Corporal Freddie Bretton, Royal Air Force
Freddie Bretton was born in the Wakefield area in spring 1924, the son of Maurice Bretton and Edith Morley. Maurice Bretton was born in Flockton on 4th May 1898, the third son of six children, born to coal miner Henry Bretton (1870-1943) and Elizabeth Wisehall (1874-1959) who married in Spring 1893. By 1911, Maurice was 13 years of age and his two elder brothers, Herbert and Arthur, were 16 and 14 years of age, and like their father were already working as coal miners. In 1911, the Bretton family were living at Lane End, Flockton and Maurice had three younger sisters.
Maurice’s brother, Arthur, aged 20 years was killed on the 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of The Somme, whilst serving with the 8th Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) Regiment. Arthur was awarded the British, Victory and the 1914-15 Star Medals. Arthur was born on the 19th July 1896 and embarked for France on 21st April 1915, shortly before his 19th birthday. At that time a soldier needed to be at least 19 years old before he served overseas in a theatre of war, indicating that Arthur may not have been entirely truthful when he enlisted. The record shows that he was earlier in the Regular Army, 1st battalion KOYLI, and since the 8th battalion did not arrive in France until August 1915, it is likely that he joined the 1st battalion in France and at some later stage transferred to the 8th battalion. The 1st battalion moved to Salonika in December 1915 and did not take part in the Battle of the Somme.
On the 1st October 1921, at the Parish Church of St James the Great, Flockton, miner Maurice Bretton, aged 23 years of Lane End, Flockton, married 22 year-old, farm assistant Edith Morley of The Green, Flockton. The couple appear to have had six children: Arthur M., Freddie, Donald, Jean, Peter and Maureen E., born between Spring 1922 and early 1934.
In 1939 Maurice, a road watchman, was living in Ingham’s Yard, Wakefield. There were four people in the household, but two names are redacted and at least one of these was still at school. The other known person in the household was Donald Bretton, born on the 2nd May 1926.
In 1946, Maurice Bretton, aged 48 years, travelled "Grade B" on his return from South Africa aboard the Union-Castle Mail steamship, "Arundel Castle", landing at Southampton on the 6th August 1946. Maurice, a football stitcher, gave his home address as Longroyd Cottage, Middlestown, Wakefield, Yorkshire.
The "Ossett Observer" carried an obituary for Freddie Bretton as follows:2
"MIDDLESTOWN AIRMAN DIES IN HOSPITAL - Injured in Plane Crash - The death took place at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, on Tuesday, after much suffering, of Corporal Freddie Bretton, of Thornhill Rd, Middlestown at the age of 24 years. A native of the village and the second son of Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Bretton, he attended Middlestown Council School, and gained a scholarship to Ossett Grammar School. At the age of sixteen, he entered the RAF by competitive award, and passed out as a rigger. Afterwards he was stationed at various aerodromes in this country, and was drafted to South Africa in August 1944.
In an aeroplane crash on a flight between the Transvaal and Port Elizabeth in April 1945, he was severely injured, sustaining a fractured spine and head injuries. His condition was so serious that his father flew to South Africa to see him. Four months later, he was brought back to this country and sent to Pinderfields Hospital, where he has remained since. As a result of his injuries, paralysis affected his arms, but he remained cheerful to the end. The nursing staff at the hospital have paid tribute to his courage over the past two years."
Freddie Bretton, born spring 1924, died on 7th December 1948, aged 24 years after spending two years as a paraplegic, following an aeroplane accident. The Probate record stated “Fredie (sic)) of Longroyd Cottage, Middlestown died on the 7th December 1948 at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield. Administration of his effects were settled at Wakefield on the 7th March 1948 to Maurice Bretton, crane driver. Effects £218 13s 1d.
Freddie Bretton is recorded in the Electoral Roll at this address in 1947, 1948 and 1949. The latter record may only be because his death had not been reported to the Electoral authorities by the time of issue of the electoral roll.
2. "Ossett Observer", 11th December 1948