The Airmen's Stories - P/O M F Briggs
Michael Featherstone Briggs was the son of Edward Featherstone Briggs (1882-1963), a pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service in WW1. On 21st November 1914 Briggs led three Avro 504 aircraft on a bombing raid to the Zeppelin works at Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance.
The attack was launched from an airship station at Belfort in eastern France, 125 miles from the target. Little damage was done but it forced the Germans to move airship production out of reach of Allied aircraft. Briggs had to land his badly shot up aircraft in front of one of the hangars, wounded in the head, and was taken prisoner. The other two returned safely.
Briggs was awarded the DSO plus a further Bar for his conduct while a PoW. There is a detailed account of the raid at: www.worldnavalships.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-9619.html
Michael Featherstone Briggs was born in Denham in September 1920, his mother was Violet Briggs (nee Long 1897-1987) and lived at Walnut Tree Cottage, Cookham on Thames from 1931. He was educated at St Piran’s-on-the-Hill prep school, Maidenhead, and then Oundle. He matriculated in 1938.
He joined the test flight section of the Fairey Aviation Company in 1939 and the RAFVR in July that year. His training was carried out at Cambridge, Derby, Coventry and Montrose. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in September 1940 and joined 234 Squadron at St Eval on 6th October. He flew operational sorties for the remainder of the Battle.
On 4th November 1940 he was posted to 41 Squadron, known as the “100” Squadron (the first to destroy 100 enemy aircraft) at Hornchurch, under Squadron Leader Finlay, the Olympic hurdler. The picture below was taken just after his arrival there.
Back row: F/O HC Baker, F/O DA Adams, P/O MF Briggs, Sgt. EV Darling, F/O JN McKenzie,
F/O ADJ Lovell (in cockpit)
Front row: P/O DE Mileham, F/Lt. EN Ryder, Sgt. RA Angus, S/Ldr. DO Finlay, Sgt. TWR Healy,
Sgt. JS Gilders, P/O EP Wells, Sgt. RC Ford
Subsequently the squadron moved north to Catterick from where they flew convoy escort patrols over the North Sea.
Returning after a sortie on 2nd April 1941, with fog and low cloud drifting in off the sea, Briggs was unable to find the airfield. He finally ran out of fuel and undid his straps in order to bail out. Before he could do so, his aircraft hit rising ground above the village of Whashton and he was thrown out of the cockpit and killed outright.
He is buried with his parents at Cookham Rise Cemetery. His father was Group Captain E F Briggs , DSO and Bar, OBE, RAF, and his mother Mrs Violet Briggs. He is survived by a younger brother, Captain JWF Briggs, RN, who lives in Dorchester, Dorset.
There is a memorial to Michael Briggs carved on the stone seat close to the Tarrystone at Cookham. Photographs taken by him at Catterick are held at the RAF Museum, Hendon.
Text courtesy of Captain JWF Briggs, RN
Images and additional research courtesy of Stephen Holmes via Andrew Pomfrett.