Dedicated to the memory of all the men and women of the South Staffordshire area who died during the two World Wars.
Richard Orlando Beaconsfield Bridgeman was born on 28 Feb 1879 at Chelsea, London. He was the second son of George Bridgeman, 4th Earl of Bradford, and his wife, Ida Frances. The family lived at Castle Bromwich, where Richard was baptised on 10th April.
At the age of 13 Richard enrolled in the Navy. He later commanded gunboats in China and a destroyer in the North Sea. He served at the Cape during the whole of the Boer War. In 1911 he was First-Lieutenant of the Medina during the voyage of the King and Queen to India and was in command of the Naval Guard of Honour at Delhi - for which he was awarded the Coronation Durbar Medal. In 1914 he was Commander of HMS Hyacinth, a ship of the East Coast of Africa Blockading Squadron and was appointed Flag Commander. He was involved in the operation to destroy the German cruiser Konigsberg when he "undertook preliminary reconnaissances as observer in inefficient seaplanes and with assistance of his sketches and photographs rendered it possible to fix correct position of Konigsberg." On that occasion he had a narrow escape when a bullet passed through his cap. In July, 1916, he was awarded the D.S.O.:
Cdr. Bridgeman displayed great courage and coolness on the 19th August, 1915, in command of two whalers which proceeded into Tanga Harbour. The manner in which the whalers endeavoured, though subjected to a heavy and accurate fire, to carry out their orders and board the S.S. Markgraf was worthy of the best traditions of the Royal Navy. [London Gazette, 14 July 1916.]
Richard Bridgeman died after the aeroplane in which he was acting as Observer developed engine problems. The circumstances are described in the citation of an award to the pilot, Edwin Moon:
On the 6th January, 1917, whilst on a reconnaissance flight over the Rufiji Delta with Cdr. The Hon. Richard O. B. Bridgeman, D.S.O., R.N., as observer, he was obliged by engine trouble to descend in one of the creeks, where it became necessary to destroy the seaplane to avoid the possibility of its being captured. For three whole days the two officers wandered about the delta in their efforts to avoid capture and to rejoin their ship. During this time they had little or nothing to eat, and were continually obliged to swim across the creeks, the bush on the banks being impenetrable. On the morning of the 7th January they constructed a raft of three spars and some latticed window-frames. After paddling and drifting on this for the whole of the 7th and 8th January, they were finally carried out to sea on the morning of the 9th, when Cdr. Bridgeman, who was not a strong swimmer, died of exhaustion and exposure. In the late afternoon Flt. Cdr. Moon managed to reach the shore, and was taken prisoner by the Germans. He was released from captivity on the 21st November, 1917. He displayed the greatest gallantry in attempting to save the life of his companion. [London Gazette, 15 March 1918.]
The Birmingham Daily Post gives more details:
HOW COMMANDER BRIDGEMAN MET HIS DEATH. A full account of the death of Commander the Hon. R Bridgeman, D.S.O., son of the late Earl of Bradford, has now been received from East Africa. Commander Bridgeman and Flight Commander E. R, Moon, D.S.0., were engaged in flying operations on a seaplane when they were forced to land in the Rufigi delta owing to magnetic failure. Having burned the machine they proceeded up the bank of the river, and Moon swam across the stream, which was swarming with crocodiles, with a view to finding a boat. But his quest failing, he, the following day, again crossed the river, but was carried down some distance by the ebb tide before he could land, and had to make his way back through the mangroves. Apart from cocoa-nuts the officers had had nothing to eat or drink since leaving their station at nightfall.
After much weary wandering they discovered an empty bouse, and by removing the window frame and roughly fastening planks across they constructed a raft. In his anxiety to escape the enemy's watchers Flight Commander Moon failed to stem the tide and the raft was carried out to sea. A strong north-easterly wind increased his difficulties. The raft became partially waterlogged and Flight Commander Moon had the terrible task of keeping himself afloat on the raft and also supporting Commander Bridgeman in his arms to keep his head out of water. On the fourth day Flight Commander Moon spent thirteen hours on the raft, the last nine of which were in open sea. Again and again Commander Bridgeman was washed off the raft and was rescued by Flight Commander Moon, but finally He died of exhaustion or exposure, or he was washed off the raft and Flight Commander Moon could not recover him.
During the course of the fourth afternoon the raft was drfted back by the tide to within a short distance of the shore, and Flight Commander Moon managed to regain land. This final struggle must have been the most arduous of all, for when he was finally clear of the water his face, hands, and feet were cut to pieces by the rocks. A native watcher noticed his predicament and conducted him to Kiomborie, where two Germans were living. There Flight Commander Moon collapsed, and could only point to his mouth to signify he wanted food. He soon recovered, and is now quite well. Commander Bridgeman's body was washed ashore a few days afterwards close to Newbridge, and buried by the Germans. [22 October, 1917]
Commander The Hon. Richard Orlando Beaconsfield Bridgeman, D.S.O., R.N., is now buried in Dar es Salaam War Cemetery. He is commemorated at Weston-under-Lizard, at Castle Bromwich and in Zanzibar Anglican Cathedral. He was awarded the 1914/15 Star and the Victory and British War Medals.
This memorial has mostly been compiled from official sources. It would be good to be able to expand it with more personal material - memories, stories, photos, etc. If you have any suitable material or any corrections please contact Greg.