Poppy Ronald Ernest BRIGHT (1899–1918) Poppy

Ronald Ernest Bright was born in Oxford on 16 April 1899 and baptised at St Margaret's Church on 25 June. He was the son of Allen Albert Bright (born in Rickling Green, Essex in 1851, birth registered Saffron Walden third quarter) and Mary Alabaster Warner (born in Orchard Street, Oxford in 1859 and baptised at St Ebbe's Church on 2 February). His parents were married in St Ebbe's Church in Oxford on 23 July 1883 and had nine children:

  • Robert James Bright (born at 4 Adelaide Street, Oxford on 9 February 1884 and baptised at St Ebbe's Church on 13 April)
  • Beatrice Laura Bright (born at 4 Adelaide Street, Oxford on 7 February 1886 and baptised at St Ebbe's Church on 25 April)
  • Albert John Bright (born in Oxford on 8 December 1887 and baptised at SS Philip & James Church on 15 April 1888)
  • Arthur Bright (born in Oxford on 15 November 1889 and baptised at SS Philip & James Church on 29 December:
    died aged one month, funeral there 7 January 1890)
  • Gladys Daisy Bright (born in Oxford on 15 May 1891 and baptised at SS Philip & James Church on 19 July)
  • Reginald Harry Bright (born in Oxford on 19 December 1893 and baptised at SS Philip & James Church on 25 March 1894)
  • Winifred May Bright (born in Oxford on 18 March 1897)
  • Ronald Ernest Bright (born in Oxford on 16 April 1899 and baptised St Margaret’s Church on 25 June)
  • Victoria Doris Bright (born in Oxford on 18 January 1901 and baptised at St Margaret’s Church on 28 April; d
    ied aged three, funeral at SS Philip & James Church on 16 April 1904).

Back in 1881 Ronald’s father (then a single man of 29) was a grocer’s assistant living over the original Grimbly Hughes shop in Cornmarket. Soon after their marriage, his parents moved to Adelaide Street, and then between 1886 and 1888 to 73 Kingston Road (then in SS Philip & James parish, but in St Margaret’s parish from 1896). The 1891 shows him there with his wife, his wife’s mother, and his first three children; he was now a commercial traveller in the grocery business.

Ronald first appears in the 1901 census as a child of two.

His sister Winifred Mary Bright died near the beginning of 1910 at the age of 12 and was buried in Wolvercote Cemetery on 17 January.

Ronald appears in the 1911 census as a schoolboy of 11. From January 1911 to December 1913 he attended the City of Oxford High School for Boys in George Street (following his brothers Robert, Reginald, and Albert), where he was a Corporation Scholar. He appears to have started work in a bank at the age of 14, and was then apprenticed to Foote & Milne of London, electrical engineers.

Poppy In the First World War Ronald Ernest Bright (shown in the photograph below) served as a Lieutenant in the 74th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps, later the Royal Air Force.

Ronald Bright in his plane
Photograph above and letter below kindly supplied by Judith Davison and
Andrew and Jim Coleman, Ronald Bright's great-niece and great-nephews

Just seventeen days before he was killed, Ronald Bright wrote the following letter to his older sister Mrs Beatrice Coleman:

74 Squadron R.A.F., B.E.F., FRANCE, MONDAY 22nd [April 1918]
Dear Beat
   Thank you so much for letter & birthday wishes also please thank Nobby very much for the photo I like it very much and the little black cat I always wear. The squadron is getting on very well we have got 9 Huns down up to the present and have lost one man unfortunately.
   We are very comfortable the only thing is we get air raids on fine nights and are sometimes kept awake by guns and shells but everybody is jolly cheerful out here. Tell Mrs Coleman not to worry too much about Reg it is pretty rotten we all know but everybody I have seen takes things as they come & keeps smiling in fact soldiers out here are much more cheerfull than those at home.
   Well I haven't much news we are pretty close to this last Hun push but of course I can't say where. I am glad to hear you have had Fred home on leave. I do hope they will keep him where he is at present. I am enclosing a few little handkerchiefs I got in a town not far from us.
   One of the funniest things out here is to see all the chinamen digging trenches and road mending there are lots of them & they stare & grin at you and sit on the side of the road & bake their own bread. Please give my love to Mrs Coleman and love and kisses for Nobby tell him not to grow up too soon. Well I will dry up now but I wish all the people at home were as optimistic as we are out here the war would be over quicker.
   Well cheerio, Your affect brother, Ron

Bright is mentioned in Ira Jones, King of Airfighters: Biography of Major “Mick” Mannock, VC, DSO, MC (1934), which states that No. 74 Fighter Squadron was formed on 1 March 1918 and that 18-year-old Lieutenant Ronald Bright was one of the pilots chosen for “B” Flight. The squadron received a stunning blow on the morning of 8 May when “B” Flight was caught napping by a flight of triplanes between Ypres and Menin several miles over the lines. “C” Flight took off ten minutes after “B” Flight, and spotted a flight of triplanes manoeuvring at least 3,000 feet over “B” Flight, who appeared not to have seen them. After “B” Flight dropped their 20lb bombs on Menin, they turned to come back, but the Huns whipped round and made a dash for them.

Initially Bright was reported as missing, and two days later Major Wilfred Ernest Young, a flying ace with eleven confirmed aerial victories, sent the following letter to his father at 73 Kingston Road in Oxford:

74 Squadron, R.A.F. France 10.5.18
Dear Mr. Bright
   The C.O. has written to acquaint you with the sad news that your son is “missing”, and I am writing to offer you my most sincere sympathies and to describe, as far as possible, the fight over the German lines in which he was last seen. I had better say straight away that I can offer no opinion as to what happened to him, but there is certainly every possibility that he is a prisoner and unwounded.
   We left the ground at 7.30 a.m. on the 8th in a formation of five machines – your son and myself, and three other officers, Kiddie, Piggot and Stuart-Smith. At about 8.40 we were about five miles over the lines when a formation of eight German machines (Fokker planes) came up from the south. As they were above us they were able to attack first, and as soon as the leaders dived on Kiddie, the rear man of my formation, we all turned round and engaged them. Your son was with me then, but after the general fight which ensued none of our machines was near me. I then noticed three machines diving down some distance below to the East and, if your son was in one of these, it is quite possible that he was forced to land through engine trouble and the he was able to land under control. I am very sorry I cannot give you any fuller details of your son's part in the engagement, but I was under a great disadvantage the whole time as, at the commencement of the fight, water started pouring over my face from my radiator, and consequently I was unable to see very clearly what was happening to my other machines. Another pilot, Stuart-Smith, is also missing from the same fight and we have no news of him either.
   I shall miss your son very much in the Flight, and his loss is felt very keenly by the while squadron. We all have every hope that he is unhurt and you may be sure that we shall let you know immediately we get any news of him.
            With my very deepest sympathy,
                        Yours sincerely
                                       W. E. Young.

In fact, as Jones writes in his book, within a few seconds both Stuart-Smith and Ronald Bright must have gone down in flames. He also remarks that if “C” Flight had been able to warn “B” Flight of the enemy's whereabouts, they could easily have outraced the Huns, as the S.E.5 was much faster than the triplanes.

Hence Ronald Ernest Bright died in his plane over Menin in Belgium at the age of 19 on 8 May 1918, and has no known grave.

Bright on memorial in Boys' High School

Bright is remembered on a plaque in the Old Boys’ High School, George Street (left); on the Arras Flying Services Memorial; and on the war memorial outside St Margaret’s Church in north Oxford.


St Margaret's Church War Memorial

After the War

Ronald’s parents
  • Allen Albert Bright died in the second quarter of 1922
  • Mary Alabaster Bright continued to live at 73 Kingston Road until her death in 1951
Ronald’s two surviving sisters
  • Beatrice Laura Bright (born 1886) married Frederick George Coleman at St Margaret’s Church on 21 September 1913
  • Gladys Daisy Bright (born 1891) married Henry Sheppard in 1918 (fourth quarter, Headington Registration District, but not at St Margaret’s Church)

See also

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