Philip was born on the 15th of December, 1918, to parents Creswell and Bice Brentnall. He was the youngest of 3 (with brother, George and sister, Margaret) and he was born in Manchester, where the Brentnall line can be traced as far back as 1503. Creswell was a doctor and Bice a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music.
During WWI, Creswell was a ship’s doctor, and, shortly after leaving the Royal Navy, he moved, via Birch in Essex, to a practice in Turnham Green, where, because of London’s bad pollution, Dad had so many bouts of pneumonia that Creswell was told if he didn’t move away, Dad might not survive. The family moved to the Mendips, near Wells, in Somerset for four years before returning to Essex and settling in Brightlingsea on the coast. Evidently clean air did the trick!
Phil attended West Buckland School in Devon from the age of 8 – 16. He shone academically, with Mathematics, Science and Latin being his favourite subjects. On departure in 1935, he was awarded the Fortescue Medal, presented to the most outstanding school pupil of the year.
On leaving school, Dad became articled to a firm of Chartered Accountants, starting in Colchester and later moving to London. After his final exams he volunteered for the RAF. After his induction in the UK, he crossed the Atlantic on the converted Queen Mary 1 (where his love of bridge was cemented during the five day crossing) and he trained to fly in Americus, Georgia. Returning to the UK in 1942, he joined Squadron 218, Bomber Command. Phil flew a tour with No.218 Squadron flying both the Short Stirling and Avro Lancaster most of which were in the role of ‘B’ Flight Commander.
Phil Brentnall was an experience pilot, prior to joining the squadron he had served as a instructor at Moody Air Force base, Georgia were he had accumulated over 1000 flying hours. Wanting to do his bit, he pulled a number of strings to get himself back to Britain to fly operationally. Phil arrived on the squadron via No.1651 in October 1943, he went on to complete 32 operations the last of which was on September 12th 1944. By a strange twist of fate he would return to No.1651 Conversion Unit as an instructor. Within a matter of months he was posted to No.3 Lancaster Finishing School were he would see the war out. Wing Commander Fenwick Wilson AFC ( C/O of 218 squadron ) describedBrentnall’s assessment as a heavy bomber pilot as ‘exceptional’.
After the war, he transferred to commercial 4 engined flying with BOAC, earning Captaincy after 6 months. He enjoyed a pioneering aviator’s career flying early propeller aircraft with steam driven autopilots, Captaining the world’s first jet passenger service to Johannesburg in April 1952 in the ill-fated Comet 1, and flying delivery runs from Seattle of BOAC’s first Boeing 707 in 1960 and 747 in 1971. He ceased flying at the end of 1976 and completed his time with BA in March 1982.
I would like to thank Andrea and Stewart, Phils daughter and son for allowing me to use the above photograph and text.