King Edward’s School and the Great War

Memorial Roll of Honour 1914 - 1918


Busby, Vernon Erle George

Temporary Lieutenant ▪ Royal Flying Corps

Vernon Erle George Busby, born on 17th September 1894, was admitted to King Edward’s School in September 1905. He was the eldest son of George Edmund Busby, a plumber’s merchant, and his wife, Kate, of ‘Fairfield’, 3, Serpentine Road, Selly Park. He. His younger brother Eric, also an Old Edwardian, was killed in action flying above the Western Front.

While at School, Vernon was an active member of the Officer Training Corps, and competed in the annual half-mile open water swim at Edgbaston Reservoir. In July 1909, he came fifth with a time of 23 minutes 44 seconds, in water that was “very choppy”. Vernon was also a proficient motor cyclist, competing in two Tourist Trophy races, riding on an S9 Ariel in 1913 and on an S11 Sunbeam the year after.

On 6th August 1914, Vernon volunteered for active service abroad with the Royal Engineers, and was posted to France with the British Expeditionary Force as a dispatch rider with the rank of Corporal. He was wounded at the Battle of Mons. In November 1914, he was commissioned Temporary Second Lieutenant in the RE Motor Cyclist Section, Special Reserve. He was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant in June 1915, and was attached to the Royal Flying Corps soon afterwards. He gained his Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate on 18th August 1915, taking the tests in a Maurice Farman biplane at the Military School Birmingham (Billesley Common). Following a period in France, a leg injury kept him in hospital in England for some time. Afterwards, he was employed at the Air Ministry on special flying work, often as a “service test pilot” of “Herculean Physique but tender years”. Vernon lost his life on 8th June 1918 in a flying accident over Hendon, while flying the 13th test flight for the Handley Page V/1500. It is possible that he was faced with fuel starvation to all four engines while climbing, and so the machine stalled and fell towards the ground. Busby and three other passengers were killed instantly but, before fire broke out, the two passengers in the tail position were successfully rescued. The ensuing flames consumed all evidence of the cause of the malfunction. Vernon reached the rank of Captain. He died aged twenty-three, and was buried on 14th June 1918 at Lodge Hill Cemetery, Selly Oak.