Family of James F. Bridge Photoalbum
date location record name description note
28 May 1914 Bexhill, Sussex
(also family Bible)
Birth James Frederick Bridge son of Walter & Mary K. 12 Egerton Rd (civil engineer)
1923-25 (I.Mech.E proposal) Preparatory school: The Crescent, Bedford.
1925-33 Bedford Modern School 1931: School Cert (Cambs.): credits in Geography, Elem. Maths, Physics, Art
1932: further Sch. Cert.: credit in English.
1933: awarded a medal inscribed "B.M.S.  GYM"
1933-34 (I.Mech.E proposal) Bedford Technical Inst. Free Studentship (Allen's student) Mechanical Engineering course (S2):
Prac. Maths, Eng. Science, Eng. Drawing (all 1st class)
18 Oct 1934 Institution of Mechanical Engineers:
Proposal for Student membership
James Frederick Bridge
student of engineering (intending a 4yr course)
Employers: W. H. Allen Sons & Co. Ltd., Queens' Engineering Works, Bedford Proposer: Archibald Carmichael MIMechE
1934 A bronze medallion survives from this year, engraved on the reverse "Q. E. W. / A. Squad / 1934 / J. F. Bridge". The face shows a gymnast doing a handstand on parallel bars. Presumably JFB had joined the works sports team.
14 Dec 1934 Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Vol.128 James Frederick Bridge elected a Student Member Bedford
The Royal Air Force Personnel Management Agency holds the records of all past service men, including two sheets for JFB covering:
   (1) a period in the Volunteer Reserve, listing periods of training at Brough and Sywell and
   (2) war service, including further training and duties.

In addition, the "Operations Record Books" are preserved in the Public Record Office and the RAF Museum Archives at Hendon have the record cards summarising the findings of the Court of Inquiry held for each accident.

1 Oct 1935 RAF Reserve
mobilisation station: Hendon
(later Henlow)
for 5 years
James Frederick Bridge Section II Class "F" 2 Oct 1935 promoted Sergeant.
Civil Occupation: Engineer, initially "Student", later "Representative"
Home address: Peter's Cot, Pavenham, Beds
The RAF Reserve had been formed in 1922; in July 1936 the Volunteer Reserve was set up to train volunteer pilots by annual 14 day camps and at weekends. By the onset of war this programme had produced 63 000 qualified pilots.
1 Oct - 23 Nov 1935 RAF Brough, Yorks. Ab-initio training "Flying good, smooth & reasonably accurate aerobatics and Instrument flying very good. Above average." Dual 25:50 Solo 24:10
Two letters survive, describing his experiences - spinning, side-slipping and looping the loop! Group photograph
Blackburn B2.jpg (35K)

Blackburn B-2

The B-2 biplane was developed from the successful Bluebird series. It had a metal fuselage but fabric-covered wings and tailfin. It sold relatively slowly and just 42 were built in total between 1932 and 1937.

The flying training school at Brough (and also Hanworth) was run by a subsidiary of the Blackburn company so naturally they used the B-2 as a trainer. Since it had two seats abreast, it was well suited to this purpose.

JFB's second letter includes a drawing which shows the view from the pilot's seat; the upper aerofoil and the struts are clearly visible as well as the windscreen. The cockpit was open to the air and it must have felt rather more like riding a motor-cycle than flying in a modern plane.

13-22 Jul 1936 RAF Brough, Yorks. annual training "Above average. A good, accurate and confident pilot"
Authorised to wear Pilot's Flying Badge from 3 Oct 1936.
Dual 2:40 Solo 7:20
18 May 1936 letter to Anne Purley, Surrey Evidently recently arrived from Bedford and asking for various items to be sent. Several of these are mechanical and it seems that he was on some kind of practical course. He also refers to a lathe which was to be delivered to his home in Bedford, so seems to have been expecting to return fairly soon.
28 Dec 1936 - 14 Jan 1937 RAF Brough, Yorks. annual training "Above average. Good accurate flyer, Aerobatics particularly. I' flying needs more practice." B.2:
Dual 4:55 Solo 15:05
15 Sep 1937 letter to Anne Portsmouth Another short assignment, apparently, probably in the dockyards though he does not say.
2-13 May 1938 RAF Sywell, Northants. annual training "Average. Out of practice at beginning. Now very satisfactory." Hart (Trainer)
Dual 6:20, Solo 13:40
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement on 29 Sep 1938.
24 Apr - 10 May 1939 RAF Sywell, Northants. annual training "average. Good standard for his experience. 1st year on service types, made satisfactory progress." Hart variants
Dual 6:40, Solo 13:20
Another young airman, Bernard Wood, also worked for Allen's and trained at Sywell in this year. Possibly he knew JFB, though six years younger. The account of his life includes a report of H. M. Inspector of Schools, giving a fascinating insight into the syllabus at what was evidently a very good LEA school at Elstow. (LEA = Local Education Authority. The closest equivalent today would be a rural comprehensive school.)
26 Jun 1939 All Saints, Luton, Bedfordshire Marriage James Frederick Bridge
Batchelor aged 25, engineering technician
son of Walter Bridge, ret'd
& Masie Edwina Frazer-Barnes
Spinster aged 24, secretary
dau. of William Frazer-Barnes, chemist
Peter's Cot, Pavenham, Beds
29, Conway Road, Luton
witnessed by William Barnes and Walter Bridge
Brief honeymoon (1 night?) spent at the Rose and Crown, Tring, Beds., then moved into 136, Hurst Grove, Bedford.
2 Sep 1939 RAF Henlow recall from reserve JFB to 2 P.T.C. Henlow 4 Sep: to SHQ Henlow,13(M) Unit War declared on 3 Sep
11 Sep 1939 - 6 Mar 1940 RAF No. 9 FTS (Hullavington) flying training Pass 84.1% During this 6 mo. course MEB lived in Chippenham, lodging with Mrs. Porter. (They kept in touch for years after.)
7 Mar 1940 RAF No. 9 SFTS Flying duties
17 Mar 1940 No. 10 B&G Sch Flying duties This was the No. 10 Bombing and Gunnery School at Warmwell, Dorset
8 Apr 1940 letter to Anne RAF Warmwell, Dorset Although now on active duty, he says he has been "studying boat construction from a hydrodynamic point of view" and so still seems to be continuing with the MIMechE course.
20 Apr -1 Jun 1940 Central Flying School, Upavon, Wilts. 65th Flying Instructors' Course (6th War Course)
(See photograph album.)
qualified to instruct on intermediate type training aircraft awarded cat. "C"
20 May 1940 Bedford Birth Noel James Bridge son of James Frederick & Masie Edwina 136, Hurst Grove, Bedford (pilot officer, RAF)
4 Jun 1940 RAF No.14 SFTS (Cranfield) duties Flying Instructor 5 Aug 1940: Acting Flying Officer (gazetted 13 Aug)
MightyAtom.jpg (18K)

This scrap torn from a letter to Masie was folded up as a keepsake. "M. A." stood for Mighty Atom, his nickname for the baby (me!). It must have been written after the birth but there is no date.

On the back there are fragments which refer to some electrical problem he was working on, apparently stripping down and repairing an electric motor. The words "vac. arm-" appear at the end of a line and refer I think to the armature of the vacuum cleaner! I recall my mother saying something about this and he used to do a lot of practical jobs for the home.

JFBridgeFam.jpg (7K)This photo was taken to mark my baptism and is the last to include my father. The christening robe was made from my mother's wedding dress!
11 Aug 1940 St. Paul's, Bedford Baptism Noel James Bridge delayed to allow JFB to attend photo (above)
7 Oct 1940 RAF record sheet death James Frederick Bridge "killed in aero accident" "ON DUTY"
7 Oct 1940 RAF 14 FTS Cranfield Operations Record Book "15:30 hrs. Oxford N4729 F/O Bridge (Pilot), LAC Kissner (passenger) crashed during low flying practice. Both occupants were killed, at Turvey, Beds."
Accident record 1180: Summary of Court of Inquiry

"Fire on impact. 2 killed. 2 miles south of Turvey. During low flying aircraft struck tree, flying into bright sun which hampered his vision.
"Comment - no entry in flight authorisation book. Pilot A qualified. Instructor would not normally enter up an instructional flight on which he himself was giving dual.
"BRIDGE J F F/O Date of Wings 3-11-39 (9FTS)(11 months)
"191hrs total solo on type, 283 on others. 2hrs dual on type, 91 on others."

The Oxford trainer had dual controls, allowing the trainee to take over control under instruction. Although JFB had nearly 500 hours total flying time, he had not had much experience of flying dual in this type of aircraft. It would not have been possible to tell which man actually had control at the time of the accident.
The record of the accident shows that the plane was flying less than 100 feet above the ground, since it hit the tree. This was not due to landing or take-off; the whole of the training flight was conducted at this very low level since this was a month after the "Battle of Britain" when the Luftwaffe were conducting raids over much of eastern England. Given that the German air forces were stronger numerically, it was essential for the RAF to continue training, so in areas like Bedfordshire the training craft simply had to stay clear of any enemy planes by flying very low.
My thanks to Colin Mackenzie who supplied the information about the crash. His website describes his research on WW2 crashes in Bedfordshire
The Second World War War Experiences website includes a page on the life of Denis Peto-Shepherd including a quote from his autobiography, commenting on the desperate need for pilots to be trained quickly and the severe shortage of instructors with any teaching experience, a state of affairs which resulted in a "very high training accident rate running into thousands of deaths".
Noel James Bridge, 1940-  
23 Jul 1977 St. John's, Newport, Gwent Marriage Noel James Bridge & Margaret Jane Kirkman Canterbury
& Newport
10 Dec 1980 Canterbury Birth Marcus James Bridge son of Noel James & Margaret Jane Canterbury, Kent
23 Sep 1982 Canterbury Birth Adam Robert Bridge son of Noel James & Margaret Jane Canterbury, Kent
JamesAndBoys.jpg (12K)
Masie and Ioan

At college Adam met Sonia Scavuzzo; they are now married and live in New York with their children Masie and Ioan. I took this picture during a visit there in spring 2014