b. 18/08/1896 Barnt Green, Worcestershire. d. 27/03/1977 Guildford, Surrey.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 15/03/1917 Wye Aerodrome, Kent.
Oliver Campbell Bryson (1896-1977) was born on 18th August 1896 in Barnt Green, Worcestershire, the second son of George A Bryson, a hardware merchant from Birmingham, and his wife Edith, who was the daughter of a well-known silversmith, George Unite. They lived at The Oaks, Lickey, a few miles from Birmingham. When Oliver was 13, his mother died, at an early age, from tuberculosis.
He attended Lickey Hills Preparatory School and later Uppingham School (1910-1915). He was a School Praeposter (Prefect) and was Captain of Games. He passed into Trinity College, Cambridge but the First World War intervened. He joined the Dorset Yeomanry at the outbreak of the war and served in the Egyptian theatre, being wounded in the cavalry charge at Oggagia in 1916. Sadly his brother, GLU Bryson, in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was killed in action on 13th July 1916.
By 1917, Lieutenant Bryson had transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and he was awarded the Albert Medal whilst serving with them later that year. On 15th March 1917, Bryson with Second Lieutenant Hildebrandt as passenger, was piloting an aeroplane at Wye Aerodrome in Kent, when, owing to a sideslip, the machine crashed to the ground and burst into flames.
Disentangling himself from the burning wreckage, he at once went back into the flames and dragged his observer, Lieutenant Hillebrandt, from the fire. Notwithstanding his own injuries, which were undoubtedly aggravated by his gallant efforts to rescue his crewmen, he then endeavoured to extinguish Hillebrandt's burning clothes. However, he was unable to save his life and Hillebrandt died a few days later.
Bryson was awarded the Albert Medal (London Gazette, 11th January 1918), and soon afterwards was awarded the Military Cross for actions in France (London Gazette, 4th February 1918). His citation for the MC recorded that “proved himself a determined and undaunted leader and set a splendid example of courage on all occasions.” Before the end of hostilities, he was awarded the DFC for his actions in Russia (London Gazette 18th November 1919). The citation stated that “he commanded a squadron of heavy bombing machines in North Russia during the whole of the summer of 1919 during which time he carried out a large number of successful raids on the enemy territory. During operations on the Dwina in August and on the Pinega in September 1919 he flew a Snipe machine with exceptional skill and daring. A very gallant officer he has proved himself during these exceptionally difficult aerial operations.”
He was married for the first time to Cecile Allen, an American girl whom he met in Paris. They were married in St George’s, Hanover Square, London on 27th July 1927, his bride being just 18. They had one daughter, Daphne, who was born in June 1930, when her father was serving in the RAF in Quetta. There was a subsequent divorce, and Bryson remarried during World War Two, but again this marriage ended in divorce, albeit with no children.
Bryson served on the North West Frontier of India during the time of his daughter’s birth, and was awarded a Bar to his DFC (London Gazette, 26th June 1931). He remained in the RAF and was promoted to Wing Commander in January 1935, before being placed on the Retired List in 1943. He retired from the RAF in 1946 with the rank of Group Captain. He chose to exchange his Albert Medal for a George Cross in 1971 after the change in the Royal Warrant. In retirement, he enjoyed bee keeping, horse racing and dog breeding.
Oliver Bryson AM/GC, MC, DFC* passed away on 27th March 1977 in Guildford, Surrey and was cremated at Guildford Crematorium, where he is recorded in the Book of Remembrance. His medal group including his AM, MC, DFC and Bar, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, India General Service Medal 1908-1935 with clasp “North West Frontier”, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 and King George VI Coronation Medal 1937 were gifted to the RAF Museum, Hendon. It is also believed he was eligible for the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal but passed away before receiving it.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: RAF MUSEUM, HENDON, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: GUILDFORD CREMATORIUM, GUILDFORD, SURREY.