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Lieutenant Walbanke Ashby Pritt, MC, DFC (31 January 1897 – 27 January 1928) was a British First World War flying ace credited with five aerial victories. He flew with the Royal Flying Corps in 1917/1918; flying Sopwith Pups.

Early lifeEdit

Lt Pritt was born 31 January 1897 and grew up in the Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England area. His mother was Marguerite Bianca Selina Pritt and his father was Charles Pritt, a Cotton Factor (commission merchant).

His RFC flight records indicate as a civilian he attended St Peter's School in York from September 1909 to February 1916 and then attended the Civilian School of Flight from March–September 1916. Walbanke passed his entrance exams for Sandhurst in February 1916 but was rejected as being too small.

At some point Lt Pritt must have joined the Army because records show he was a Private (s/n 39015) in the West Yorkshire Regiment. After being rejected by Sandhurst he opted to try flying. On 16 September 1916 student Pritt passed his Royal Aero Club flying test (RAeC Cert #3564) in a Caudron of the Wallisdown School in Bournemouth and was accepted by the RFC for flying training. He underwent training at the Cadet School at Denham, the 2 School of Military Aeronautics at Oxford, 41 Reserve Squadron, and 15 Reserve Squadron were he gained his RFC wings and was appointed a Flying Officer on 2 June 1917. He was then posted to 40 Reserve Squadron and on to France on 4 July 1917 where he joined 66 Squadron. His flying career lasted from 1916-1920 as a civilian, RFC and finally a RAF pilot after the war.

First World WarEdit

Lt Pritt gained his fame during a five-month period, 4 July to 14 November 1917, while flying Sopwith Pups with No. 66 Squadron. During this period he became an ace and earned the Military Cross. The citation is dated 24 August 1917. He is officially credited with five kills; but there is evidence of a possible sixth victory. During his career he flew with several squadrons (44, 153, 76, 141 and 25) in addition to 66 Squadron. His flight records also show he flew several different aircraft (Maurice Farman Short Horn MFSH, Aircos, Be2a, c7e, Be12, Sopwith Pups & Camels, D.H.6’s, and Caudrons).

DFC CitationEdit

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in attacking a hostile aerodrome with exceptional dash and determination. Having reached his objective and dropped bombs from a very low altitude, he then attacked and destroyed two hostile machines almost as soon as they had left the ground. A machine-gun then opened upon him from the aerodrome, which he immediately attacked. Both on his outward and homeward journey he was under very heavy machine-gun and anti-aircraft fire. On another occasion he attacked a motor-car, and shot one of the occupants from about 50 feet, afterwards attacking infantry on the march and inflicting severe casualties upon them. He has at all times shown constant gallantry and fine offensive spirit. [1]

On 15 February 1918 Lt Pritt was injured while flying a 44 Squadron Sopwith Camel (B7332); he had an engine failure at 500 feet over Hainault Farm, UK, flying downwind he stalled and spun in.

Post warEdit

On 19 April 1920 he was granted a Short Service Commission by the RAF at the rank of Lieutenant. During August 1920, he failed the RAF Flight Instructor Course at the Central Flying School. Accompanying note states "did not take exams, absent sick, CFS cat B, graded unsuitable as instructor at present". He resigned his commission on 12 August 1920 and was denied permission to retain his rank because of "unsatisfactory dealings with cheques".

Lt Pritt was married in 1925. There is no record of any children and his wife was still referred to as Mrs. Pritt until her death in 1965. Records indicate Lt Pritt was a commercial artist and poultry farmer until his untimely death on 27 January 1928 at the age of 31 in an automobile accident near Bagby in North Yorkshire. Such a sad end for a brave warrior in WWI. It would be sad to surmise Mrs Pritt missed her gallant aviator husband so much, see never remarried. RIP Walbanke.

ReferencesEdit

  1. London Gazette Issue 30466, 8 January 1918

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