In 1916, Francis John Williamson Mellersh joined the Royal
Naval Air Service. He received Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate 4216 on a Grahame-White biplane at Royal Naval Air Station, Chingford on 8 February 1917. Posted to 9 Naval Squadron, he scored
his first victory flying a Sopwith
Triplane on 28 July 1917. Later that year, his squadron was re-equipped with Sopwith
Camels and Mellersh scored four more victories by the end of
the war. Downing a Fokker
DR.I for his 4th victory on the morning of 21 April 1918,
Mellersh was flying with Roy
Brown's A Flight and witnessed the death of Manfred
von Richthofen. When the war ended, Mellersh remained in the
Royal Air Force, serving with distinction throughout World War II.
A member of the Itchenor Yacht Club, Mellersh arranged a cruise to Cherbourg with a friend on 25 May 1955. The helicopter that carried him to Itchenor hovered over a jetty as Mellersh stepped out to be greeted by his friend. As the helicopter ascended from the jetty, one of its rotors struck the mast of an adjacent yacht and it crashed. Mellersh was hit by the main rotor and his friend was hit by the tail rotor. Both men were killed instantly.
"Suddenly the Triplane did two extremely rapid flick rolls and crashed straight into the ground with full engine on... I flew right over it after it had crashed however, and saw that it was a complete wreck." Francis Mellersh, describing the crash of Manfred von Richthofen's Fokker DR.I
"Doctors reported that Richthofen had been hit by two bullets which had been fired from above and behind. They further said that in their opinion the shot could not have been fired from the ground." Francis Mellersh