Walter Tyrrell

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Walter Alexander Tyrrell
Nickname(s) Bing
Born (1898-08-23)23 August 1898
Belfast, Ireland
Died 9 June 1918(1918-06-09) (aged 19)
Oise, France
Buried Beauvais Communal Cemetery, Beauvais, France (49°26′25″N 2°05′12″E / 49.44028°N 2.08667°E / 49.44028; 2.08667Coordinates: 49°26′25″N 2°05′12″E / 49.44028°N 2.08667°E / 49.44028; 2.08667)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
British Army
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1914–1915
Rank Captain
Unit Royal Naval Armoured Car Division
No. 32 Squadron RFC/RAF
Battles/wars World War I
 • Western Front
Awards Military Cross

Captain Walter Alexander Tyrrell MC (23 August 1898 – 9 June 1918) was a British First World War flying ace credited with seventeen aerial victories.[1]

Early life and background[edit]

Tyrrell was born in Belfast, one of three sons of John Tyrrell, a merchant, alderman and justice of the peace,[1] who was the High Sheriff of Belfast in 1914,[2] and his wife Jeanie (née Todd). The family resided at Fairview Buildings, Crumlin Road.[1] He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and the Belfast Municipal Technical Institute.[3]

World War I[edit]

Tyrrell joined the Royal Navy, serving in the Royal Naval Air Service's Armoured Car Division as a petty officer from 26 December 1914 until 24 November 1915,[3] under Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson.[2] He spent eight months in Belgium and France, but was discharged after an accident, when an armoured car crushed his foot. He returned to Belfast where he was a member of the Queen's University Belfast Officers' Training Corps and worked as an apprentice motor engineer.[3]

Tyrrell joined the Royal Flying Corps as an officer cadet at Farnborough on 4 April 1917,[1] and was commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant (on probation) on 21 June.[4] On 30 August 1917 he was appointed a flying officer and confirmed in his rank.[5]

He was posted to No. 32 Squadron RFC to fly the Airco DH.5 single-seat fighter, and scored five victories (four shared) between 30 October and 5 December 1917.[1] In early 1918 Tyrrell's squadron was re-equipped with the S.E.5a fighter. On 21 March the Germans launched their Spring Offensive on the Somme Front, and on 7 April Tyrrell claimed three enemy fighters shot down over Lamotte. On 10 April No. 32 Squadron RAF[note 1] was assigned to operations further north over the Lys Front,[6] where Tyrrell gained two more victories, on 11 and 12 April.[1]

No. 32 Squadron was then tasked with flying as bomber escorts,[7] and on 3 May Tyrrell drove down two Fokker Dr.I's over Frelinghien, and forced down and captured an LVG reconnaissance aircraft near Poperinghe.[1][note 2] Early on 8 May the squadron encountered a large formation of Pfalz D.III fighters, shooting down six,[7] of which Tyrrell claimed one.[1] On 18 May 1918 Tyrrell was appointed a flight commander with the temporary rank of captain,[8] and commanded "B" flight.[9]

On 29 May, following a request from the French for air reinforcements, No. 32 Squadron moved south to Fouquerolles.[10] Early on 6 June Tyrrell and Lieutenant J. W. Trusler shared in sending a Pfalz D.III down in flames, and later the same day Tyrrell accounted for two Fokker D.VII fighters, bringing his total to seventeen, making him the highest scoring ace in his squadron,[11] and the fourth highest Irish-born ace.[3]

On 9 June the German launched their offensive along the Matz River, and No. 32 Squadron was engaged in ground attack missions. During one of these Tyrrell was killed when his aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft fire.[10] He is buried in the Communal Cemetery at Beauvais.[12]

On 20 June 1918, only 11 days later, his older brother John Marcus Tyrrell, of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, attached Royal Air Force, was also killed in action.[13][14] Both men are commemorated on the Queen's University War Memorial in Belfast,[15] and on the Bangor War Memorial, County Down.[16] The settlement of the two brothers' estates prompted a question in Parliament.[17]

Awards and citation[edit]

Tyrrell's award of the Military Cross was gazetted posthumously on 13 September 1918. His citation read:

Temporary Second Lieutenant Walter Alexander Tyrrell, General List, attached Royal Air Force.
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On one day this officer attacked two enemy triplanes, destroying one and driving down the other out of control. After this he was attacked by two other machines, one of which he forced to land, taking the occupants prisoners. On various other occasions he has destroyed or driven down out of control enemy machines."[18]

List of aerial victories[edit]

Combat record[1]
No. Date/Time Aircraft/
Serial No.
Opponent Result Location Notes
1 30 October 1917
@ 0845–0925
Albatros D.V Destroyed Passchendaele Shared with Captain William Raymond Fish.
2 11 November 1917
@ 1550
Albatros D.V Out of control Poelcapelle
3 13 November 1917
@ 1530
Type C Out of control South-east of Houthoulst Forest Shared with Captain William Raymond Fish and Second Lieutenants H. C. Leese & A. L. Cuffe.
4 20 November 1917
@ 0800
Albatros C Destroyed in flames Passchendaele Shared with Lieutenant Arthur Claydon and Second Lieutenant A. L. Cuffe.
5 5 December 1917
@ 0855
Type C Out of control Becelaere Shared with Captain William Pearson.
6 7 April 1918
@ 1115–1130
Fokker Dr.I Destroyed North-east of Lamotte
7 Albatros D.V Destroyed
8 Albatros D.V Out of control
9 11 April 1918
@ 1930
AGO C Destroyed in flames North-east of Bray
10 12 April 1918
@ 1210
Pfalz D.III Out of control West of Steenwerck
11 3 May 1918
@ 1220-1235
Fokker Dr.I Out of control Frelinghien
12 Fokker Dr.I Out of control
13 LVG C Captured 1 mile (1.6 km) west-south-west of Poperinghe
14 8 May 1918
@ 0940
Pfalz D.III Destroyed Sailly-en-Ostrevent
15 6 June 1918
@ 0550
Pfalz D.III Destroyed in flames Romagnies Shared with Lieutenant J. W. Trusler.
16 6 June 1918
@ 1845–1850
Fokker D.VII Destroyed in flames Montdidier
17 Fokker D.VII Out of control


  1. ^ The Army's Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) were merged to form the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918.
  2. ^ This action featured prominently in his citation for the Military Cross.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Walter Alexander Tyrrell". The Aerodrome. 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Walter Alexander Tyrrell". Our Heroes. 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Thomson—Tyrrell". Inst in the Great War. 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  4. ^ "No. 30170". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 July 1917. p. 6788. 
  5. ^ "No. 30293". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 September 1917. p. 9721. 
  6. ^ "No 32 Squadron RFC/RAF 1918: A brief history". The Royal Flying Corps 1914-18. 2011. p. 1. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "No 32 Squadron RFC/RAF 1918: A brief history". The Royal Flying Corps 1914-18. 2011. p. 2. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  8. ^ "No. 30727". The London Gazette. 4 June 1918. p. 6590. 
  9. ^ "RFC/RAF Personnel list 1918". The Royal Flying Corps 1914-18. 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  10. ^ a b "No 32 Squadron RFC/RAF 1918: A brief history". The Royal Flying Corps 1914-18. 2011. p. 3. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  11. ^ "32 Squadron". The Aerodrome. 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  12. ^ "Casualty Details: Tyrrell, Walter Alexander". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  13. ^ "Personals: Casualties". Flight. X (497): 752. 4 July 1918. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  14. ^ "Casualty Details: Tyrrell, John Marcus". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  15. ^ "Queen's University, Belfast". Ulster War Memorials. 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  16. ^ "Bangor, County Down". Ulster War Memorials. 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  17. ^ Thomas Moles, Member for Belfast Ormeau (12 March 1919). "Officers' Effects". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. col. 1271–1272. 
  18. ^ "No. 30901". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 September 1918. p. 11027.