A BRADFORD man flew a fighter aircraft in the Second World War’s Battle of Britain. He was not an officer in the Royal Air Force. In fact, his rank was Sub Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. He volunteered to help defend Britain’s defence against air attacks by the Nazi Luftwaffe, as did other naval pilots. At the early start of the war the RAF was short of fighter pilots.

His name was Geoffrey Gordon Robson Bulmer. He was born on January 5, 1920. His parents were Leslie T and Mabel A Bulmer.

I have no information of Bulmer’s first 19 years of life until his Navy life. I would like to know where he lived, the schools he attended, whether he a was member of any clubs and organisations, and whether his family related to the Bulmer & Lumb wool textile mill owners. Perhaps a T&A reader could provide me with some answers to these questions.

The Bulmer family originated from Anglo-Saxon aristocrats who settled in north eastern England. They survived the Norman Conquest and adopted the Bulmer surname from the place where they became lords of the manor. It is a site about six miles from Malton and three miles from Sheriff Hutton. A Bulmer was Sheriff of Durham and another Sheriff of Yorkshire, both in the 12th century. In the 17th century a couple from a branch of the family were convicted of witchcraft - he was hanged, she was burnt at the stake!

In July 1939 Geoffrey Bulmer enlisted in the Royal Navy aged 19. This was some 13 months before the start of World War II. He served in Greenwich at HMS President then at HMS Frobisher and HMS St Vincent. He was posted to HMS Pembroke on October 9, 1939. He gained his wings at 7 RTS Peterborough on March 14, 1940 and went on a fighter course and deck-landing training at Eastleigh.

Like many other Fleet Air Arm pilots he volunteered to help the RAF. On June 15, 1940 and learned to fly Hawker Hurricane fighter jets. He joined RAF 32 Squadron on July 1. The RAF’s Hurricane was a modern fighter but used more conventional technology than the advanced Supermaine Spitfire. It used the same Rolls-Royce 12-cylinder Merlin engine and was armed with eight Browning 0.303 machine guns. A total of 4,487 Hurricanes were built and shot-down over 60per cent of Nazi planes in the Battle of Britain. Its top speed was 278 mph. Now Airbus and Boeing passenger jets cruise at around 500 mph.

At this stage of the war the Luftwaffe had not begun bomber raids over Britain. They were concentrating on sinking British shipping in the Channel, and 32 Squadron was tasked with defending our ships. On July 20 at 6pm, less than three weeks after joining 32 Squadron, Bulmer was shot down off the coast of Dover by a Nazi Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter aircraft. He baled out and parachuted into the sea. His body was never recovered. His aircraft may have crashed at Lydden.

Sub-lieutenant Geoffrey Bulmer was a novice pilot. He never had chance to gain experience and learn tactics to defend himself from enemy aircraft. However, he was brave enough to help this country in its direst need. He is commemorated on three was memorials; the Battle of Britain in London, the Fleet Air Arm in Lee-on-Solent and Bradford’s Cenotaph. After the war some of Biggin Hill aerodrome in Kent was used for a housing development and the roads were named after pilots killed flying from that airfield in the Battle of Britain. Our boy is among them.