Poppy In memoriam Poppy

Lance Corporal Roland Irvine Bradley


Bradley 1


Roland (or Rowland) Irvine Bradley was born on 15 May 1896 at Burnfoot, County Donegal, son of RIC constable William James Bradley and his wife Jane Ethel Bradley (nee Elkin), one of the younger children of a large family. By 1911 he was living at Corr, Charlemont, County Armagh, his father by then having retired.

Bradley enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 20 February 1914 (No.907). He embarked for France with A Squadron on 17 August 1914, seeing action on the Retreat from Mons and Advance to the Aisne.

During 1916 or early 1917 he was attached to No.20 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps, with the rank of lance corporal.

On 20 May 1917 he was flying as an observer in an FE2d two-seater biplane on an offensive patrol on the Ypres front. The aircraft was attacked by a number of enemy fighters. With its radiator shot-up, the pilot was forced to land in a cornfield behind British lines. Unfortunately it overturned on landing, fatally crushing Lance Corporal Bradley. An account of the action appeared in the Irish Times of 9 June 1917:

Intimation has been received by Mr. William Bradley, Corr, Dunavalley, Charlemont, Moy, of the gallantry of his younger son, Corporal Rowley Bradley, North Irish Horse, attached to a Royal Flying Corps Squadron, who met his death on May 20th while engaged fighting four enemy aeroplanes. The deceased soldier was acting as aerial gunner, and the story of his gallant deed is told in the following letter received by his bereaved parents from Lieutenant Hugh B. Howe, R.F.C., who accompanied him on the occasion as flying officer: – "We were attacked by three Hun machines over the lines. We brought down one of them, and then were attacked by a fourth from the rear. We had our machine and engine damaged, compelling us to leave the fight. Not being able to reach an aerodrome in our crippled condition we had to land in a soft cornfield, but the machine not being under full control crashed, and turned over on landing, your son being smashed under the wreckage. Everything humanely possible was done to extricate him, but he had passed away. The accident took place on Sunday, 20th May, at 10.10 a.m. Your son was much honoured and respected in this squadron, for he was a brave fighter and observer, and his work was highly appreciated by everyone who knew him." The deceased soldier, whose father is an ex-member of the R.I.C., had originally joined the North Irish Horse, and was one of Sir John French's bodyguard when the latter was Commander-in-Chief in France, but, wishing to take part in more active scenes had been accepted in the Royal Flying Corps.

Bradley was buried at Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery, Nord. France, grave I.E.23. The gravestone inscription reads:

20TH MAY 1917


Roland Bradley's death wasn't the only loss faced by his family during the war. One brother, Leading Stoker Frederick Elkin Bradley, drowned on 3 November 1914 when his submarine, D.5, struck a mine off Great Yarmouth. Another brother, Francis Henry Bradley, was killed in action on 9 April 1917 at Arras while serving in the 15th Battalion, Canadian Infantry. A third brother, Albert James Bradley, received a severe shrapnel wound to his right hand at Hooge on 7 May 1915 while serving with Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.


Roland Bradley (left) with two of his brothers, Lex and Harry, around 1902


Gravestone image kindly provided by Richard Evans - see his website Nelson, Glamorgan and the Great War http://www.nelson-ww1-memorial.org.uk. Family photograph kindly provided by Marilyn Bradley.