Desmond Fitzgerald Fitzgibbon was born in Hampstead, London, on 1 November 1890, the younger son of Gerald FitzGibbon and Margaret Mary (née Matthews) of "The Lodge", Steele's Road, Hampstead.
Fitzgibbon joined the Royal Naval Air Service on 28 May 1916. He received Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate No. 3529 after flying a Maurice Farman biplane at Royal Naval Air Station Cranwell, on 14 August 1916, and was promoted from probationary flight sub-lieutenant to flight sub-lieutenant on 11 October 1916, with seniority backdated to his date of enlistment.
Fitzgibbon was eventually posted to No. 3 Wing RNAS, based at Luxeuil-les-Bains Aerodrome, in March 1917. The unit had been created the previous year to carry out strategic bombing raids, and equipped with the Sopwith 1½ Strutter Type 9700 light bomber, but was now in the process of being run down, as its aircraft were rendered obsolete by the introduction of the Handley Page 0/100 twin-engined heavy bomber. Fitzgibbon arrived in time to take part in its final mission, a raid on Freiburg on 14 April 1917. As part of "B" Flight, he dropped his bombs on the target in the face of heavy enemy anti-aircraft fire, observing several fires on the ground. However, while heading home engine problems reduced his speed, and he lost contact with the rest of the wing, finally crossing the lines alone and landing at Ochey. No. 3 Wing was then disbanded.
Fitzgibbon was one of five pilots assigned to "C" Flight of No. 10 Squadron RNAS in early 1917, being posted there on 5 May; the four Canadians in the flight with him all became casualties or were transferred. He scored his first two victories (both shared) on 5 June 1917, flying a Sopwith Triplane. Two further victories followed on 15 June, and his fifth on the 25th. On 27 August he was appointed an acting flight-lieutenant, with seniority from 3 August. The squadron having converted to the Sopwith Camel, he scored his final three victories on 14, 26 and 27 September. On 1 October he was promoted to flight-lieutenant, and on 15 October he returned to England, and was reassigned to the Home Establishment.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, which was gazetted on 2 November 1917, his citation reading:Distinguished Service Cross
Acting Flight-Lieutenant (now Flight-Lieutenant) Desmond Fitzgerald Fitzgibbon, RNAS.
For exceptional courage and determination in leading offensive patrols against enemy formations, although often out-numbered by them. On 14 September 1917, he and his patrol of seven machines attacked a hostile formation of eight enemy scouts. In the combat that ensued three hostile machines were brought down completely out of control, one of these by Flt.-Lieut. Fitzgibbon, while the patrol suffered no casualties. On 26 September 1917, he attacked with his patrol of eight machines fifteen hostile scouts. He himself engaged four different machines, one after the other, finally driving one down completely out of control.
Fitzgibbon was promoted to captain, being confirmed in his rank in January 1919, but on 10 April 1919, he relinquished his commission on being transferred to the unemployed list of the Royal Air Force.
He temporarily returned to RAF service two years later, being granted a short service commission with the rank of flying officer on 28 February 1921. After several years of active service, he transferred to the Reserve of Air Force Officers, finally relinquishing his commission on completion of service on 28 February 1929.
At some point he was resident in Ceylon, marrying Phyllis Muriel at the Holy Trinity Church at Nuwara Eliya, where his son Gerald Maurice Fitzgibbon was also baptised.
Fitzgibbon returned to service during World War II, being commissioned as a flight lieutenant in the Administrative & Special Duties Branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on 1 September 1939. He was promoted to temporary squadron leader on 1 March 1942 (with seniority from 1 December 1941), and on 1 January 1945 received a mention in despatches.