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CAPT. F. J. MCCONNEL

Royal Air Force / Royal Naval Air Service

Frederic Jordan McConnel was born on 11th September 1894 at Robgill, Indooroopilly, Australia to David Rose McConnel and May Jordan McConnel. His mother was a well known Australian trade unionist and suffragist being the first paid female trade union organiser in Queensland. 

McConnel's family left Australia in 1910 for the United Kingdom and USA. On their departure May Jordan McConnel donated their property to the local Methodist Church to be used as a children's home, thus creating the Queen Alexandra Home for Children. 

Frederick Jordan McConnel moved to California and attended Stanford University between 1913-1915 before enlisting into the RAF. His RAF service records hold his permanent residence as Queensland National Bank, 8 Princes Street, London.  Under his "Special Qualifications", McConnel is listed as holding:

"Knowledge of applied mathematics, machines, etc. Driving car and motorcycle. French conversational (fair). Since joining RNAS, pilot of balloon, experience in flying and handling "S.S" and "Coastal airships" S.T.O Polegate, 4 months." 

A note in his file says "Service considered for the grant of war medals" as it appears he performed his duties primarily within the UK and on experimental aircraft and not as an active combatant. 

The Australian Society of WW1 Aero Historians has a timeline compiled that shows McConnel's early education, University years, and ultimately his military service moving through several different Air Force and Naval installations. 

  • 1907 Educated Brisbane Grammar School (BrGS) BrGS, 

  • 1909 ex Australia to California AWM 140

  • 1913 - 1915 Educated Leland Stanford Jr. University California USA - Civil Engineering AWM 140 JUL

  • 1915 ex California to England AWM

  • 15 NOV 1915 Temporary Probationary FLT SUB LIEUT RNAS Wormwood Scrubs AWM 140

  • 1916 to HMS Excellent for (G) Course AWM 140

  • 04 JAN 1916 to HMS Victory for (N) Course AWM 140

  • 01 MAR 1916 Confirmed in rank 15/11/15 AWM 140

  • 10 APR 1916 to Polegate AWM 140

  • 31 DEC 1916 FLT LIEUT RNAS AWM 140

  • 10 SEP 1917 to Pulham AWM 140

  • 01 APR 1918 Honorary CAPT Air Ship RAF paid as LIEUT AFL 12/18 Ref 186,2603

  • 01 APR 1918 LIEUT (Honorary CAPT) Pilot Air Ship AFL 4/18 Ref 219,1332

  • 05 OCT 1918 to Airship Station RAF AWM 140

  • 07 MAR 1919 to East Fortune AWM 140

  • 28 MAR 1919 to Airship Section AWM 140

  • 16 MAR 1920 Transferred to Unemployed List AWM 140

  • 1922 of California USA AWM 140

A newspaper article in The Telegraph (Brisane, Queensland) on 15th December 1917 reads:

"The friends of Mr. and Mrs. David Rose

McConnel, late of Brisbane and Cressbrook,

and now in England, will be interested to

hear that their son, Flight-lieutenant

Frederic Jordan McConnel, R.N.

has been appointed head of the new

experimental airship station, under the Admiralty."

In the publication "Airships in Peace and War" by J.A. Sinclair (1934), McConnel is referenced on Page 69. 

"Engine failures over the sea were many, and the wireless operator was often obliged to climb out on the under-carriage to locate and rectify faults. He would then have to restart the engine by swinging the propeller from behind while gripping a strut of the landing carriage - and all this at a height of 3,000 ft. or more above the sea! This was nearly twenty years ago! Long, long before the days of the aeroplane-stunt artistes who so delight the film fans nowadays.

Flight-Lieutenant F. McConnel and his operator became particularly expert at this little feat. Invariably on a long patrol they would purposely stop their engine, if she were not firing evenly, change or clean the sparking plugs while "sitting in the air," and then restart.

Flight-Lieutenant Parker, while patrolling some thirty miles south of Beachy Head in the SS13, sustained engine failure and sent out a wireless call for help.

A destroyer was despatched to the scene of the mishap, and in spite of the heavy weather, with the able assistance of Flight-Lieutenant McConnel, who had arrived in the SS9A, the disabled airship was secured to the destroyer by her trail rope and successfully towed to New Haven.

This incidently, was the first time a SS had been towed, and was in itself highly experimental."

McConnel is believed to have been the Commander Officer of at least four RNAS Airships - C11, C12, C13 and SS9A. 

McConnel's return to California appears to finish his studies at Stanford University in Mechanical Engineering. The Stanford Illustrated Review, Volume 23, Issue 9, dated June 1922 comments:

"Mrs. David Rose McConnell is here from her home in England to attend the graduation from Stanford of her son, Frederic. Her husband, an expert in educational problems, spent some time at Stanford in 1910 and 1911 doing graduate work in the department of education" 

He received his US citizenship in 1937 while living in California. 

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