Royal Flying Corps, who died on 8 November 1917

Family History

Francis Albert Durrad was baptised at St Peter’s Parish Church, Oadby on 24 February 1889. He was the eldest of five children born to Albert and Frances Annie (nee Chamberlain) Durrad. In 1891 Francis’ parents kept the New Inn, Oadby but at the time of the census he was staying with his grandparents at 33 Main Street.

Masonic Villas, Leicester Road (Main Street), Oadby. The home of Francis’ maternal grandparents, the Chamberlains.

In 1901 Albert Durrad was listed as a Corn Merchant Traveller and the family lived at Upper Conduit Street, Leicester. With Albert’s main trade as a commercial traveller, the Durrad family seem to have been somewhat itinerant. Francis was born in Oadby, his sister Phyllis Alien (Ailleen?) in Armagh, Ireland in 1894, Robert Henry in Oadby in 1896, Horace Chamberlain (b 1899) and Emily Margaret (b 1902) were both born in Leicester in the parishes of St Peter’s, Highfields. In 1902 the family moved to Foxton where Albert died in 1903 followed by his six year old son Horace in 1905. By 1911 his widow Frances and the four remaining children were living at 33 Clarence Road, Market Harborough, the home of Edward Thompson, a fishmonger’s carter. At the time Francis was a clerk at the Harborough Rubber Works. There does not appear to be a record of a marriage between Frances and Edward and by 1914 some of the family had returned to Oadby.

Masonic Villas, Leicester Road (Main Street), Oadby. The home of Francis’ maternal grandparents, the Chamberlains.

The Harborough Rubber Works on St Mary’s Road. During the war it ran continuous shifts, earning the name ‘Dainite’ under which it still trades.

The Harborough Rubber Works made studded rubber soles for the footwear industry.

Military Service

At the outbreak of war Francis enlisted in the Royal Engineers giving his grandparent’s address, Masonic Villas, Oadby. By the time he was posted to France on 8 November 1914 he had been promoted to Corporal.  On 21 March 1915 Francis was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Army Service Corps but went on the train as a flight officer with the Royal Flying Corps. On 2 September 1917 he was deployed as a Flight Officer (Observer) to 22 Squadron.

22 Squadron had moved to France on 1 April 1916 and flew fighter patrols during the Battle of the Somme in addition to its normal reconnaissance and photography duties in support of the army.

From July 1917, the squadron started to replace its FE.2s aircraft with the faster and more capable Bristol F.2 Fighters. In September 1917, at the Battle of Menin Road Ridge, its 18 aircraft were involved in close air support, air defence, contact-patrol, counter-attack patrol, artillery observation and ground-attack.

The ‘Brisfit’, Bristol F.2 Fighter

Francis Durrad’s machine was piloted by Lieutenant W.G. Meggit.  Meggit was an accomplished pilot and recipient of the Military Cross, having shot down five enemy aircraft. On 11 October 1917 Meggit and Durrad brought down a German Albratros D.V.

Pilots and observers of 22 Squadron in 1918

 

During operations on 8 November 1917, whilst making an observation flight over the German 5th Army’s front, two machines from 22 Squadron became separated during a dogfight with enemy planes, two miles north of Moorslede.  Meggit and Francis’ machine was seen spinning out of control.  Lieutenant Meggitt was taken prisoner but Francis Durrad died in the crash.

 

Memorials

It was assumed that Captain Francis Durrad had been buried by the Germans in Moorslede, Belgium, however, his body was never recovered and he is among 986 airmen Remembered with Honour on the Arras Flying Service Memorial.

The Arras Flying Service Memorial