Frederick John Edward Pullen was born in May 1899, the only son to Albert and Bessie Pullen from Shepton Mallet in Somerset. Albert worked at the local prison, acting as clerk, warden and school master to the inmates.
Little else survives to expand on Fred’s military life; his gravestone confirms that he had enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps and, although no date can be attributed to this, it is likely to have been almost as soon as he turned 17.
A report of the young man’s funeral does give a little insight into the young man.
…before entering the service of his country, Lieutenant Pullen was in the Civil Service, and a letter from his late surveyor at Oxford, speaks in high terms of his character and abilities.
He graduated to the rank of Service Pilot in February last, and was gazetted in March. By the Naval authorities he was considered a very good pilot, and was graded as Class A (exemplary).Shepton Mallet Journal: Friday 5th April 1918
Alongside the Edwardian trait of listing the chief mourners and floral tributes, the newspaper also gives an in-depth report of the cause of Second Lieutenant Pullen’s demise.
The brave young office, who was at a war school [Manston Airfield, Kent], was engaged in ‘stunting’ or trick flying, absolutely necessary in warfare, when from some unknown cause, he fell into a field, and was instantly killed.
A farmer who was ploughing near the spot said he was not conscious of the presence of an aeroplane in the vicinity till this one seemed to drop from the clouds. It nose-dived, but righted on coming near the earth, and seemed to swoop up again, but before going far turned turtle and fell, upside down.
The poor lad was found crushed beneath his gun, and had met instantaneous death. Letters received from witnesses of the accident stated that people living in the neighbourhood hurried to the spot with remedies of all sorts, and were much saddened to find that nothing that they could do was of any avail.
Shepton Mallet Journal: Friday 5th April 1918
Second Lieutenant Pullen met his death in a flying accident on 26th March 1918. He was just 18 years old.
Frederick John Edward Pullen lies at rest in the cemetery of his home town of Shepton Mallet.