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66 Squadron, RFC & RAF, 1916 to 1919

Mockford, Frederick Stanley

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!

Frederick Stanley Mockford was born on 8 December 1897 the eldest child to Sarah Wallis and Alfred Mockford, a self-employed farmer of Alciston, near Berwick Station, Sussex.

Frederick had four siblings, two Sisters, Marjorie and Kathleen and two brothers Jack Leslie and Arthur Lawrence.

When old enough Frederick was employed for a while by the London Brighton & South Coast Railway serving as a Telegraphist, the standard railway communications method at London Bridge.


Mockford joined the RFC on the 25 October 1915 at Croydon as a boy entrant; he was seventeen years old at the time. His early postings or what he did are not recorded on his RFC records. In early January 1917 he was posted to 66 Squadron with the rank of 1/Am. It was about this time that the squadron started to prepare for its first deployment in support of the British Army in France.

Frederick was not deployed to France with the squadron in early March 1917. He remained in the U.K until posted to France on the 17 May 1917. During this time he applied for a Commission in the RFC and was accepted for Officer Training. Around this time he served with 53 Squadron for a short while.

His next posting 5 May 1917 was to be Farnborough and then officer Training on 23 September 1917. On the 24 September he was posted to 2 Home Defence Brigade and sent to 39 HD (Home Defence Squadron) as E.O.3 (Wireless) Officer the same day, where he quite possibly taught other men to use the W/T equipment. Then on 14 December he was sent to 78 Squadron which operated a mixed fleet of aeroplanes and it could well have been with 78 that he started instructing aircrew in the use of the new wireless sets, it was during the early days of his time with 78 Squadron that he attended a course of Instruction in Wireless Telephony at Penshurst. After the course, he was posted on 19 February 1918 to 141 Sqn equipped with the BE12B, later in March they re-equipped with the reliable Bristol Fighter. Mockford remained with the squadron, in the capacity as an Instructor until he was demobilised on 15th September 1919.

After the War

The RAF along with others of our forces were being run down very quickly after the end of the war, squadrons were disbanded and the majority of all ranks were returned to civilian life.

The Royal Flying CorpsIn 1913 the British Forces Post Office was reorganized when the Royal Engineers took over some of the responsibility for delivering the mail. When the war came to an end, the Postal Section of the R.E. helped the R.A.F. start its own postal service, which at the end of the war also became a passenger and mail service.

The three aeroplanes came under the command of 86 Communications Wing, they flew from the customs aerodrome at Hounslow Heath to Croydon and onwards to Paris. The aeroplanes used were three Handley Page HP 12 0/400, bombers, converted to carry six passengers at the time and mail. They were painted silver and known as HM Air Liners Silver Queen, Silver Star (ex D8326) and Great Britain.

Aeroplanes taking off from Croydon first flew to Hounslow Heath to clear customs and then continue on their journey. Hounslow Heath was closed on the 28 March and the following day H.M. Customs commenced at Croydon allowing the aerodrome to become the main continental entry and exit aerodrome in the country.

During 1920 Croydon Aerodrome installed a Marconi wireless ground station, which consisted of a 100W/CW/ICW telephone transmitter and a type Bellini-Tosi direction finding receiver.

The first Officer in charge of the equipment at Croydon was W.A.G Price and his four assistants, F. S. Mockford, L. Luger (1), F.S. Close (2) and C.V. Lane (3).

In 1923 Price transferred to Pulham, where a new Direction finding Station had been constructed. Mockford was promoted to Price’s position as First Officer. A year earlier he had been responsible for making the first attempt to talk down an aeroplane in poor visibility.

In the same year he was also asked to devise an International distress call sign for the aviation Industry, it was Mockford who came up with the idea of “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday”, a corruption of the French word m’aider, part of the French call for help “Venez m’aider”.

He was also responsible for devising the early operating procedures and the examination syllabus for the Post Master General air wireless operators licence, and became the first examiner. Mockford and his staff were involved devising a quick and accurate way of direction finding, by using the Triangulation method. Mockford also contributed towards the advancement of the International Regulations, relating to the use of civil aeroplanes. He continued to work at Croydon until he resigned on 7 May 1930 and joined Marconi Wireless Telephone an engineer the next day.


In May 1933 he was appointed Assistant Sales Manager, the next year he became Joint Sales Manager, in August 1935 Manager, Aircraft Dept., in November Assistant General Manager, in September 1936 Deputy General Manager, July 1938 was given the special task of planning the new Marconi Aircraft Radio Co., with a view to him becoming the General Manager, this was stopped due to the inevitability of WW2. February 1940 he was appointed Assistant Personal Director, he continued with his work negotiating war contracts. In June 1945 he became Sales & Contracts Manager and in November 1947 he became Sales Manager. His last post was as Commercial Manager of Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd. He retired a year before he died on 1 March 1962.

He had a son, Patrick Alfred Kingsley Mockford, who served with the RAF in WW2 as a Navigator with 207 Sqn. Patrick died on his twentieth mission on the night 28/29 April 1943 when his Lancaster W4945/EM-Z was shot down by a Flack battery. Of the 207 aircraft which took part in the raid, twenty two were lost.

Frederick Stanley Mockford is buried alongside his wife Winifred in Selmeston Churchyard, Wealdon, East Sussex he died on the 1 March 1962 and Winifred died on 12 October 1985.


(1) Walter Albert George Price Born 06/01/1916 s/n 205851. He had joined the RNAS s/n F5851 on 15 June 1915 as a Boy entrant as a W/T operator. His man service commenced on the 6 January 1916, he served on President II as a boy mechanic, 06 January A.M II No 1 Wing Dunkirk, 1 June 1917 2 Squadron, in November 1917 he was graded as a Petty Officer W/T, 1 February 1918 H.M.S. Daedalus, 1 April 1918 RAF s/n 205851, 2 Sqn (ex RNAS?), 25 March 1919 RD, 9 April 1919 4 Communications Squadron, 28 April 1919 Felixstowe, 26 June 1919 Crystal Palace Discharge Centre as a Wireless Operator.

(2) There was a Louis Luger who served with the Royal Engineers s/n 77596

(3) F S Close s/n 302814, 5 March 1919 RAF Depot arrivals Section, 6 Wg, 12 March 1919 1 Wireless School, 25 April 1919 Wireless Experimental Station, Biggin Hill, 18 December 1919 Discharge Centre Crystal Palace.

Reference sources.

Marconi Archive – Michael Hughes Bodleian Library , Oxford,
Chelmsford War Memorial web page –
History of the Marconi Company, W.J. Baker, SBN 416170501,
The First Croydon Airport 1915-1928, Leamont, Nash & Cluell, Sutton Libraries and Arts Service 1977.
The National Archives Officers (AIR76) and (WO339) and Other Ranks records (AIR79) where investigated.


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