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Flt Lt Dennis Bryden: Halifax Pilot

December 2 1923 - September 18 2021

Flight Lieutenant Dennis Bryden, who has died aged 97, was the pilot of a Halifax heavy bomber shot down over Hungary; he spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft III.

dennis bryden

Bryden was just 20 years old when he and his crew took off from Brindisi, Italy on the night of September 10 1944 to drop supplies to the Polish underground movement in Warsaw. Over Hungary, a major fire broke out in the starboard wing, possibly following an attack by an enemy night fighter. The Halifax became uncontrollable and Bryden ordered the crew to bail out.

They soon joined up on the ground and started heading south, but near the village of Debrecen they were captured. Taken to Budapest, they were put in solitary confinement. Eventually they were herded into cattle trucks, and after a few days Bryden, who had been separated from his NCO colleagues, arrived at Stalag Luft III at Sagan, Poland, the scene of the “Great Escape” earlier in the year.

As the harsh winter set in, Bryden occupied his time reading and playing ice hockey. On the night of January 27 1945, with the Russian Army advancing from the east, the prisoners were given a few hours to pack their belongings. The winter of 1945 was the most severe for 50 years and the prisoners suffered badly during the infamous “Long March” west.

Bryden and a colleague managed to make a rough sledge, which carried their belongings for 45 miles before being abandoned as a thaw set in. Sleeping in barns and churches, they finally reached Spremberg on February 3 and spent the night in a barracks before boarding cattle trucks; 1,916 men were crammed on to the train, which reached the PoW camp of Milag Marlag Nord near Bremen after two days. They remained there until early April.

On April 9 the prisoners left the camp and headed east – away from the advancing Allies, but on April 25, approaching Lubeck, the German guards abandoned the column. On May 2 a British scout car appeared and a week later, Bryden arrived at an airfield near Aylesbury.

Postwar, Bryden kept up his flying, travelling to business meetings on his Private Pilot Licence

Dennis David George Bryden was born in Marylebone, London on December 2 1923 and was brought up in Northamptonshire and Oxford. He was educated at Oxford School of Technology, Art and Commerce and was an active member of the Scouts, the St John’s Ambulance Cadets and later the Air Training Corps, becoming a sergeant. He began working at the Morris factory in Cowley.

Aged 17, he volunteered for aircrew duties and was called up in March 1942. He sailed for Canada in the Queen Mary before travelling to Texas where he trained as a pilot at No 1 British Flying Training School.

On his return to Britain, he converted to heavy bombers and in May 1944 he and his crew took a new Halifax to Morocco on a delivery flight before joining 624 Squadron at Blida in Algeria.

He carried out supply drops to the French Resistance before a bad crash hospitalised him for a few weeks. After recovering, he transferred in early August to 148 Squadron at Brindisi where he made drops to the Italian Resistance in the Alps.

On his return from captivity, and after a refresher course, he joined 511 Squadron at Lynehamand flew the York transport aircraft on trooping flights to the Far East.

In August 1946 he re-joined Morris Motors, becoming a buyer. In the late 1960s, he was approached by Lord Strathcarron to join his business, Strathcarron & Co, as a partner connecting suppliers to the motor industry. He also became the Chairman of the Institute of British Carriage and Automobile Manufacturers.

Bryden kept his hand in as a pilot by obtaining a Private Pilot Licence, sharing the flying with Lord Strathcarron as they headed off in a small Cessna to European business meetings.

He was a keen golfer, becoming Captain at Southfield Golf Course in Oxford, and the Seniors Captain Tadmarton Heath, near Banbury.

Bryden’s wife, Phyllis, died in 2020. He is survived by their son and two daughters.

Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.

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 • Last Modified: 16 November 2022, 18:03