The Man who Bombed a Zeppelin


My Grandfather was one of four sons, all of whom one way or another served their country during the First World War. My Grandfather, Ernest Edward Warneford, was in the Royal Flying Corps, although not as a flier, he had served his early military career as a Bandsman at Kneller Hall and as a qualified clarinetist. Serving latterly with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, before joining the RFC.

His cousin, Flight Sub-Lieutenant R.AJ. Warneford, was a flyer and was awarded the VC for being the first man to bomb and bring down a Zeppelin flying below him at night over Belgium.

Unfortunately, he was killed in a flying accident ten days after this heroic deed near Paris aged 23 years, and so never received his medal from the King. The story of this event is well documented and there are exhibitions and memorabilia at Yeovilton Aircraft Museum dedicated to him, including the VC medal awarded to him.

R.AJ. Warneford is buried at Brompton Cemetery in London where there is a Memorial set up by readers of the Daily Express who contributed to its purchase. R.AJ. Warneford’s father was the Engineer who built the Cooch Behar railway in Northern India, one of the first British Overseas Projects, and the start of the railway system of India.

R.AJ. Warneford served his apprenticeship on the SS Somali, a liner of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company in January 1905, the parent Company of the British India Steam Navigation Company, which he was to join, before his flying career. At St Michaels Church at Highworth in Wiltshire, there is also a plaque in the Warneford Family Chapel. Also a plaque fixed to the wall of Exmouth Town Hall, Devon, unveiled in recent years, at a ceremony I attended with other family members.

I have a few photos and documents pertaining to Warneford VC and a copy of a film(silent) showing his funeral cortege. I would recommend the following publication, Warneford, VC, by Mary Gibson. Published by The Fleet Air Arm Museum in 1979.

Clive David