Reginald Warneford VC (1891-1915)
Charismatic ‘Reckless Rex’ is one of the cemetery’s 12 Victoria Cross holders.
The monument to this talented young pilot reveals the moment in World War I when he became the first airman to shoot down a German airship.
Warneford was a naturally gifted pilot, keen and able, but he could be reckless too. He was nearly dismissed from the Royal Naval Air Service for his undisciplined behaviour, but instead was sent to France to fight. One night, he attacked a German Zeppelin and bombed it from above. The airship exploded, flipping Warneford’s plane and stopping its engine. He landed in enemy territory, fixed his engine and flew safely home.
Warneford was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions. This is the highest award in the British honours system, and is presented to members of the armed forces. Tragically, Warneford died just 10 days later while demonstrating a new plane near Paris. He was just 23 years old.
Over 50,000 people came to Warneford’s funeral at Brompton Cemetery.
His coffin was carried through the cemetery on a gun carriage, draped in a Union Jack, and followed by his comrades from the Royal Naval Air Service. After a service in the chapel, he was laid to rest beside the Central Avenue. The officers and men of the British Hospital in Paris sent a magnificent floral wreath in the shape of a plane.