Wings and prayers

He was a staunch Christian, strong in morals, and rejected conflict… yet became the most successful Allied night fighter pilot of World War Two Andrew Thomas follows the story of Britain’s unlikely ace

Pilot Officer Branse Burbridge in his flying kit soon after he first joined 85 Squadron

To say that Branse Burbridge, one of the RAF’s most distinguished pilots of World War Two, followed an unusual path would be putting it mildly. Born in East Dulwich on February 4, 1921, to a devout Christian family, he was the second of five children. In 1936 the family moved to Knebworth, Hertfordshire, where the young Branse completed his schooling at Alleyne’s Grammar School in Stevenage.

There, he enjoyed artistic pursuits and was closely involved with his church community. On leaving school he initially attended the Camberwell School of Art before beginning work for Royal Exchange Insurance in London. However, with war clouds gathering, he began to examine his conscience and when war broke out, he took the morally brave decision to register as a conscientious objector in keeping with his staunch religious beliefs.

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