Nine thousand feet above war-torn London on March 31, 1916, Alfred de Bathe Brandon lined up his sights on a massive Zeppelin.
Germany’s Zeppelins were used to drop bombs and their sheer size was intimidating.
On the other hand Brandon was flying a BE.2c, a single engine, two-seat, biplane outfitted with guns that looked incredibly flimsy.
He had sighted the Zeppelin and went to engage it about 10pm. Three times he went on the attack, with explosive darts, incendiary bombs and then his machine guns. He managed to damage it enough that it fell into the English Channel. It was the first Zeppelin shot down over England.
It was only later that it was found that anti-aircraft guns had actually done the critical damage.
So on September 23, Brandon took on another Zeppelin - emptying a whole drum of ammunition into it before having to replace it. But when he started firing again the gun jammed. But the damage was done and the Zeppelin crashed.
Alfred de Bathe Brandon was born July 21, 1883, in Wellington. He was the third to hold that name - his grandfather had been born in London and came to New Zealand where he set up a law firm and was a Crown prosecutor and politician.
Hi father, Alfred jnr, was mayor of Wellington from 1894, who with his wife Louisa Kebbell had three sons and three daughters. One son continued the name Alfred de Bathe Brandon, who was educated in Wellington and Canterbury before studying law at Trinity College in Cambridge, England in 1906.
He had joined the family law firm Brandon, Hislop and Johnston and served as a reservist in the 5th Wellington regiment. When war broke out in 1914, he quickly gave up his job and resigned his commission with the regiment to go to England.
He learned to fly at the Hall Flying School in Hendon, paying his own way and after seven weeks, gained an aviator's certificate before joining the Royal Flying Corps.
He became the first New Zealand pilot to receive the Distinguished Service Order and attained the rank of Major.
He returned to New Zealand at the end of the war and didn’t fly again. But he did help draft a report to the government on the country’s air defences, reviewing existing and potential airfields.
Brandon returned to law and in January 1942 he married Ada Mabel Perry at St Paul's Cathedral in Wellington. They had one son, Peter.
The family law firm still exists today, named simply "Brandons" it is the third oldest law firm in New Zealand and Brandon Street in central Wellington bears the family name.
Brandon died in Upper Hutt on June 19, 1974, aged 90. His grandfather is buried in the Bolton Street Cemetery while his father and he are in Karori.
Photo from Te Papa collection.
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