The Golden Boy Major Cuthbert Everard Brisley
In the town cemetery in Market Drayton there is a civilian grave to a man who died towards the end of the First World War. He is buried here as he met his death in the skies over the town.
Cuthbert Everard Brisley was born into the officer class. At public school, Lancing College, he excelled: the Magazine wrote “Plays with a very straight bat, and has more than once saved his side from defeat. Can hit hard. Has fielded brilliantly, at cover, throughout the season. Throws in well.” He was Captain of the Football XI from 1903 to 1905 and was Captain of School in 1904. Then it was a BA at Cambridge.
He also played for Corinthian Casuals in their tours of South Africa, Paris, Prague and Switzerland. He toured to Brazil and to the United States and Canada where they recorded 19 wins, one loss and one match drawn. He also played football as an amateur for England against France, Wales and Belgium. He was called to the bar at the Inner Temple and won the Bar Golfing Society tournament in 1914.
At the outbreak of war he was in Argentina and returned to the UK. He enlisted in the Artists Rifles. The regiment attracted recruits from public schools and universities. Members of The Artists Rifles were commissioned in other units including Wilfred Owen before posting to the Manchester Regiment.
Brisley was promoted to Squadron Commander 1st Jan 1918. 1st April he was transferred to the RAF on its creation. Later that month he was posted to Tern Hill outside Market Drayton as CO of No. 13 Training Depot Station. No parachutes were issued to Allied aircrew. It was feared if a pilot had a parachute, when hit he would jump from the plane, rather than trying to save his machine. Cockpits were not large enough for pilot and parachute.
Some three months later Brisley with a mechanic, Pte Fred Lythgoe, took off in Avro 504K D6361. More than 8,000 of this biplane were built during the War. The RAF Museum calls it “one of the greatest training aircraft ever built.”
The Wellington Journal reported:- “Shortly before midday on Tuesday an aeroplane flying at a great height was observed to attempt to climb, as if to loop the loop. The machine however appeared to slip sideways, then turn upside down and something was seen to fall from the machine. The aeroplane … descended at a tremendous speed with the engine full on and crashed into a field. A number of people … rushed to the spot and found the machine a complete wreck with the body of an RAF mechanic lying nearby. In a field on the opposite side of the road … the remains of an RAF Officer were discovered.”
At the inquest Lt H.J. Murphy said he saw Brisley and passenger go up in a new machine. It had been tested the previous evening and was in a perfect condition. Brisley and Lythgoe were both strapped in when they went up, but witnesses felt Major Brisley’s belt was not tight enough. Lt Murphy searched the debris and found Major Brisley’s belt still fastened, and his opinion was that he had slipped through the belt. A verdict of “accidental death” was returned.
Many hundreds were present at the funeral of Major Brisley … when a company of infantry with arms reversed accompanied the cortège … Whilst the cortège proceeded to the cemetery … several aeroplanes hovered overhead. A firing party fired three volleys over the grave and the “Last Post” was sounded by five buglers.
Brisley’s grave will be the first port-of-call for one of the War Walks on the Home Front starting at 10.00am August 18th 2017 cost £5 half to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.