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Wing Commander Branse Burbridge, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar (born 4 February 1921), was the top scoring Allied night fighter pilot of World War II.

Born in East Dulwichmarker, Burbridge lived in Knebworthmarker when the Second World War broke out in September 1939, working as an insurance clerk. At first he was a conscientious objector, but, coming to the view that the war was a just cause, he joined the Royal Air Force in September 1940.

After training at 54 OTU Church Fentonmarker, he was posted to 85 Squadron in October 1941, flying Douglas Havoc night fighters. Tour-expired, he was posted to 62 OTU and then to 141 and 157 Squadrons. He returned to 85 in July 1943 as a Flight Lieutenant. Burbridge was to gain far more success flying Mosquitoes with 85, initially on home defence duties prior to June 1944, than on Bomber Support operations with 100 Group against the Luftwaffe's Nachtgeschwaders. With radar operator F/L 'Bill' Skelton, he claimed 21 kills over the next ten months, 16 over occupied Europe.

They opened their account on 22 February 1944, destroying a Messerschmitt Me 410. The pair shot down a total of 21 enemy aircraft and three V1 flying bombs, the total including a Bf 110 and three Ju 88G during the night of November 4/5 1944. On this occasion Burbridge fired only 200 rounds of ammunition in downing four enemy aircraft. Their score of enemy aircraft destroyed made them the top night-fighting crew in the RAF.

Burbridge is quoted as saying "I always tried to aim for the wings of enemy aircraft and not the cockpit. I never wanted to kill anyone."

A committed Christian, Burbridge went on to become a full-time worker for Scripture Union after the war.


  • Chistopher Shores & Clive Williams Aces High Grub Street, 1991, p 157

  • A Brooks Fighter & Bomber Squadrons at War ISBN 1-85648-246-4

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