Michael Franklin Briden

39706, Flying Officer (Pilot), 149 Squadron. Royal Air Force.

Missing In Action on the 18th December 1939 aged 22.

The Runnymeade Memorial, Surrey.

Michael was the only son of Franklin & Marion Briden. He married Joyce Eyre Nicholson on the 19th September 1939, at Mildenhall, Suffolk, where he was stationed. Just a few weeks later he was to be one of the first men from North Hertfordshire to be killed whilst serving with the RAF.

On the 18th December 1939, Michael was the Pilot of a Wellington, N2961, which after taking off from Mildenhall airfield was detailed to attack German Shipping at Wilhelmshaven. Twenty-Four Wellingtons were dispatched and ordered not to attack at less than 10,000ft. to enable them to avoid the worst of the flak. Twenty-Two aircraft reached the target and several German ships, that were seen off of Wilhelmshaven, were bombed. Weather conditions were cloudless and visibility was perfect. This was the first time during the war that German Fighters were directed to the Bomber force by a ground controller. Information was being relayed from an experimental " Freya" radar station situated on the nearby island of Wangerooge. The radar station had detected the Wellingtons when they were some 70 miles out on their approach flight. Flak then caused the formation to open out and this enabled the Fighters of 4/JG 2 to come in and Twelve of the bombers were shot down.

During the attack the port wing tanks on Briden's aircraft were damaged by a German fighter and he asked the leader to take the shortest route home as he was losing fuel. When they were between 40 - 60 miles off of the coast between Cromer and Sheringham the engines spluttered and the aircraft dropped back. It then glided down and landed in the sea, turning 90 degrees to Starboard as it did so with waves breaking over the fuselage, the time by now was 15.05pm. The aircraft remained afloat for five minutes with it's nose down in the water. The dinghy was inflated and was seen by the nose of the aircraft with three of the crew around it. When the aircraft went down the dinghy was seen to be on end with three of the crew hanging on to it. That, despite an extensive search by the Cromer lifeboat, H.F.Bailey, was the last anyone ever saw of them.

No survivors were ever found but the bodies of P/O William Brown and AC2 Alan Foster were eventually washed ashore, William Brown is buried in Norwich cemetery. The loss of such a large part of the formation had a major effect on the policy of the British Bomber Commanders. The validity of the self-defending Bomber formation was, it seemed, placed in serious doubt.

Michael Briden has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Runnymeade memorial.

Crew of WELLINGTON N2961







Michael Franklin  BRIDEN




William Stanley Francis BROWN




Valentine Henry Garner RICHARDSON




Peter John WARREN




Alan Gordon FOSTER




Isaac Davidson LEIGHTON


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