A Brazilian War Grave in Sussex

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.

Possolo Pic

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Possolo Street

Advertisement

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Enzo Vernille says:

    Hi, Brazilian here.
    First of all,i would like to thank you for making an article about Lt. Possolo, a person who is mostly forgotten here.

    But, i should say there’s some errors on it.
    The first one is the quantity of officers sent to England
    Even in some official Navy sources the number “13” is mentioned, Looking up for that list. It contains a captain (Equivalent to a RN Lieutenant), 7 first lieutenants, 4 second lieutenants and one subofficer (the last one is the highest non comissioned rank in the Brazilian Armed Forces, so there’s no reason for it to be included on the list of officers)

    During the Interallied Conference in November 1917, when Brazil (amongst other things) declared that it could send aviators to fight, 3 countries declared being able to receive them: The UK, the US and Italy.
    So, 3 groups were created, one for each
    The “13 officers” list mix men of the 3 groups.

    The group that went to the UK (which included Possolo) had 9 officers The captain, six first lieutenants (the only army volunteer was one) and two second lieutenants (those two being brothers).

    The second mistake is the picture of “Possolo” which is not Possolo himself.
    That picture is of First Lieutenant Fileto da Silva Santos, one of the 3 men of the US group, that picture was published on an edition of the Fon Fon Magazine of August 1918.

    All my statements are based on a PDF of military historian Carlos Daroz
    Link to it here:

    I’ll send an email to you with some pictures, as well as some other informations about those aviators.

    Hope that i could help you with this information.
    Best regards
    Enzo Vernille
    Brazil.

    Like

  2. Enzo Vernille says:

    This comment is just a small biography of Eugenio da Silva Possolo.

    Born in August 10th, 1894. In the city of São Paulo. The eldest son of Adolpho Possolo and Augusta Silva Possolo.
    He entered the navy on April 1909, being declared a Midshipman (Naval Cadet) in January 1912 and became a Second Lieutenant the next year.
    He was promoted to First Lieutenant in February 1917.
    In the next month, he married Maria Pessoa Cavalcanti, which was a cousin of senator Epitácio Pessoa. From this marriage a daughter was born, Nadia Possolo. Born in December 22nd, 1917.

    January 1918 saw Possolo volunteering to be sent to the UK as a part of Brazilian War Effort, although only men that were single could volunteer. He hid the fact he had been married. He departed Rio de Janeiro on January 27th, 1918.

    It looked like he knew he was going to die, since he sent various letters to his spouse, one of them with the instruction to be opened only, and only if he died.
    Which was opened the day after he passed away.
    It was all about his possible death, and he even cared to refer to his daugther on the future tense pronous.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s