F. V. Branford (full name Frederick Victor Rubens Branford Powell, known as Freddie) was the son of the English actor Joynson Powell and his wife Mary Branford, whose father was Professor of Anatomy at the College of Veterinary Science in Edinburgh. Branford was brought up in Ardgay, Ross-shire by an aunt, and educated at Tain Academy and Edinburgh University. In March 1917, as a Flight Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Air Service, flying a Sopwith Pup, he was shot down over the sea off Cadzand in the Netherlands, swam ashore despite his injuries and was then interned. Deeply affected by his experiences, he later underwent psychiatric treatment. Most of his poetry was written in the period after internment and published in post-war magazines; the first issue of Voices in 1919 carried eight of his poems, several of which dealt directly with the experience of being an aviator. Neville Cardus reviewed his work in Voices of February 1920:
[Branford] can handle words so that they suggest, as no poet has suggested before, a sense of depth, altitude and of distance, making a new sublimity out of the sky’s windy spaces.
Titans and Gods, published in 1922, includes these war poems. Also in 1922, five of his poems made up the first of the Porpoise Press’s Broadsheets. Branford’s was a forceful though erratic personality – Alistair McCleery, in his book on the Porpoise Press, describes the ‘strange amalgam of metaphysics, mysticism and malice’ that typify the letters sent by Branford to Roderick Watson Kerr, the Press’s editor. The metaphysics and mysticism at least are also present in his poetry, which perhaps makes it not the easiest to read, but the handful of poems in which he struggles to express the experience of flying as a pilot in war time are striking in their imagery. Although great things were expected of him, not least by Hugh MacDiarmid, Branford ceased writing poetry in the mid-1920s.
From the Library Catalogue