Ocklynge Cemetery in Eastbourne has several war-graves including several for foreign men killed during the Great War. These include Belgian, South African and Australian War Graves but one that caught my eye was for a young Brazilian Pilot.
First Lieutenant Eugenio Possolo was one of thirteen volunteers to travel to England in 1918 to join the Air Force – twelve were in the Brazilian Navy and one from the Army. The men were supposed to be single but Eugenio had hidden the fact that that he had recently married. On arrival in England he was posted to the flying school in Eastbourne and was billeted at 17, Bedfordwell Road.
On 5th September 1918 First Lieutenant Eugenio Possolo was one of three Brazilian Navy pilots to take off from the Eastbourne Aerodrome with three English pilots for an exercise. The leader of the formation, Captain Frank Creasy RAF witnessed a Sopwith Camel piloted by Lieutenant Reginald Sanders fly to an altitude of 1,500 before descending at speed. Sanders failed to see Possolo’s plane (also a Sopwith Camel) and struck it. Both aircraft crashed to the ground near Friday Street Farmhouse and the pilots, both 24 years old, were killed.
The young aviator was the first Brazilian Airman to be killed. The Sussex Coroner returned a verdict of ‘accidental death’ and Eugenio was buried at Ocklynge Cemetery, Eastbourne. His grave is in the form of a large grey granite cross decorated with a palm-leaf. Unfortunately the top has become detached.
Interestingly a newspaper report of 26th July 1920 reports “The Brazilian cruiser The San Paulo, will visit England to convey back to Brazil, the remains of the dead aviator Lieut. Possolo” It is possible that this did indeed occur, but as his name is still recorded by the CWGC, and he still has a gravestone here, I doubt it.
In central Rio de Janeiro a street is named ‘Rua Tenente Possolo’ (Lieutenant Possolo Road) in honour of a man buried in Eastbourne thousands of miles away from home.