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[RAF Elsham Wolds] [Profiles] [Albert B Fanstone AFC]

Captain Albert Baird Fanstone AFC RAF - 33 Sqn - Elsham Wolds 1918/19.

RAF Elsham Wolds - Fanstone 33 Squadron

Albert Baird Fanstone, A.F.C. was born in the Azores of British parents in March 1892. His parents were Christian Protestant Medical Missionaries who moved to and worked extensively in Brazil for many years.

Albert Fanstone was granted Aero Certificate 3031 on 19.5.1916, and graduated from the Central Flying School at Upavon. One month later he was posted to 12 Squadron (BE2ds and BE2es), Avesnes-le-Comte in France from June to December 1916. The Be2 was an RFC workhorse and well past its prime. It was used mostly for artillery spotting and photo reconnaissance and these squadrons were kept very busy with this important work in spite of heavy losses as the war progressed.

He was involved in a serious crash on the 6.12.1916 whilst flying a dual-control BE2d with Captain L.O. Crowther. Fanstone had hitched a lift to 8 Sqn who were stationed at the nearby airfield of La Bellevue to visit an old friend. When it was time to return home no lift was available so he rang his own Squadron to see if anyone was available to fly over and pick him up. His Flight Commander Captain Crowther obliged and in a dual control machine which had recently been delivered to the Squadron. The dual controls were very primitive consisting of a rudder bar and detachable joy stick which was clipped to the side of the cockpit when not in use.

Crowther had not had the opportunity to try the dual controlled machine and, when Fanstone had taken off, Crowther signalled that he wished to take control form the front seat. Crowther flew the aircraft back to base and commenced a circuit of the airfield when the control column became detached and the aircraft plunged into the ground from 300 ft very close to the Officer's Mess.

Crowther was killed instantly and is buried at Avesnes-Le-Comte; Fanstone was only slightly injured ( concussion, facial cuts and bruises and a sprained wrist ), and returned to England for convalescence.

The incident highlighted a serious defect in the dual control Be2s and, after an enquiry and the recommendations received, the control columns were immediately replaced by metals ones which could be firmly held in place by a locking pin.

Fanstone rejoined 12 Squadron, April-May 1917 and then was promoted to Captain and  moved to 8 Squadron in France until October 1917.

During his extensive service in France he was involved in a considerable amount of war flying. During his time with 12 Sqn he completed 83 artillery cooperation and photographic tasks and also 25 bombing raids over the front line. With 8 Sqn he completed 164 artillery cooperation and photographic tasks and also 25 bombing raids over the front line.

Fanstone always wanted to fly fighters on the Western Front but this was denied.

Later that year Fanstone was employed in the Air Defence of Great Britain as a night pilot flying BE 12s with 39 and 78 Squadron, based at Sutton's Farm, Hornchurch.

On 1 December 1917 Captain Fanstone commanded 'D' Flight of 78 Squadron at Biggin Hill, the first Operational Unit to operate from what was to become one of the most famous R.A.F. airfields.

In early 1918 he transferred to 37 Squadron, Stow Maries, and commanded 'B' Flight from 21st January to 31 March, and later moved to 33 Squadron at Elsham Wolds where he commanded 'C' Flight from April 1918 to April 1919.

Their purpose was to intercept German Gotha and Giant bomber aircraft as well as the infamous Zeppelin and Schutte-Lanz airships.

He was made captain R.A.F on the 1st April 1918. At the close of the Great War Fanstone was flying Bristol Fighters with 33 Squadron from Elsham and, on the night of 5/6 August 1918, he took part in operations against the last Zeppelin raid of the war.

RAF Elsham Wolds - Fanstone WW1

Above - Albert Fanstone pictured at Elsham with a Bristol Fighter

Captain Fanstone left the RAF in 1920 to take up a place at Cambridge University. He was then Grade III Education Officer at the School of Technical Training (Boys) Halton. He may have served abroad for a spell and Kalafrana at Malta has been mentioned

On the 18th October 1942  was Administrative and Special Duties Branch and I believe he finished the WW2 as Wing Commander.

Albert Fanstone, who was a devout Christian and lifelong teetotaller, lived in Brighton for many years until he passed away in 1985.

The types flown by Albert Fanstone whilst with 33 Squadron

Be2c 1919 A3132


FE2b A4818


Avro 504  and ground crew

Avro 504  and ground crew

Bristol Fighter C4626

Bristol Fighter

Written by David Fell with thanks to Cross and Cockade Journal 13 Vol 1 for the background info and one of the photos.I will welcome further information and photos of this most interesting man.


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