Francis Bingham born 1893 - RFC pilot
Francis was born into a privileged family. His parents both came from pillars of Bristolian society and his father now directed the family’s merchant bank. Its prestigious clientele included many of the merchant families, ship-owners and wine importers of Bristol.
Francis had boarded at Clifton College where he was in the top tier of students. He had a particular penchant for mathematics and the sciences and was a very keen sportsman. He played both cricket and rugby for the school, which he shared with fellow student and family friend Freddie Mills. In addition to sports, Francis was fascinated by speed and longed for a motorcycle: he was also a keen photographer, notably of Bristol’s architecture and all things Brunel.
In 1912, Francis once again joined his friend Freddie at Cambridge, reading Physics at Corpus Christi. He had a wonderful first two years there however at the start of his third year he was desperate to postpone his studies and join the army. His father convinced him to complete his degree and in 1915 Francis applied for a commission in the recently formed Royal Flying Corps.
Francis had to obtain his pilot’s licence privately to stand a better chance of becoming an RFC pilot. Once doing so Francis progressed as a 2nd Lieutenant in No. 2 Squadron serving in France. Flying a B.E.2c aircraft, Francis undertook roles in observation missions taking photographs of German positions. This dangerous work left the aircrews exposed to almost constant enemy anti-aircraft fire.
Prior to his squadron’s role in the lead up to the Battle of The Somme, Francis had travelled back home to visit a comrade recovering from his injuries at Cleeve Hill Hospital, and it is here that he met the young nurse Hilda Thorne.
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