Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Vice-Marshal Sir Sefton Brancker

W S Brancker - 1913Photograph of Sir Sefton BranckerSir William Sefton Brancker - 1926 (William) Sefton 

b: 22 Mar 1877                 

r: 13 Jan 1919                       

d: 5 Oct 1930

KCB - 1 Jan 1919, AFC - 3 Jun 1918, LoH, O - 24 Feb 1916, SV4 - 12 Apr 1916, Cwn, Cdr - 8 Nov 1918, Leo, Cdr - 15 Jul 1919, SS1 - xx xxx xxxx.  

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army): - 2 Lt: 21 Sep 1896, Lt: 21 Sep 1899, Capt: 31 Jan 1902, Maj: 27 Jan 1913, (T) Lt Col: 5 Aug 1914, Bt Lt Col: 18 Jan 1915, (T) Col: 9 Mar 1915, Bt Col: 1 Jan 1917, (T) Brig-Gen: 18 Dec 1915, (T) Maj-Gen: 22 Jun 1917

(RAF): - Maj-Gen: 3 Jan 1918, AVM: 1 Aug 1919.

Photos -

(left) from his RAeC Certificate - 1913

(centre) during WW1

(right) - Sir William Sefton Brancker

by Howard Coster
bromide print, 1926
NPG Ax2245

National Portrait Gallery, London

xx xxx xxxx:              Attended RMA Woolwich

21 Sep 1896:              Officer, Royal Field Artillery

31 Aug 1905:             Adjutant, Royal Field Artillery

20 Jul 1906:               Resigned his appointment as Adjutant

20 Jul 1906:               Reverted to establishment of Royal Field Artillery as a Captain.

17 Mar 1908:             Brigade Major, Indian Army

xx xxx 1910:              Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General, Presidency Brigade.  (Horse and Field)

xx xxx xxxx:              Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster-General, Army HQ, India

17 Mar 1912:             Reverted to establishment of Royal Field Artillery as a Captain.

3 Mar 1913:               Specially employed at War Office

 1 Apr 1913:               GSO 3nd Class

14 Aug 1913:              Appointed to RFC Military Wing Reserve

13 Oct 1913:               Assistant Director of Military Aeronautics. (GSO 2nd Class)

 5 Aug 1914:               Assistant Director of Military Aeronautics. (GSO 1st Class)

13 Oct 1914:               Embarked for France

xx Nov 1914 - xx Dec 1914:                OC (Temporary), RFC in the Field.

5 Feb 1915:                Posted to HQ RFC

 9 Mar 1915:              Deputy Director of Military Aeronautics.

25 Aug 1915:             Posted to HQ, 3rd Wing RFC

31 Oct 1915:              Officer Commanding, 3rd Wing RFC.  

18 Dec 1915:             Graded as Brigade Commander

26 Dec 1915:             Returned to Home Establishment

26 Feb 1916:             Temporary Duty in Paris

27 Mar 1916:             Director of Air Organisation.  

xx xxx xxxx:                Director of Military Aeronautics.

28 Feb 1917:              Deputy Director-General of Military Aeronautics.

19 Oct 1917:              GOC, HQ Palestine Brigade

14 Dec 1917:              GOC, HQ RFC Middle East

 3 Jan 1918:                Comptroller-General of Equipment.

22 Aug 1918:              Master-General of Personnel.

23 Aug 1918:               Appointed to a Permanent Commission in the RAF

23 Aug 1918:               Relinquished his Commission in the Royal Artillery

13 Jan 1919:                Retired from the RAF

11 May 1922:             Director of Civil Aviation.

During the South African War from 1899 to 1900 he served in the Orange Free State, Transvaal, Orange River Colony and Cape Colony, being wounded in action.  Whilst serving in India  he was responsible for the unloading of aircraft and equipment of the Bristol and Colonial Aeroplane Co. expedition which arrived in India to demonstrate the new art of flying.  He was allowed to fly during these demonstrations as an observer and was soon involved in manoeuvres, which showed him the advantages of aerial reconnaissance.  Whilst working at the War Office under General David Henderson, he learnt to fly, gaining Royal Aero Club Certificate No 525 on 16 June 1913, later taking the short course at the CFS and  being appointed to the RFC Reserve.  Left in Britain at the start of WW1 he was responsible for supply and equipment as well as finding the resources to provide further squadrons for the front in France.   When Henderson returned to the War Office, Brancker was able to move to France.

Never a particularly good pilot, he was however, an excellent administrator.  One day as a Major-General he was carrying out a tour of inspection and  made a poor landing at the airfield in question.  Walking away from the aircraft, he was accosted by a junior instructor who, unable to see his rank badges under his coat admonished him for his poor performance and ordered him to go up a again and practice.  Brancker promptly did as he was told and only revealed  who he was on his return.  Having given evidence to the Smuts Inquiry he found himself 'demoted' to Acting Deputy Director-General of Military Aeronautics and then sent to the Middle East as GOC.  However with the passing of the Air Force Act and the formation of the Air Ministry, Brancker found himself back in the UK and a member of the newly formed Air Council as Controller-General of Equipment.

With the cessation of hostilities and the general run-down of the RAF, he decided to retire with the intention of developing commercial aviation and together with Brigadier-General Festing he formed Air Transport & Travel.   Appointed Director of Civil Aviation in 1922, he remained dedicated to the development of civil air routes across the empire utilizing both aircraft and airships.  It was in this capacity that he found himself on the inaugural flight off the R101 airship from Cardington to India.   Sir Sefton Brancker died shortly after 2am on the morning of 5 October 1930, when the R101 hit the Beavais Ridge in France and burst into flames killing 48 crew and passengers (only six survived).  The accident not only destroyed the R101 but also put an end to further British Airship development.

This page was last updated on 30/12/21

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