George Atherton Brader

Photo, head and shoulders of a young man in uniform looking into the camera.

(Kingston, Pennsylvania, October 17, 1893 – Turnberry, Scotland, April 5, 1918).1

The Braders were of German descent but had lived in Pennsylvania for several generations when Brader was born; his father was a “leading figure in real estate and insurance circles in Luzerne County.”2 After attending high school in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, Brader studied at the nearby Wyoming Seminary business college.3  He graduated in 1916 from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Extension School of Finance in Wilkes-Barre and worked for a time in his father’s Nanticoke insurance and real estate office.4  He was serving in the R.O.T.C. at the Madison Barracks in New York when he was accepted for aviation training in June of 1917.5  He attended Cornell ground school and graduated August 25, 1917.6

Along with three quarters of his Cornell classmates, Brader was selected for training in Italy and thus sailed as a member of the 150 man “Italian” or “second Oxford detachment” to England on the Carmania.  When they docked at Liverpool at the beginning of October they learned that they were not to go to Italy after all, but to train with the R.F.C. in England.  They attended ground school (again) at Oxford.  On November 3, 1917, Brader, along with most of the rest of the detachment, left for machine gun school at Harrowby Camp, near Grantham, in Lincolnshire.  There Brader shared a hut with Wendell Ellison Borncamp, Ralf Andrews Crookston, Burr Watkins Leyson, Clark Brockway Nichol, Donald Swett Poler, Hilary Baker Rex, and Donald Andrew Wilson.  Halfway through the course, when fifty of the cadets were posted to flying schools, Lloyd Ludwig moved into the hut as well.7  Borncamp, Brader, Ludwig, Poler, and Wilson, along with Melville Folsom Webber, would continue as a group in their training postings.8

A man casually dressed squatting with a football in front of him.
Brader, from a photo of the winning team at the Grantham Thanksgiving Day football match.

On November 29, 1917, the Grantham cadets celebrated Thanksgiving in great style, with many of the men who were already at flying schools coming in to join them.  Festivities included a football game between the “Unfits” and the “Hardly Ables.”9  Brader played with Ludwig on the winning “Unfits” team; Ludwig wrote in his diary that evening that “Mac [Maloney], Kerk, Brader and Hardin played great games.”  Both Joseph Raymond Payden and Clayton Knight kept copies of a photo showing players, including Brader, from the winning team. 10

On December 3, according to a list compiled by second Oxford detachment member Fremont Cutler Foss, Brader, along with Borncamp, Ludwig, Poler, Webber, and Wilson, was posted to No. 51 Squadron at Marham in Norfolk.11  The squadron was tasked with defending this part of England from Zeppelin raids but, like other home defense squadrons, did its share of pilot instruction.  Ludwig noted in his diary: “All the machines here are FE2B’s and as none of them are dual control machines; we will not be able to learn to fly here.”12

Brader was apparently posted along with Ludwig and the other four cadets to Newmarket and No. 192 N.T. [Night Training] Squadron in mid-December 1917, where, again, according to Ludwig’s diary, flying opportunities were very limited.  From there at the end of the month they were sent to Gosport, where, finally, they began serious training, initially on Avros, and then on S.E.5s.  There were also opportunities for theater, dinners, and dances at nearby Portsmouth and Southsea.  Ludwig records various such outings in January and February 1918 with “George” and “George and Don,” presumably referring to George Brader and Don Poler.

Brader’s very sketchy R.A.F. service record includes the annotation “Grad: C.F.S. 15-2-18,”  i.e., graduated from this stage of R.F.C. training.13  Around this time he was recommended for his commission; Pershing’s cable forwarding the recommendation is dated March 16, 1918 (there was typically a delay between the initial recommendation and the cable); the confirming cable from Washington is dated April 6, 1918.14 The apparently dilatory process involved in getting men their commissions was frustrating for all concerned.

Assuming Brader’s training continued to parallel that of Ludwig and Poler, he would have been at Castle Bromwich sometime in February.  At some point he moved on to Turnberry in Scotland.  There is a cryptic notation, “88 Sqdn,” on his R.A.F. service record; perhaps he was to be posted to this squadron, which left for France, equipped with Bristol Fighters, in April of 1918.15  However, Brader died at Turnberry on April 5, 1917.  He was “carrying out gunnery practice” in S.E.5a C1762.  He made an “outward spin at 150 feet [and the] mach[ine] spun into ground with engine on and caught fire on impact.”  A court of inquiry determined that the crash was “due to an error of judgment in that he turned down wind with insufficient bank too near the ground, this error was probably due to his mistaking ground speed for air speed, the wind being fairly strong.”16

Brader was buried in Doune Cemetery in Girvan; his friend Anderson recalled visiting the grave there in the 1950s.17  Brader is one of four Americans commemorated on the Turnberry War Memorial, a dramatic “double Celtic Cross erected by the people of Kirkoswald Parish in 1923 to honour those airmen stationed at Turnberry Air Field who died during the First World War.”18

mrsmcq May 16, 2017


(For complete bibliographic entries, please consult the list of works and web pages cited.)

1  Brader’s place and date of birth are taken from, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, record for George Atherton Brader.  The photo was passed down in Brader’s family; a copy was kindly sent to me by his great-niece, Elizabeth Spaciano.

2  See entry on George G. Brader in Harvey and Smith, A History of Wilkes-Barré, vol. 6, p. 373.  On the Braders, see also Hayden, Hand, and Jordan, Genealogical and Family History of the Wyoming and Lackawanna Valleys Pennsylvania, vol. 2, pp. 349–50.

3  “Nanticoke Boy Killed in England.”

4  See “First Graduating Class of Wharton Extension School of Finance” and “Nanticoke Boy Killed in England.”

5  “To Enlarge Madison Camp.”

6  “Ground School Graduations [for August 25, 1917].”

7  Ludwig, Diary, November 19, 1917.

8  I infer this from Ludwig’s diary and from Poler’s remarks recorded in Sloan and Hocutt, “One of the ‘Warbirds’,” p. 21.

9  Chalaire, “Thanksgiving Day with the Aviators Abroad.”

10  The photo, with most of the men identified, appears on p. 199 of Kilduff, “Clayton Knight—Artist & Airman.”  It also appears on p. 37 of Payden, J.R.: Joseph R. Payden, 1915-1925.  Stanbery also kept a photo of his team, the winning “Unfits,” ready for the kick off; I am grateful to Stanbery’s great niece, Barbara Pepper, for forwarding a copy of it to me.

11  Foss, Papers, “Cadets of Italian Detachment Posted Dec 3rd.”

12  Ludwig, Diary, December 4, 1917.

13  The National Archives (United Kingdom), Royal Air Force officers’ service records 1918–1919, record for George A. Brader. “C.F.S.” stands for Central Flying School, which was at Upavon, but C.F.S. graduation apparently came to designate a stage in flying training regardless of location; a similar notation appears in the R.A.F. service record of the much better documented Callahan, who did not train at Upavon.  See also Hooper, Somewhere in France, letter of February 14, 1918.  See here for the R.F.C. graduation requirements; I find no similar document indicating the requirements for a commission, but there was an understanding that a pilot had to have flown twenty hours solo; see, for example, Hooper, Somewhere in France, letters of December 28, 1917, and January 31 and February 14, 1918.

14  Cablegrams 739-S and 1049-R.

15  Barrass, “No 86 – 90 Squadron Histories.”

16  The details of the accident are from an R.A.F. incident casualty card; see “Brader, G. A. (George Atherton).”

17  See “Nanticoke Boy Killed in England,” and Gillon, Geoffrey, “Pvt George Atherton Brader.” On Anderson, see Mallahan, “Shot with Luck!” p. 156.

18  “Turnberry War Memorial.”