Military Wiki
Sir William Sefton Brancker
Born (1877-03-22)March 22, 1877
Died October 5, 1930(1930-10-05) (aged 53)
Place of birth Woolwich, Kent, England
Place of death By Beauvais, France
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Royal Air Force
Years of service c. 1896 to 1919
Rank Air Vice-Marshal
Battles/wars Second Boer War, First World War
Other work British Director of Civil Aviation

Air Vice-Marshal Sir William Sefton Brancker KCB AFC (22 March 1877 – 5 October 1930), commonly known as Sir Sefton Brancker, was a pioneer in British civil and military aviation.

Early life

Sefton Brancker was born on 22 March 1877, at Woolwich in Kent. His parents were Colonel William Godefroy Brancker and Hester Adelaide, the daughter of Major-General Henry Charles Russel. The Branckers were a long-established Anglo-German family which had lived in England for several generations.

Sefton Brancker grew up as the elder of two brothers and their father died in 1885. From 1891 to 1894, the young Brancker attended Bedford School.

Military career

Brancker was trained for the British Army at Woolwich, joining the Royal Artillery in 1896.[1] He served in the Second Boer War and later for a number of years in India, where he made his first flight in 1910.[2] On 18 June 1913 he was awarded the Royal Aero Club's Aviator's Certificate no. 525.[1]

During World War I, he held important administrative posts in the Royal Flying Corps and later the Royal Air Force including Director of Air Organisation and Director of Military Aeronautics.[1] In 1917, Brancker briefly served as the General Officer Commanding Royal Flying Corps's Palestine Headquarters and then its Middle East headquarters.[1] Promoted to major-general in 1918, he became Controller-General of Equipment in January of that year and Master-General of Personnel in August 1918.[1] The following year, he was appointed KCB and with the introduction of RAF-specific ranks, he became an air vice-marshal.[1]

Civil aviation

In 1922 he was made Director of Civil Aviation,[1] and worked assiduously to stimulate UK interest in the subject with both local authorities and flying clubs. He encouraged Manchester and other cities to construct municipal airports and airfields. He participated in several long-distance survey flights, notably with Alan Cobham. He was an ardent supporter of the development of British civilian air services connecting London to British colonies and dominions overseas.[3] Sir Sefton was chairman of the Royal Aero Club's (RAeC) Racing Committee from 1921 to 1930 and his dynamic leadership led to the RAeC forming the Light Aero Club scheme in 1925, which helped provide the UK clubs with examples of such new and improved aircraft types as the de Havilland Moth and Avro Avian.


The wreckage of R101.

Together with Lord Thomson, the Air Minister, Brancker was killed when the R101 airship crashed near Beauvais France on 5 October 1930, during its maiden voyage to India.[1][3]


In 1952 British European Airways named its 'Pionair' (Douglas DC-3) G-AKNB “Sir Sefton Brancker” to mark his substantial contribution to the development of British Aviation. In 1996 British Airways (BA) named one of its newly delivered Boeing 777's "Sir William Sefton Brancker" in recognition of his work. Other 777s in the BA fleet were named after aviation pioneers, for example "Wilbur and Orville Wright" and "Sir Frank Whittle." The aircraft (G-ZZZB) no longer carries Sir Sefton's name, aircraft names having been removed from the BA fleet since the short-lived 1997 Utopia re-branding.


  • Pirie, Gordon H. Air Empire: British Imperial Civil Aviation, 1919-1939. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.
  • Raleigh, Walter. The War In The Air: Being the Story of The part played in the Great War by The Royal Air Force: Vol I. Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1922.

Further reading

  • Sir Sefton Brancker, Norman Macmillan, William Heinemann Ltd, London, 1935
  • Air Days, John F. Leeming, Harrap, London, 1936

External links

Military offices
New title
Directorate established
Assistant Director of Military Aeronautics
Deputy Director from March 1915

1913 – September 1915
Succeeded by
J D B Fulton
Preceded by
J F A Higgins
Officer Commanding No. 3 Wing
c. September – December 1915
Succeeded by
Preceded by
W G H Salmond
General Officer Commanding HQ RFC Middle East
November – December 1917
Succeeded by
W G H Salmond
Officer Commanding Palestine Brigade
November – December 1917
Succeeded by
A E Borton
New title
Air Council established
RAF Controller-General of Equipment
3 January – 22 August 1918
Succeeded by
E L Ellington
Preceded by
Sir Godfrey Paine
RAF Master-General of Personnel
22 August 1918 - 13 January 1919
Title next held by
C F Lambert
As Director of Personnel
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Frederick Sykes
As Controller
Director of Civil Aviation
1922 – 1930
Succeeded by
Sir Francis Shelmerdine

This article incorporates text from The Modern World Encyclopædia: Illustrated (1935); out of UK copyright as of 2005.

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