b. 19/01/1896 Paddington, London. d. 08/07/1988 Windsor, Berkshire.
Born in London in 1896, "Freddy" West was the son of an army officer killed in 1902 during the Second Boer War. Growing up in Italy, he attended the University of Genoa in 1913 and during the 1914 vacation he acquired a post in banking. When war broke out he joined the British Army, initially in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1914 as a private, before being commissioned in May 1915 and joining the Royal Munster Fusiliers. He arrived in France in November 1915.
After a flight in early 1917, West decided to transfer to the RFC, training as an observer at Brooklands, and sent back in France in April 1917 to No 3 Squadron, becoming a fully qualified observer in July 1917, having accumulated over 100 flying hours. After six months and 225 flying hours he was posted back to Britain to undergo pilot training at Grantham. He was then posted to No 8 Squadron in January 1918, flying Army co-operation duties with the infantry and tanks. Crewing up with Lt. John Haslam in March, West flew a series of hazardous sorties over the front, culminating with both men being awarded the Military Cross on 1 May 1918.
On 18 June 1918, West's aircraft was attacked by 4 Pfalz D III scouts. West personally claimed one shot down, and skillfully evaded the rest to return to base. The next day West was bounced by a group of Fokker DVII scouts, and West dropped to 200 feet altitude and flew through a network of kite balloons to escape.
On 12 August 1918, the British Army was intending to start a major offensive, but it needed information about the enemy positions. Setting off at dawn, West and his observer, Lt JAG Haslam, flying an Armstrong Whitworth FK 8 (serial number C8602), spotted an enemy concentration through a hole in the mist. Avoiding severe ground fire, almost immediately they came under attack from seven German fighter aircraft and West was hit in the leg, and his radio transmitter was smashed.
Continuing to identify his location, he remained under attack and manoeuvred his machine so skilfully that his observer was able to get several good bursts into the enemy machines, which drove them away. Only when he was sure of the enemy’s position did he attempt to break off and head for his own lines. He twisted his trouser leg into a tourniquet to stem the flow of blood from his wounds. Unable to make his airfield West landed behind the Allied lines and insisted on reporting his findings despite being in excruciating agony. His left leg had five wounds, one of which had shattered his femur and cut the femoral artery, and had to be amputated.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: HOLY TRINITY CHURCHYARD, SUNNINGDALE, BERKSHIRE.
Medals in the Imperial War Museum before the Lord Ashcroft Gallery was created.
St Clements Danes Church, Aldwych