Branwell, Michael Reeve

Michael Reeve Branwell (K, 1924), was born on April 16, 1911, the elder son of Auckland Reeve and Anita Branwell of Putney Heath, London. He was only at Winchester for Short Half, 1924 before going to Dartmouth Naval College.     He became a Midshipman in 1928, a Sub-Lieutenant in 1932 and in 1934 was promoted, in the Submarine Service, to Lieutenant.    He then transferred to the Fleet Air Arm and was serving with the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous when war broke out.     He was one of the survivors when German U-boat U-29 attacked the carrier just off the coast of south west Ireland on 17th September 1939.    She went down in 20 minutes after being hit by two torpedoes with the loss of 518 men.   On the U-boat’s return to Wilhelmshaven Hitler personally congratulated the crew.

Branwell’s next posting was to 825 Squadron (F.A.A.) with whom he operated out of Worthy Down, four miles north of Winchester, and out of Detling, near Maidstone in Kent.    Sometime in May 1940 he transferred to the Fleet Air Arm tender HMS Grive, a privately owned yacht, originally named Narcissus, which had been requisitioned by the Admiralty in September 1939.  In this boat he made four trips to Dunkirk and it was during the last trip that she was sunk by the enemy, with the loss of most of her crew, including Lieutenant Branwell.   The boat was blown to pieces by a magnetic mine at 22.30 hours on 31st May 1940.   Branwell’s body was washed ashore some way down the French coast a few days later, and after a temporary burial in the sand dunes at Bray, he was re-interred at the Marquise Communal Cemetery.

On 31st March 2010 Branwell’s 1939-45 Atlantic Star, clasp, Air Crew Europe; and War Medal 1939-45, in their original addressed card forwarding box, the reverse further inscribed ‘DNA (Wills) 49/339’, and with related Admiralty condolence slip in the name of ‘Lieutenant Michael Reeve Branwell, R.N.’, were auctioned by Dix Noonan Webb, specialist medal auctioneers in London.   Described as “extremely fine” they were sold for £360.  It is not known who purchased them.




War: World War 2

  • Surname: Branwell
  • Forenames or initials: Michael Reeve
  • House: K
  • Years in School: 1924
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Fleet Air Arm
  • Date of Birth: 16th April 1911
  • Date of Death: 1st June 1940
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner E2
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Marquise Communal Cemetery: Plot 1, Row A, Grave 17