeke
9 16 Sep 1918 1200 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) LVG C Hooge
10 19 Sep 1918 0735 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) Fokker D.VII East of Houthoulst Wood
11 21 Sep 1918 1015 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) LVG C Southwest of Hollebeke
12 28 Sep 1918 1235 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) Fokker D.VII Southwest of Comines
13 29 Sep 1918 1740 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) Hannover Estaires
14 27 Oct 1918 0815 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) Halberstadt C East of Avelghem
15 01 Nov 1918 1500 79 Sopwith Dolphin (C3879) Fokker D.VII Audenarde
16 02 Nov 1918 1000 79 Sopwith Dolphin (E4716) Halberstadt C Salsique
17 04 Nov 1918 1245 79 Sopwith Dolphin (E4716) LVG C or DFW Baeggem


Return to civilian life[edit]

He continued flying and other duties after the armistice, including serving in the Army of Occupation in Belgium and as an instructor of fighter tactics and aerobatics in Britain. By the time he closed his pilot's log for good in June 1919, he had more than 500 hours flying time. He was transferred to the RAF's Unemployed List on 16 August 1919.

By September 1919 he had returned home, where he begin a distinguished long career as a lawyer first in Dunedin and then at Gore where he entered into partnership with Robert Bowler (1866-1927, who had served as a Lieutenant-Colonel at Gallipoli.[14] The firm was initially known as Bowler & Bannerman until Bowler's retirement in February 1927.[15]

Bannerman remained a member of the Otago Regiment and then with the Southland Regiment until May 1924 when he transferred to the Territorial Air Force. where he remained until he retired in June 1930 with the rank of flight lieutenant.[16] He then had little to do with aviation for the next decade.

World war II[edit]

After the outbreak of World War II he rejoined the RNZAF in September 1940.[17][4]

He rose to become the Air Member for Personnel for the RNZAF from November 1942 to October 1945, achieving the rank of Air Commodore in the process. He was awarded a CBE for his services.[5]

Later life[edit]

He resumed his legal career after World War II.

Together with Keith Caldwell and Leonard Iistt he was instrumental in establishing the New Zealand 1914-1918 Airmen's Association in 1960.[18]

In the 1960s he initiated negotiations with landowners and the council to establish and develop a reserve of seven hectares on the site of the original Gore Cemetery. In honour of his efforts the resulting park was named Bannerman Park in 1977.[19]

He died at his home in Gore, New Zealand on 2 August 1978.[4]

Personal life[edit]

In 1917 he married Mona Campbell (1895 - ). They subsequently had three children, John Rushford Bannerman, Margaret Elles Bannerman and Lindsay Burns Bannerman.[20]

Citations for military honors[edit]

Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

Lieut. Ronald Burns Bannerman.

During recent operations this officer has done gallant service. While on an offensive patrol with two other machines he was attacked by several Fokker biplanes, and, in the engagement, he shot down one. In addition, he has destroyed four other enemy machines.[21]

Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) Bar

Lieut. (A./Capt.) Ronald Burns Bannerman, D.F.C. (FRANCE)

A bold and resolute leader, whose ability inspires confidence in those who serve with him. During the operations in September he accounted for six enemy machines, displaying marked courage and judgment.[22]


  1. ^ "Burness Genealogy and Family History - Ronald Burns Bannerman". Burness Genealogy and Family History. Retrieved 27 October 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Ronald Burns Bannerman". Auckland War Memorial Museum. Retrieved 27 October 2017. 
  3. ^ Classen, page 132.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Ronald Bannerman". New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum. Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Ronald Bannerman". The Aerodrome. Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  6. ^ Classen, page 171.
  7. ^ Classen, page 168.
  8. ^ Classen, page 404.
  9. ^ Devon Sutcliffe, Occasional Paper Series 'Bannerman of Gore', New Zealand Army Military Studies Institute, 2005, p.5-30.
  10. ^ Crawford and McGibbon. Page 338
  11. ^ "79 Squadron". The Aerodrome. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  12. ^ "New Zealand's air war 1914-1918". New Zealand History. Retrieved 27 October 2017. 
  13. ^ "RB Bannerman's Victories" (PDF). foxyms. Retrieved 27 October 2017. 
  14. ^ Classen, page 424.
  15. ^ Glen. Page 5.
  16. ^ Crawford and McGibbon. Page 341
  17. ^ Crawford and McGibbon. Page 342
  18. ^ Classen, page 425.
  19. ^ "Bannerman Park". Stqry. Retrieved 27 October 2017. 
  20. ^ "Burness Genealogy and Family History - Ronald Burns Bannerman". Burness Genealogy and Family History. Retrieved 27 October 2017. 
  21. ^ Supplement to the London Gazette, 2 November 1918 (30989/12962)
  22. ^ Supplement to the London Gazette, 3 December 1918 (31046/14316)


  • Classen, Adam (2017). Fearless : The Extraordinary Untold Story of New Zealand's Great War Airmen (Hardback). Auckland, New Zealand: Massey University Press. ISBN 9780994140784. 
  • Crawford, John; McGibbon, Ian (2007). "Orange, Vincent: From Burn to Bannerman: New Zealand airmen come of age". New Zealand’s Great War: New Zealand, the Allies, and the First World War (Hardback). Auckland, New Zealand: Exisle Publishing. pp. 333–343. ISBN 9780908988853. 
  • Glen, Franck (2004). Bowler of Gallipoi (Hardback). Canberra: Australian Military History Publications. ISBN 1876439-82-3.