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A de B Brandon

What were the most significant experiences for A de B Brandon at Wellington College?


Wellington College in 1890's 
(Source: Alexander Turnbull Library)

Alfred de Bathe Brandon was born on the 21st of July 1883. He lived in Hobson Street, Thorndon, Wellington.

Alfred Brandon was the son of Alfred de Bathe Brandon and Louisa Brandon. He served as Mayor of Wellington, 1893-94. He was also a solicitor.  

Brandon attended Wellington College between the years 1894 - 1901. He also went to Canterbury College. 

Brandon followed his fathers footsteps and went to England to study law at Trinity College.

Leadership in the College:

Head Prefect:

Brandon was a head prefect at Wellington College. A Head Prefect is the school captain, meaning he had a very big role in the college.

House Prefect:

Brandon was also a house prefect. He was very involved in the school. His leadership skills were outstanding which led him to great success throughout his college life.

Chairman of the Board of Governors:

Brandon was the Chairman of the Board of Governors. He presented many prizes to students and also donated books to the school library.

What were the most significant experiences for A de B Brandon during the First World War?

The Beginning:


Brandon developed an interest in flying and during the outbreak of war with Germany in 1914, he returned to England. He learned to fly at the Hall Flying School at Hendon, and on the 17th October 1915, after seven weeks of instruction he qualified as a pilot. In December 1915 he joined the Royal Flying Corps.

After he qualified as a pilot, he had great success through the war.

Military Units:

He was apart of the Special Reserve and the Royal Flying Corps. The Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy Air Service merged into the Royal Air Force. He was apart of this.


He was enlisted in December 1915, aged 32.


Zeppelin Attacks:

Zeppelin L15 going down 
(Source: The Great War Archive, University of Oxford)
The commander of the Zeppelin L15 was Kapitanleutnant Joachim Breithaupt.

On the 31st March 1916, at 9:45pm, the L15 received a direct hit from the AA gun at Purfleet, Essex.

The AA shell damaged four of the gas cells (9, 11, 12, and 16), and the L15 began to lose height.

When the L15 got closer to earth, it was attacked by 2nd Lt. Alfred de Bathe Brandon RFC(Royal Flying Corps), 19 RA Sqn (Hainault Farm), in a BE 2C. Brandon climbed above the L15 and tried to destroy it by dropping incendiary bombs and Ranken darts onto the top of the hull without success.

A BE 2C plane that Brandon flew  to attack the Zeppelins 
(Source: Wikipedia)
But eventually the Zeppelin became too heavy to fly, and she came down in the sea off Margate at 00.15 (1st April) - close to the Kentish Knock lightship. One crew member, ObsigMt Willy Albrecht, was drowned. The rest of the crew (16 members in total) were rescued by the armed trawler Olivine (and then transferred to HMS Vulture).

The half sunk remains of the L15 were then taken under tow but the airship broke up off Westgate and only small sections were hauled ashore, where parts were obviously liberated by souvenir hunters. Eventually the sea reclaimed what was left of the airship on the beach.

Brandon attacked multiple Zeppelins during their raids on Eastern England in 1916. Although he has been credited with the destruction of the first Zeppelin L15 brought down over England, the evidence is not clear. Whether his attack on Zeppelin L15 on the night of 31 March caused the airship to crash in the sea some miles off the Thames estuary or whether artillery fire from British ground batteries was wholly or partly responsible has long been the subject of controversy. But his assault on L-15, at 9,000 feet while being subjected to enemy machine-gun fire, and his subsequent attack on Zeppelin L-33 on the night of 23 September, helping to bring the airship down in a field, are matters of fact which were recognised by the British government. Brandon flew a BE2c single-engined biplane in these engagements. Regular promotions followed and he was commissioned as a major in January 1918

Promotions and Ranks:

In January 1916, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. He was commisioned as a major in January 1918. When the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service combined on the 1st of April 1918 to become the Royal Air Force, he held this rank in the new service.


Brandon was awarded 7 military awards.He won a lot of medals including: British War Medal, Victory Medal, Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) Three Times, and the Bronze Medallion.

He also won 2 Empire Medals. These were the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and the Military Cross (MC)

He was also awarded a very special medal; Sir Charles Wakefield Medal - Zeppelin L15.

He also received a C.M.G. (Companion Order of St Michael and St George)

Distinguished Service Order (DSO):

The DSO was 1 of the 2 Empire Medals he won. He was appointed DSO "in recognition of his gallantry and distinguished service in connection with the successful attack on enemy Airships".   -London Gazette 4 October 1916. He is the first New Zealand airman to get a DSO.

Sir Charles Wakefield Medal - Zeppelin L15:
A medal awarded Brandon for his courageous attacks.
(Source: The Great War Archive, University of Oxford)

There were arguments about who took down the Zeppelin L15, it could of been the ground crew or the multiple pilots attack the Zeppelin, but medals were awarded to everyone involved in the attack. This image is of a gold medal awarded by Sir Charles Wakefield, Lord Mayor of London. Originally he had promised a significant reward for the first gun crew to shoot down a Zeppelin. However, gun crews put in a claim as being the one which hit the Zeppelin, all having fired on it. As a result some three hundred medals were issued to various members of the gun crews and searchlight batteries involved, the large money prize funding their manufacture in 8-carat gold.

CMG (Companion of St Michael and St George)

He was awarded this when he was a Lieutenant. It was a distinction won by Old Boys.


Unfortunately, Brandon was wounded while fighting in the war. This is no surprise as he spent most of his time in the war fighting German Zeppelins. It was only a flying accident. In March 1917, Captain A. de B. Brandon while flying at Dorking had the misfortune to strike a tree during heavy fog, and fell fracturing his leg severely. He soon recovered from this accident.

Home Sweet Home:

Brandon returned home greeted with hearty cheers. He was honored for his success with the German Zeppelin attacks. 

Immediately after the war, he was sent back to New Zealand. There, he assisted in evaluating New Zealand's air defences and prepared a report on landing grounds in 1919. 

He then quit the military and returned to practicing law.

After The War:


Brandon married Ada Mabel Perry at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Wellington on 2 January 1942. He was 58 and she was 38. They had one son called Peter de Bathe Brandon.


He retired in the 1950's to enjoy his horse-racing, golf and fishing pursuits. He was very happy after the war and enjoyed his hobbies. He made the most of his life.


Tragically, Peter de Bathe Brandon was killed in a road accident in October 1969.

Alfred de Bathe Brandon was left grieving after the death of his only son. His wife Ada survived him and he later died after many years in Upper Hutt on 19 June 1974 at the age of 90.