- Richard Edgar Peter Brooker
- The fall of Singapore
- The fall of Sumatra & beyond
- Last flight
- WWII Awards
- Richard Edgar Peter Brooker
- The fall of Singapore
- The fall of Sumatra & beyond
- Last flight
- WWII Awards
Richard Edgar Peter Brooker. Born Chessington. Surrey. 1918. joined the Royal Air Force on a direct commission in April 1937. on the 17 July 37 he was posted to 9 F.T.S. Hullavington. Wiltshire. and on the 19 Feb 1938 was Posted to 56 Sqd Royal Air Force North Weald. Essex. Promoted to Pilot Officer 05 April 38.
Promoted to Flying Officer 05 January 40. He claimed a Ju 87 destroyed on the 13 July 40 and a Do 17 on the 21 August 40, in this engagement he was hit by return fire and was slightly injured in the forced landing at Flowton Brook. Bramford. Suffolk. His Hurricane P3153 was burned out.
Late summer 1940.
Posted to Central Gunnery School. Sutton Bridge as an instructor.
Promoted to Fl Lt 05 January 41 April 1941. Posted to command No 1 Sqd. Royal Air Force Kenley.Surrey.
10 May 41. He shot down an He 111, at night, also attacking three more bombers on the same sortie. Awarded D.F.C. 30 May 41.
03 Nov 41. Posted to the Far East.Kallang.
13 Dec 41. He took command of 232 Sqd. after the C.O. was killed on 20 January 42 at Royal Air Force Seletar Singapore.
On 01 February 42 the squadron withdrew to Palembang. Sumatra.
25 Feb 42. 232 Sqd evacuated to Java, the remnants of 242 Squadron were absorbed into 232 squadron at Tajililitan. Java.
Promoted to Sqd Ldr 01 March 42.
05 March 42 some 7,000 Royal Air Force personnel moved from Poerwokerta to the port of Tajilitjap. South Java for ship transit to Adelaide.
Where they arrived on the 15 March 42. After the last Hurricane was destroyed on Java, S/L Brooker and a number of pilots flew in a Lodestar to Australia.
27 March 42. He was awarded the bar to his D.F.C. Personnel Management Agency. Royal Air Force Innsworth. Gloucestershire.
Confirm that as of 01.04.42 Sqd Ldr R.E.P.Brooker. Special Duties List - to command 77 Squadron Australia on loan to Royal Australian Air Force.
New Zealand Defence Force Personnel Archives show 18.06.42 disembarked New Zealand. Posted to Masterton. Air Headquarters.And 19.06.42.- Special Duties List - flying on loan to Royal New Zealand Air Force.
18.06.42.- Special Duties List - flying on loan to Royal New Zealand Air Force. where he is reported as Officer Commanding. 14 Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force.
July 1942-Feb 1943.
Officer Commanding. 14 Squadron. Royal New Zealand Air Force. Masterton. New Zealand. flying Kittyhawks He formed this squadron from the survivors of 488 Sqd Royal New Zealand Air Force, who also fought on Singapore, Sumatra and Java, and who had flown Buffaloes and then Hurricanes.
15 Feb 43 posted to Whenuapai. Air Headquarters. On his return to the U.K.10 April 1943 and with seven and a half enemy aircraft shot down, he was posted to command No 1. S.L.A.I.S. at Milfield, as Wing Commander Flying, posted across the airfield as temporary Officer Commanding 59 O.T.U. Milfield, then joining F.L.S. as a Staff Instructor, O.C. Armament Wing. May 44 posted Wing Leader 123 Wing. 83 Group. 2nd Tactical Air Force. Royal Air Force. Thorney Island. Hampshire. (198 and 609 Squadrons) and led the wings Typhoons through the D-Day landings. 01 December 44. Awarded the D.S.O. posted Wing Leader 122 Wing. 83 Group. 2nd T.A.F. At Volkel.(B80) Holland.
While at S.L.A.I.S. he met Sqd Ldr John Wray, who was attending as a course member, their paths were to cross again later and the Milfield connection came into play again when John Wray became Wing Commander Flying of 56 O.T.U. Having relieved Wg Cdr John Wray at Volkel.Holland as Wing Leader of 122 Wing. 2nd T.A.F , his wing was comprised of five Squadrons, No`s 3, 56, 80, 274 and 486. In the six months from the Normandy landings, 06 June 44.
The wing lost 123 pilots and in the first month of 1945 they lost 47 pilots.
It was from Hopsten (B112) that Wg Cdr Brooker took off, leading a section of Tempests of 80 Squadron, on the 16th of April 45 to patrol the Hanover - Osnabruck sector with the attack priority, rail traffic, after attacking a train near Neuruppen, and while the section were re-forming his No 2 advised him that there was smoke coming from his radiator, followed by flames seen in his cockpit, the Wg Cdr was seen, to be trying to open the canopy, before the aircraft turned over and plunged to the ground. His No2. Sgt W.F.Turner. was, at the same time, shot down by FW 190`s both aircraft crashing and burning close by the autobahn at Wittenberge. He was awarded his second D.S.O. (bar) sometime after this. Dated the day before his death. Wing Commander R.E.P. Brooker.D.S.O. and bar., D.F.C. and bar. is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 264.
Believed to be Flying Training School Hullavington 1937. REP Brooker seated extreme left.
“Founded in June 1916, the Squadron (motto on the badge of the 56th Persuit :- ‘quid si coelum ruat = what if the Heavens fall’) went overseas in the following April. Arriving in France at a time when the German Air Force was making a strong bid for supremacy, No 56 soon established itself in the forefront of Fighter Squadrons. Most feared by the enemy, its history is one of brilliant records of achievement, and many of the greatest British Air Fighters of the war learnt their technique while serving with No. 56. The Squadron is now located at North Weald, Essex.” from Players cigarette cards
“There were two other Squadrons, Nos. 17 and 151 based at North Weald....... our day at North Weald started with a working parade on the station parade-ground at 8.30, where officers and men of all three Squadrons assembled before marching to work. Most of the morning was taken up with routine inspections of aircraft and there was little flying done before lunch, which was taken at 12.30. Occasionally we had a ‘Lunch Day’, a special institution which enabled pilots to travel to any other aerodrome in the country on the pretext of a routine cross-country practice flight, but which was, in reality, a social call. Most of the flying during the day consisted of interception, attacks with one flight simulating a force of bombers, and formation flying,. This was practiced over and over again.
Between 56 and 151 there was an intense spirit of rivalry. The latter complained, perhaps with some justification, that 56 thought a little too much of itself....... the fact remained that in many ways we were inclined to be faintly patronizing.
Each Squadron tried to assert its superiority in a number of ways... 151 would stage a practice formation flight of six machines designed to end spectacularly over the Mess.. in an impressive breakaway with each machine ‘peeling off’ in tight formation.
The next day 56 would attempt an even more elaborate demonstration with the whole Squadron. Flying in still tighter formation, they would break away in sections, each section leader performing a neat loop while the outside men pulled up in stall turns to either side. Little comment was made in the Mess on these displays .... ...
The Commanding Officer, S/Ldr Knowles, known as “Teddy” to his contemporaries,, and as “The Fuehrer” to us, was a strong, silent man of the type so often seen pacing the bridge in a film drama of the sea. Off duty in the Mess he was a very different man. It was said he was a Bachelor of Music but he only revealed his talent occasionally .. although a strict disciplinarian, S/Ldr Knowles hated red tape. No one could have studied more closely the interests of his pilots...... Next in seniority came F/Lt Joslin, who commanded ‘A’ Flight, of which I was a member. He was a large man with ginger hair and a ginger temperament. He drank enormous quantities of beer with no apparent effect, had a huge laugh, a charming wife, a spaniel, but never any cigarettes. He was killed in action (?1941) during the first week of his command of 79 Squadron.
The rest of the ‘A’ Flight was composed of F/O Roger Morewood, F/O Richard (Klondyke, or just plain Klon) Coe, and P/Os ‘Fish’ Fisher, ‘Boy’ Brooker, Wicks, Harris and myself ... The Squadron had the usual collection of cars in various stages of decrepitude, ...(Richard) sold the ancient Norton motorcycle which he had hotted up sufficiently to be summoned for exceeding 80mph on the Epping Road (“just seeing what it would do”) and bought a car .... we instantly christened it ‘The Barouche’ ... an ancient Renault.... a modification was to adapt the carburetor to run on paraffin. Petrol was expensive and the idea was to fill the main tank with petrol for starting only. He had to abandon it for various reasons, not the least of which was the additional unwelcome attention the Renault attracted on account of frequent backfiring with belching of flames and black smoke. ... we found out later that the practice of running a motor on paraffin is illegal........ Wicks and Brooker, apart from myself were the most junior officers in the flight and were naturally the most inexperienced pilots, although both had done considerably more flying on Hurricanes than I had done.
.....Brooker was to his great disappointment posted from the Squadron and made Personal Assistant to the then Air Officer Commanding Training Command. In the short time he held the job he created something of a sensation. The story goes that while flying the Great Man’s personal machine one day, luckily without a passenger, he turned off the petrol instead of on to the reserve supply and had to force-land with a dry carburetor. Shortly after this he managed to get permission to fly a Hurricane, also belonging to the A.O.C. While amusing himself with a few aerobatics, one of the gun panels on the wing fell off as he was half-way through a slow roll, hitting the tailplane and severely damaging it. Brooker was luckier in making a forced landing this time. I feel sure he was not sorry to rejoin his Squadron again. (Soon after he became C.O. of No 1 Squadron) “ from The Way of a Pilot by Barry Sutton
C/O at Northweald at that time was Wing Comdr F.V. Beamish (D.S.O.), a great and inspiring leader, (officially reported missing in combat 1.4.42) Peter was still stationed there at the outbreak of War, 3rd September 1939
13th May 1940 he took the post of personal assistant to Air Vice Marshall Park at Uxbridge
56 Squadron pilots summer 1940
20th June 1940 he was posted back to 56(F) Squadron with which he remained through the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940
F/O Bryan John Wicks, 56 (F) Squadron, aged 20, was Peter’s best pal at the time. ‘Willy’ Wicks went missing for two weeks in May/June 1940. (story in appendix)
On the 18th August 1940 the official ‘bag was 144. Peter was wounded in action on 22nd August 1940 whilst bringing down a Dornier 17 near Ipswich and was listed in the Roll of Honor published by the Air Ministry 31st August 1940 among the wounded or injured in action. Luckily it was nothing too serious - his head had been jerked forward and he sustained a bad cut to the bridge of his nose and a couple of black eyes. On his return home, with a plaster over his nose, he told his mother he had had a ‘rough night!’ During the Battle of Britain the fighter pilots continued to destroy great numbers of enemy aircraft - their greatest ‘bag’ being 235 officially destroyed on 15th September 1940.
In May 1941 the Germans made 71 major raids on London and 56 on other cities. On Sept 17 1940 Hitler postponed the invasion of Britain indefinitely - following the Battle of Britain.
Peter remained with 56(F) Squadron, at North Weald, (Station Commander S.F. Vincent) becoming Leader of ‘A’ flight until 23rd April 1941. He was officially promoted to Acting Squadron Leader on 20th April 1941. On leaving he was presented with his most appreciated medal - given to him by Bryan, Willywix’ on behalf of the lads left behind in the old 56 Squadron . The presentation case, a Kensitas cigarette packet, contained a crudely made ‘iron cross’ suspended from a piece of deckchair canvas from a large safety pin. Peter seemed to value this higher than official awards.
Photo below: this spoof Iron Cross was presented to Squadron Leader Brooker in April 1941, on his promotion and posting to lead 1Sqn(F) at Croydon. It was given to him by Bryan Wicks (Willewix) and was a momento from all his old comrades who had fought together on 56 Sqn at Northweald. The presentation case, a Kensitas cigarette packet, contained a crudely made 'iron cross' suspended from a piece of deckchair canvas from a large safety pin. Brookers family state that he valued this higher than any of his official awards.
23rd April 1941 - Squadron Leader Brooker takes over No 1 (F) Squadron at Croydon.
“...after a short stay in Redhill where, in May, they (No.1 Squadron) they really did experience a spot of excitement. In this month the attacks against England by the night bomber were stepped up as Hitler, moving his forces to the West, tried to hide his intentions and also sought to inflict greater damage on the one set of people who had rocked the power of the Third Reich. In the biggest raid, that of May 10th/11th, a total of 550 aircraft were employed, each making more than one sortie - if lucky - to drop 708 tons of HE and 86,700 incendiary bombs. But the other night fighters really got in amongst the bombers and destroyed over 30 of them.
No. 1 Squadron move to Redhill at the end of April and do some very successful night flying against the enemy during very heavy attacks on London. On the night 10th/11th May 1941 Peter’s squadron destroy 8 out of a total of 33 enemy night raiders - the highest ‘bag’ for night fighters.” from “ In All Things First”, a short history of No.1 Squadron
Peter informs us on May 18th that he has been awarded the D.F.C.
“Acting Squadron Leader R.E.P. Brooker, No 1 Squadron - This officer led his flight with considerable skill and ability over a long period, during which he destroyed a number of enemy aircraft. Since taking command of the squadron, he has greatly assisted in the brilliant work performed by the squadron. Throughout Squadron Leader Brooker has set an excellent example.”
Peter moved to Tangmere with No 1 (F) Squadron about 6th July 1941..
“In July they moved back to Tangmere and here they found many of the station’s old comforts were represented by just heaps of rubble and broken windows; relics of the days of not so long ago, and for some time the personnel had to sleep out at Goodwood, an arrangement which did not ease the work of the squadron disciplinary N.C.O., F/Sgt E.Stone, but which was just one of those minor inconveniences of war. Here the two Flights ‘A’ and ‘B’ worked on a ‘24 hour on and 24 hour off’ basis, and the ‘erks’ had few moans as they achieved the tasks given them
From Tangmere they switched to the offensive, and the Operational Record Sheets soon began to carry many entries under the headings of numerous operational code words.” (from In All Things First, a short history of No.1 Squadron)
29th July 1941 ‘The proudest day in the Brooker family’. Peter decorated by King George VI with the D.F.C. at Buckingham Palace. Bryan Wicks also decorated with the D.F.C. at the same ceremony and the two families join forces afterwards for lunch and a show in celebration.
From Tangmere he was posted overseas (Far East) on 1st November.
Sunday 9th November 1941 Peter leaves home destined for G.H.Q. Singapore. He went as Aide de Camp to Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke Poppham, C in C far East. ‘News becomes very scarce owing to the serious situation in the Far East. Japan and America at war on 8th December. We receive three letters from Peter at Kallang Aerodrome Singapore.’
Extracts from”Bloody Shambles” (see appendix)
Tuesday 6th January:- In a belated attempt to curb the series of training accidents and to boost confidence within the ranks of the untested and untried Buffalo pilots of 488 Squadron, Sqn Ldr R.E.P.Brooker DFC, a Battle of Britain veteran, arrived at Kallang from Air H.Q., and promptly led both flights on a convoy patrol. Three Blenheims of 34 Squadron also carried out shipping escort duties during the day.
Tuesday 20th January: This day was to see the heaviest yet raid on Singapore... .... at Seletar the Hurricanes were ready to go into action and great things were expected of them ....Sqn Ldr Landels was fatally wounded and his aircraft struck the mast of a fishing vessel before crashing into the sea..... the Hurricanes were having mixed fortunes .. despite the attack bombers continued to their target - Seletar - but failed to cause much material damage on this occasion. Flt Lt. Farthing assumed temporary command of 232 (P) Squadron following Landels death ..... by evening however a new commanding officer had been posted in - the experienced Sqn Ldr Brooker arriving from Air H.Q.
Wednesday 21st January:- (Japanese attacked Kalang) Sqd Ldr Brooker, had led eight Hurricanes from 232 Squadron’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ Flights into the air at 1055 in anticipation of the raid, and these were vectored onto three streams of bombers, Brooker leading them down into a diving attack. As the Hurricanes closed on the bombers, they were joined by more aircraft from ‘C’ Flight, led by Flt Lt Cooper-Slipper. As the latter approached they saw one bomber spiral down in flames, the victim of Flt Lt Taylor’s opening attack; NAP I/C Tadashi Hino and his crew were killed. Closing in, Cooper-Slipper opened fire on another bomber, hitting its port engine which caught fire, and it turned over and lost height. Throttling back, he turned into another vic of bombers, causing a second to break away in flames, some bullets striking the engine. He then came under heavy cross fire and his aircraft was hit many times, some bullets striking the engine and three hitting the aircrew, he broke away and despite the damage to his machine, landed safely at Kallang. ..........
Friday 23rd January:- After lunch Sdn Ldr Brooker led four Hurricanes off on patrol, during which Plt Off Parker saw a lone twin-engined aircraft pass below, and was suprised when the leader took no action. Within minutes Parker saw six fighters climbing up towards them, but was unable to radio a warning to Brooker, so pulled alongside him and pointed to them:-
‘They were in the usual loose formation used by Japanese fighters, and Brooker immediately went after their leader. I was a bit astonished at this but I had allowed some distance between us so that, when as inevitably happened, the second Jap followed him, I was in position to latch on to the tail. The first one turned smartly to port and we all four followed because I also had a ‘Zero’ behind me. I concentrated on aiming at the one ahead of me. Brooker must have realised the mess we were in because, just as I saw my shots hitting my target’s tail, he led us out of the ring into a steep dive.’
Meanwhile the other two Hurricanes, flown by Plt Off Bill McCulloch and Sgt Fairburn, had become involved with the Japanese top cover, McCulloch having claimed one shot down and Fairburn a probable before they managed to extricate themselves from the action. The quartet, having reformed, was now beset by fuel shortage so they headed for Singapore, running into heavy cloud and rain which split them up again. McCulloch and Fairburn once more came under attack, the former being shot down into the sea just short of Kallang, he managed to bail out of BM898 and was later rescued, suffering only from shock. Meanwhile, Fairburn’s aircraft was out of fuel and he was forced to crash-land BE639 on Pulau Blakang Mati, sustaining minor cuts and bruises. Brooker and Parker reached Seletar safely but with fuel exhausted and problems with the hydraulics, the latter was obliged to belly-land BG820, escaping injury.....
Saturday 24th January:- ..the Hurricane’s scramble had been the second of the day. During the earlier one, Plt Off Parker (whose rest day it was) had an insight into the state moral was reaching amongst some of the airmen. He witnessed some of the ground crews leaving their posts, led by a Flt Sergeant whose nerve had clearly broken. These men had endured much hardship under attack and there were those who had reached their limits, as he recalled :-
‘They clambered into a bus immediately the Hurricanes had left, shouting to those last on board to buck up, or to the driver to ‘get cracking’. They were hesitating because they realised that no men would be at their posts to service any returning Hurricanes. The bus started to move away from me and the men climbed aboard, but it had to pull round in a U-turn in front of the office. I shouted to the driver to stop and, when he took no notice of my bawling and waving, I unbuttoned my holster and took out my .38 revolver, which all of us pilots wore, whether flying or not, at Singapore. I aimed to shoot into the air or at the tyres of the bus if it passed me. I was scared stiff because I knew I was far more likely to hit the bus than its tyres, but I was determined to find out more of this sudden departure of the ground crews. I had never known this to happen before. Anyhow, it was unnecessary for me to shoot as the driver hauled the bus to a stop and I called out Flt Sgt. He said they had permission from ‘Penny’ Farthing to push off from the airfield during air raids (which I doubted but could not contest) and that aircraft were nearly always away for more than an hour, which I knew to be true. I pointed out that the fitters, an armourer and a radio technician must be available to service any aircraft returning early, and he agreed hurriedly that four men should remain. He called them out and they appeared from the bus quite happily and looked rather unconcerned about remaining. I assumed that the Flt Sgt had influenced the men to rush off from the field but he himself was in a panic to get away and having agreed to let the rest go with him, I thought better of arguing the toss until a better opportunity might arise. So he lept back into the loaded bus and away they went. The four men who remained glanced around the sky before sauntering off to their workshops. Then I saw for the first time a Corporal seated on top of a blast-pen in the sun, quietly enjoying a mug of tea. I asked him what he was doing there and he replied that he had too much self-respect to go chasing off every time there was an air-raid, and he intended to stay there until it was obviously safer in a trench or shelter. I just grinned at him and said ‘good show!’
When the Hurricanes returned, having not made any contact with the raiders, Sdn Ldr Brooker was furious to find a lack of ground crew. The pilots and the skeleton ground crew began refueling the aircraft, for they intended to take off again. Parker agreed to see if he could find the missing crews who had exceeded their time limit. However, the cause of their delay was soon evident. Some of the bombs had fallen on a nearby village outside the main gate, also blocking the road. Parker was sickened by the sight and smell of burning bodies in the huts and was glad to get back to the airfield.
Sunday 25th January:- 232 (P) Squadron lost two more Hurricanes - and their pilots - this time due to adverse weather conditions. During the morning at 0955 Sdn Ldr Brooker and Sgt Marsh took off from Seletar, but when Brooker emerged from cloud Marsh in BE641 had disappeared. At much the same time Sgt Alan Coutie (BE589) took off from Kallang with others from ‘A’ Flight to patrol over the Island and he too disappeared in worsening weather with visibility down to 300 ft. Neither pilot was ever seen again, both, it was assumed, had crashed into the sea.
26th January 1942:- RAF attack against Japanese convoy approaching Endau ; included nine Hurricanes of 232 Squadron led by Sdn Ldr Brooker. ....... became involved in a series of dogfights, the sky appearing to the pilots to be full of Japanese fighters and burning Vildebeests.
Brooker selected the nearest Ki 27 while other pilots chased after the surviving Vildebeests, hoping to give them some protection. ....... all Hurricanes returned safely. Whilst the aircraft were being refueled and re-armed the pilots related accounts of their combats; consequently six of their opponents were assessed to have been destroyed; Sqdn Ldr Brooker, Plt Off Parker, Flt Lt Edwin Taylor and Sgt Henry Nicholls claimed one each, while Plt Off ‘Dizzy’ Mendizabal added a probable, and came across another Ki 27: “I must have suprised him, because he made no attempt to get away.
27 January - 15 February 1942
Tuesday 27th January - The harassed RAF was given no respite. Early in the morning Sqn Ldr Brooker, Plt Off Parker and Sgt Christian took off in an attempt to intercept a reconnaissance aircraft, but failed to make contact after climbing to 25,000ft at that point Christian’s Hurricane suddenly peeled off and swooped all over the sky, losing height rapidly. Brooker called him on the R/T and went chasing after him but could see no reason for these antics, nor did he receive any reply. The chase was called off when the Hurricane disappeared through the low cloud blanket and Brooker and Parker made their way back to Seletar. At 1000 the Hurricane crashed at great speed into a small rubber plantation in Johore and exploded. Flt Lt Norman Welch, 232 squadron’s Adjutant, was in charge of a small party which went to the scene of the crash, where they had to dig to a depth of 13ft just to reach the tail of the aircraft. ....
Wednesday 28th January:- of the original delivery of 51 crated Hurricanes, 21 remained available for operations, with four more that could be made ready in 24 hours. Of the rest 17 had been destroyed, seven were at repair depots and two were still with their unit, but in need of repair. During the morning Sdn Ldr Brooker led all available Hurricanes to strafe the newly-occupied Kulang airfield, but found no aircraft there so strafed AA positions instead.......
Saturday 31st January:- .... 488 Squadron had at last got three Hurricanes serviceable again by the 31st but these were then handed over to 232 (P) Squadron and the unit ordered to leave. At the last moment the ground party was ordered to remain and service the Hurricanes still on the island, 232 (P) Squadron’s ground personnel being shipped out to Palembang instead. Next day Sqd Ldr Brooker was ordered to evacuate the majority of his Squadron, only he and five other pilots remaining.. ... During the 11 days in action 232 (P) Squadron had claimed 38 confirmed, 10 probables and 14 damaged for the loss of 18 Hurricanes during operational sorties. At least seven more had been badly damaged in combat, while two were destroyed on the ground. Nine pilots had been killed, and four seriously wounded.
from the Far East Command Communiqué:- Singapore, February 5th. There has been some enemy shelling in the north of the island, with negligible results. Air reports show much enemy movement southward in Johore. Enemy aircraft have continued to make high-level and low dive-bombing and machine gun attacks on the island, causing comparatively little damage or casualties. Shipping in the harbour was also attacked. An oil tanker at the naval base, which was set on fire two days ago by enemy bombing, is still burning. Hurricane fighters of the R.A.F. intercepted a large formation of enemy aircraft over Singapore this morning. one enemy aircraft was destroyed, one probably destroyed, and one damaged by our aircraft.
Thursday 5th February:- At Kallang 232 Squadron was warmly welcomed by Sqd Ldr Brooker and the remaining five pilots of 232 (P) Squadron, several of whom renewed old friendships, but the meeting was brief as Brooker and the others were about to fly to Palembang for a well-earned rest. There was no time or labour available to fit long-range tanks to the Hurricanes which were to depart, but the pilots were advised that a Blenheim would meet and lead them to Sumatra. Most could only stow aboard their personal kit, but Plt Off Parker did manage to include a 120 volt battery to power hi electric razor. as they taxied for take-off Sdn Ldr Brooker ran his aircraft into a bomb crater and was forced to remain behind. The other five were led off by Flt Lt Taylor ...... in the event however, their rest did not materialise and they were soon in action again over their new base.
“With the aerodromes of Tengah and Seletar under shell-fire and Sembawang vulnerable to it at any time ... there was only one place left from which we could operate. This was Kallang aerodrome, the former municipal airport of Singapore.... we were now ordered to move down there ........ taking our two Hurricanes and two automobiles. (The aerodrome at Kallang) was a sorry sight ..... the road entering passed under imposing dark stone archways, now pitifully scarred and chipped by blast and shrapnel and bullets. The beautiful hangars and terminal buildings of what had once been a great airline base were barren and empty, with windows gone, walls gashed and torn. The vast concrete aprons between and in front of the hangars here were torn and pitted with bomb craters, as was the entire field. The saddest sight of all was the remains of several Hurricanes and Brewsters, as well as three or four trucks and tank wagons, around the outside of the field - sorry-looking, smashed and twisted wreckages, mostly burned out, the victims of bombing and machine-gun attacks. .... The (Officers) Mess had been hit and set on fire by bombs the day before, and was completely burned out.” from ‘Last Flight From Singapore, by A.G.Donaghue
Saturday 7th February:- .. further aircraft flew out to Palembang during the day as they were rendered airworthy, including a Hurricane and Buffalo flown by Sqn Ldr Brooker and Sgt Kronk respectively.....
from the Far East Command Communiqué Singapore, February 7th:- Enemy aircraft again raided the island this morning and bombs were dropped, causing some damage. Fighters of the Far East Command intercepted the raiders, destroying one enemy aircraft, probably destroying another, and damaging two. All our fighters returned to their bases.
from the Far East Command Communiqué Singapore, February 8th. During enemy raids over Singapore island this morning our fighters probably destroyed one enemy bomber. Two other bombers were damaged. All our fighters returned to their bases.
from the Far East Command Communiqué Singapore, February 9th. An enemy force in strength succeeded in landing on the western shores of Singapore Island last night. They are being engaged by our troops. Fighting continues. Hurricane fighters of the R.A.F., supporting our troops successfully intercepted enemy raiders today, destroying three, probably destroying three others and damaging thirteen. In a later patrol our fighter aircraft wrecked an enemy truck during a road strafe.
“...a new order came through that night ... It had been decided not to risk losing all our Hurricanes at once, as we would do, should this, our only remaining aerodrome get bombed, or worse, come under shell-fire from the advancing enemy. Also there was a pressing need for more airplanes at Palembang.” from ‘Last Flight From Singapore, by A.G.Donaghue
from the Far East Command Communiqué Singapore, February 10. The enemy has maintained continuous dive-bombing and machine-gun attacks on our forward areas in the western sector throughout the day, as well as high-level bombing attacks by large formations of aircraft.
London, February 10 (AP) The Vichy radio broadcast today a Japanese communiqué saying that all British airdromes on Singapore Island had been captured.
Monday - Thursday 9 - 12 February Other new arrivals at P1 (Palembang) included seven of 232 Squadron’s Hurricanes from Singapore, led by Sqdn Ldr Brooker, while next day Air-Vice-Marshall Maltby, the commander of WESTGROUP, also arrived from Singapore to assume control. Unable, however, to find a suitable headquarters location o the island, he and Air Commodore Staton would move on to Java a few days later. The newly arrived Sqdn Ldr Brooker was briefed to lead off all available Hurricanes at midday on 10th, but one taxied into the MVAF’s remaining Dragon Rapide (‘19’), which was being refueled following a flight from Batavia; the twin-engined biplane sustained extensive damage to its starboard mainplane, which under the circumstances prevailing, was deemed irreparable. The Hurricane formation meanwhile, had seen nothing of note, while two pilots were forced to return early, sick and dizzy due to a shortage of oxygen bottles in their aircraft; owing to this serious shortage, one flight was not able to climb above 18,000ft.
Friday 13th February ... a dozen Hurricanes were off from P.1 seeking six Japanese ‘flyingboats’ reported by the Dutch HQ to have alighted near the north-east coast of Banka Island; these were in fact F1M floatplanes from the seaplane tenders Kamikawa Maru and Sagara Maru, which had been detached to operate from the island, at Muntok, the island had by now largely been evacuated by Europeans and natives alike. A careful search was made by the Hurricanes, but nothing was to be seen, and Sqdn Ldr Brooker led them back to Palembang, low on fuel. They had just landed when the JAAF returned to the attack. 29 Ki 43s from the 59th and 64th Sentais, with seven Ki 48s approaching. At this moment the seven reinforcement Hurricanes from Java arrived overhead, almost out of fuel, some were forced to land at once, but Wng Cmmdr Maguire and Sgy Henry Nicholls remained above to try and give some protection, and these two at once attacked the incoming raiders. .... with the Hurricanes engaged, the Japanese bomber crews were able to gain a number of successes when they attacked shipping in the river..... While the bombing and strafing was underway, three more Hurricanes from ‘A’ flight of 232 Squadron were prepared for takeoff and, during a lull, were scrambled - climbing into cloud. They were followed a few minutes later by Sqn Ldr Brooker at the head of several more fighters, which began a hide-and-seek fight among the low clouds. .... Sdn Ldr Brooker claimed a second bomber for his sixth personal victory of the war (four of which had been credited prior to his arrival at Singapore). One of the Hurricanes (BG693) failed to return, Plt Off Leslie Emmerton last being seen at low level over the treetops, being persued by several Ki 43s; .. he was killed
“Saturday February 14th ... our engineer officer and his men had been doing themselves proud in getting damaged machines repaired and new replacement machines fixed for combat. As a result we had eight airplanes that morning, less than a week from the time the Squadron’s equipment had been virtually wiped out.. >>>Squadron had gotten some new aeroplanes also and I believe they had a full twelve that morning. anyway, there were enough Hurricanes dispersed around the field at readiness to make an imposing show after what our squadron had been through. .....(after scramble and skirmish..)..we were told not to land back at Palembang. I headed down the railway from Palembang and soon reached () aerodrome and landed as ordered. .....The reason we were ordered down here was that Palembang aerodrome was surrounded by more than two hundred parachutists, dropped there while we were away on our patrol!
... one of our pilots was on the ground when the parachutists landed....’we saw they were dropping parachutists all over the jungle, scores of them, in a big circle all round the drome, about a mile outside it..... I expected they’d be closing in right away .. I rang up Operations and told them so they could warn you not to land here...a little later the phone was dead. Several squadron leaders and wing commanders were there at the time and they got all the personnel organised to defend the place. We took up positions along the road...I suppose there were a couple of hundred of us all told... nothing happened for a while. There wasn’t a sound coming from the jungle and w kept getting more and more tense.... Pretty soon we saw you chaps coming back (from sortie - Banka Strait) .. we knew you must be having a scrap of some kind. Then one Hurricane came in, streaming glycol smoke, and landed.,.. he’d had his radiator shot up then we saw most of you heading off south west, having heard Control warning you not to land here. But then we saw that two Hurricanes were coming back.. they came in and landed. I expected to see them picked off by snipers from the jungle.... however nothing happened.... they hadn’t heard the warning... you should have seen them move! I never in my life saw two chaps get back in their machines and take off so quick! Then, horror of horrors, ... in came four Hurricanes and landed! They were new reinforcements for us, being ferried up from Java, and of course they had no radios installed so they couldn’t hear the warning. As soon as they landed some of us piled into a car and tore out onto the field to warn the pilots. We told them to turn round and take off as fast as they could and go down to (x) aerodrome, but they all said they couldn’t. They didn’t have enough gas..... so there was nothing else for it but to get a petrol tanker onto the field and fill them up, hoping we had time... the jungle comes right up to the aerodrome on all sides... how conspicuous we felt working out in the open on those Hurricanes, knowing there were a couple of hundred or more Japs with rifles and tommy guns in that jungle! ...we got those four Hurricanes refueled in what I bet was an all-time record! ” from ‘Last Flight From Singapore, by A.G.Donaghue.
Netherlands Indies Armed Services Communiqué:- Batavia, February 16. Early Sunday morning a large-scale bombardment was begun on the Japanese fleet in Banka Strait. American, British and Netherland aircraft took part in these bombardments. In the Musi Estuary the Japanese transferred their troops into all kinds of small craft, sloops, motor-boats, rowing boats and other local material. The invaders then sailed into various rivers and creeks, continuously harried by our very low-flying fighters and bombers, which played murderous havoc among the thousands of invaders. Our losses in aircraft and men are not yet known, but it can be taken that they are considerably lower than the extent of the large action would make us expect.
The fall of Sumatra
Saturday - Monday 14 th - 16 February From P.1, Sqdn Ldr Brooker of 232 Squadron - together with several other pilots and non-flying personnel - had evacuated by road. The vehicles following theirs were ambushed however, and a petrol bowser overturned by grenade explosions; one airman.AC2 Hugh Kilpatrick was trapped under the bowser, whilst AC2 J.L.Duff sustained a broken leg and jaw; he was helped to one side of the road while Flg Off H.L. Wright 232 Squadron’s Engineer Officer, led a party to administer help to the trapped airman. Just then the Japanese attacked and Wright was killed. The trapped airman could not be released and later on an orderly crawled up under covering fire and injected him with a double dose of morphine.
On 15th February 1942 the Japanese hoardes take Hong Kong and force Singapore to surrender.
16th - 28th February The necessity for the Japanese forces to establish themselves on the new airfields in Sumatra ensured that the Allies were able to enjoy a few days of relative quiet in Western Java, where strenuous efforts were expended to form the scattered remnants of the RAF’s squadrons into some semblance of an air force. With Air Vice-Marshall Pulford and a number of senior officers missing, overall command of the RAF on Java passed to Air Vice-Marshall Maltby.... For fighter defence, two squadrons were to be reformed, while 232, 258 and 488 Squadrons were effectively disbanded ... 18 Hurricanes operational. These were now concentrated at Tjilitan in the new 242 Squadron under Sdn Ldr Brooker, with the flights commanded by Flt Lt Ivan Julian and Act/Flt Lt Jimmy Parker.
Friday 27th February Western Java, ... four of 242 Squadron’s aircraft were off again ... led by Flt Lt Parker. As they commenced the climb two of the Hurricanes broke away and returned to Tjililitan. With Sgt Dunn for company, Parker continued up to about 20,000 ft. Below them at about 17,000 feet they caught sight of a group of distant aircraft against the pale blue of the horizon They counted between 12 and 15 fighters, straggling along and apparently not having seen the two Hurricanes. As they dived onto the group, three of the Japanese aircraft started to dive and turn to port, whilst the others pulled round to starboard and up in a slow climbing turn. Parker kept after the first three and brought his sights to bear on the leader. he later wrote:
“I only needed a little deflection at our angle of approach and I’d have him. To my surprise when I pressed the tit I heard only a couple of rounds from one of my guns and the rest were silent. I didn’t know what had stopped them and nearly broke my thumb pressing the button, but they were no results in the half-dozen seconds it took to overhaul the Zero. I dived within a few feet of him and saw his helmeted head peering coolly around as I passed his tail and then went into a long dive away. That was a very well-disciplined pilot to have remained a target for so long in order that his friends could come round and take us, particularly when they would anyway have been told too late to save him if my guns had fired!”
Sgt Dunn, following his leader in the dive, hesitated before firing, having observed Parker not firing , fearing that he may have misidentified the Japanese fighters for Dutch Brewsters. “I continued my attack as a practice and I was close enough to see the ‘Flaming arsehole’, as we called the Nip roundel; I knocked chucks off one ‘Zero’ and continued to dive on by.”
Parker continued “I taxied the Hurricane straight down into the ulu in a furious rage, instead of leaving it by the Flight Office to be refueled and re-armed, and stamped back up to the dispersal hut to sound off about the inefficiency of the armourers. To my suprise Air Commodore Vincent was there with Sqdn Ldr Brooker, and he tore me off a hell of a strip for not having checked my guns and everything about the Hurricane before I’d taken off. Brooker looked very sympathetic and the other pilots were almost mutinous because we all relied on our ground crews, but we all stood and listened to his tirade. Evidentally he must have heard that we were not too confident of the Hurricanes because he swore they were a match for the ‘Zeros’, and to prove it he took one up and threw it about the sky. We were not impressed and had no enthusiasm ourselves for aerobatics, even if the raid was over, and then we had another talk from him.”
Meanwhile back at home:-
‘No news from Peter until 25th February when we learn he is safe in Batavia, Java. (Batavia, former name of Jakarta, city and sea port of N.E. Java) There is no proper officer’s Mess and Peter stays with a most hospitable Dutch family. (see his letter from Townsville, below)’
Sunday 1st March:- The initial landings on the beaches of north-western Java began .. Allied air units under orders to counter attack...... Flt Lt Julian led off a section of three Hurricanes of 242 Squadron from Tjililitan, to ascertain the exact position of the landings; they were followed by nine more led by Sdn Ldr Brooker. .... The Hurricanes met by intense AA and rifle fire from the transports and shore, made their first attack on the atap huts along the shoreline, these huts were left in flames. ....242 carried out two more attacks in the course of the morning, while nearly all Hurricanes suffered damage, mainly from shell splinters, although none were lost ....
”...I cant remember who, but one of the lads in this raid left his parachute behind and sat on a tin helmet as the best means of protection when all the trouble was coming up from below.”
Monday 2nd March; At Tjililitan, by early afternoon more Hurricanes had been made serviceable and Sqdn Ldr Brooker informed his men that the unit was to carry out a full-scale raid on Kalidjati. The operation was to be undertaken from the Dutch base at Andir, just outside Bandoneng, as the advancing Japanese were now only 30 miles away from Tjililitan. All available Hurricanes, seven aircraft, set off for Andir, closely following the C.O., who had the only aerial map of Java available. As they approached the airfield the experienced heavy, but inaccurate fire; the Dutch had obviously mistaken them for Japanese aircraft. Brooker, realising this, calmly led the formation around the airfield until the firing stopped, then all aircraft landed safely.
Even as the Hurricanes were on their way, a Japanese bomber formation - estimated to be 50 strong - was also heading for Bandoeng, comprising aircraft from the 27th Sentai escorted by 59th and 64th Sentai Ki 43s. Most of the bombers turned back due to bad weather, but the fighters of the 59th continued. They arrived soon after the Hurricanes had landed at Andir, when an air raid warning was sounded and four CW-21 bs of 2-VIG-IV were scrambled, followed by the last three Brewsters of 3-VIG-V. The RAF pilots soon witnessed a short, sharp engagement and one Dutch pilot was observed floating down under his parachute. This was the CW-21B Flight’s commander, Lt Boxman, whose aircraft had been set on fire at 15,000ft. As he baled out, his petrol-soaked clothes caught alight and, in an attempt to douse the flames, he refrained from pulling the ripcord for some 5,000ft. However, on reaching the ground he had sustained serious burns and would spend the next two years in hospital before making a recovery.
... Part of the 59th Sentai formation landed at Kalidjati on return from the mission, where a further attack by a lone Glenn Martin was noted during the afternoon. After a conference with his flight commander, Sqdn Ldr Brooker decided that he would lead a strike on Kalidjati that evening, enabling the Hurricanes to return under cover of darkness. at dusk, therefore, six Hurricanes set off (the seventh having become unserviceable), but as they approached the target Sgt Dunn saw a single fighter diving on them and shouted out a warning. The Hurricanes immediately went into a pre-planned defensive circle. Owing to the darkness the British pilots were unable to fire effectively, whereas the lone Japanese pilot was free to attack and aircraft he could get his sights on. consequently Sgt Dovell’s aircraft received a burst of fire into its starboard wing. Dunn, observing this, immediately opened fire as the Japanese aircraft disappeared into the darkness. Dovell was obviously in trouble so Dunn formatted on him, but neither pilot had noted the return course. Fortune was on their side, as Plt Off Gartrell joined them and led all three back to Andir safely. On arrival Sqdn Ldr Brooker made felt his displeasure that the two sergeants had not noted the course for their return to base, and had thus risked the loss of their aircraft.
Tuesday 3rd March In Java, there had been no let-up in the fighting, most of which occurred in the west. Early in the morning all seven RAF Hurricanes set off from Andir to attack Kalidjati again. Sqdn Ldr Brooker ordering Flt Lt Parker and Plt Off Mendizabal to remain above as top cover, while he led the rest of the squadron down to strafe. Their arrival over the airfield was greeted by light AA gunfire, the pilots observing large numbers of twin-engined aircraft lined up neatly and proceeded to strafe these. As no defending fighters appeared to be present, Parker and Mendizabal dived down to join in the attack, each raking a line of aircraft, at least one of which was seen to catch fire. Parker then concentrated his fire on a petrol bowser which also burst into flames. Before they were able to select any further targets however, several Japanese fighters appeared and Parker spotted one on the tail of a Hurricane. Closing from astern he opened fire, but it turned and attempted to get on his tail. As he had built up speed when diving to attack, he was able to pull away, but Mendizabal - the victim of the attack - was not so lucky, and his aircraft was badly shot up; he managed to get some miles from the airfield before he was obliged to bale out. A running fight developed as the Hurricanes sought to get away, during which three victories were claimed by Plt Offs Gartrell and Fitzherbert, and Sgt King. No further Hurricanes were lost, but nearly all were damaged and Gartrell was slightly wounded.
The presence of the Hurricanes at Andir had left Batavia unprotected and in their absence, the airfields at Tjililitan and Kemajoran had been bombed. Consequently, following the Kalidjati attack, ‘A’ flight was ordered to return immediately to the former base.
Wednesday 4th March Western Java - The only sustained Allied activity in the air involved the RAF Hurricanes, four of which were sent out at first light for the Sunda Strait area, where 2nd Division troops were to be attacked. Flt Lt Julian and Plt Off Gartrell peeled off to investigate a long column of horse-drawn transport and were fired on. They called down the top cover (Parker and Fitzherbert) then all four flew up and down a straight, tree-lined road several times with guns blazing, leaving it blocked with fallen horses and overturned carts - unpleasant work. As they pulled away Parker saw a single horseman racing towards a thicket - one burst was sufficient to cause his demise. The RAF pilots were eating sandwiches on the airfield later in the morning when they were ordered to fly back to Andir on a ;’permanent’ basis. It was decided that the ten moderately serviceable Hurricanes would carry out a strike on Kalidjati on the way, while two semi-serviceable aircraft would go direct to the new base. Those pilots not allocated aircraft were to travel by road , a 1942 Buick - recently acquired by Plt Off Cicurel, who had attached himself to the unit - being commandeered for the trip, while Sgts Dunn and Young offered to drive a large petrol bowser to Andir - an offer which was accepted.
On approaching Kalidjati, six of the Hurricanes were led down to strafe by Sqdn Ldr Brooker, while Plt Off Lockwood,2/Lt Anderson, Sgt Sandeman Allen and one other of ‘A’ Flight remained above as cover. Sgt Ian Newlands (Z5691) reported;-
“I strafed various planes on the ground but missed on taking off and he opened up on me with cannons and machine guns - four red balls in my rear vision mirror was an unforgettable sight - but I didn’t get hit.”
Unable to observe much from the height at which they were flying, the top cover pair of Lockwood and Anderson followed the others down. Bill Lockwood recalled:
“As Lt. Anderson followed me down. I met at around 6 - 8,000ft two ‘Navy 0s’ climbing As I went past them and was about to pull around, I noticed a transport of the DC-3 type below and a landing circuit. I dove in behind this aircraft and was about to open fire when I remembered a remark made by someone before we took off about there still being a few Dutch aircraft around and not to shoot down any Dutchman. I climbed slightly and to the right of the aircraft to check. I saw the ‘fried eggs’ on the wings. He also saw me and turned away to port with wheels and flaps down. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw two ‘Zeros’ on my tail. I made a hurried diving attack on the transport and went to tree-top level, heading I knew not where, but hoping Bandoeng. The Japs were close behind and firing. I weaved and put the throttle thought the gate. I had a slight speed edge. Flying straight and very low I flew south for some minutes and presently came over a range of mountains and there was Andir airfield. I landed and Lt Anderson did not come in. I never saw him again.”
The other top cover pair also engaged the Japanese fighters, which were caught at a height disadvantage, as Sandeman Allen remembered:-
“The ‘Zeros’ came in underneath and we had a simple target for the first few vital moments, after which we were so heavily outnumbered that we got into serious trouble. I was credited with two ‘Zeros’ destroyed, one probable and one damaged but crawled back to the aerodrome with 28 canon shell and 43 bullet holes in the machine (Z5584), and with slight wounds to my head and legs. I remember being given a cup of tea and I was shaking so badly it stirred itself! However, I took off in a fresh plane 10 minutes later so that I was able to recover my nerve.”
Most of the other Hurricanes returned with varying degrees of damage. Although saddened by the loss of the South African Neil Anderson (who was taken prisoner but died in captivity two days later), the pilots were jubilant for they believed that they had shot down seven of the intercepting fighters - two by Sgt Jimmy King to bring his score to five in three days, and one each by Brooker, Julian and Fitzherbert, to add to the pair already credited to Sandeman Allen. What the Japanese losses were in the air is not known, but their fighter pilots - apparently from the 22nd Air Flotilla - also believed that they had shot down five of the Hurricanes. On the ground one light bomber was destroyed by fire, with two more and one reconnaissance aircraft badly damaged, while one of each and one Ki 48 were damaged to a lesser extent.
By late afternoon the 242 Squadron pilots traveling in the Buick had reached Andir, where soon after arrival a message was received requiring a Hurricane to reconnoitre the road leading southwards from Kalidjati to Bandoeng, since Japanese forces had been reported advancing down this in strength. Flt Lt Parker was detailed to undertake this sortie, Plt Off Fitzherbert volunteering to act as escort. Whilst discussing the job in hand, a raid by Kanoya Ku bombers occurred, the majority of the anti-personnel bombs falling in the region of the main buildings and hangars, where one of the Dutch afdeling was housed. Immediately afterwards, Parker and Fitzherbert ran out to their aircraft, started up and taxied between the bomb craters to the end of the runway.
Taking off in a cloud of dust, they headed for the west end of the valley, when Parker realised that his wingman was signaling frantically for him to turn back to Andir. a quick check of the instruments showed that all appeared to be in order, but Fitzherbert continued gesticulating, stabbing his finger furiously downwards and then he swung his aircraft round and headed back for Andir. Parker followed suit and almost immediately the cockpit filled with glycol vapour. Anticipating the vapour cloud would increase and restrict his vision, he closed the throttle and glided down just short of the runway and to one side of it. With flaps still down from his quick take-off and the undercarriage up, he hit the ground just in front of a Dutch bomber which was being re-armed.
The Hurricane thumped into the tarmac and slid past the bomber and running men, with a tremendous clatter and clouds of vapour. Fortunately Parker was strapped in tightly and the aircraft did not turn over as it came to a stop, minus its flaps, airscrew, radiator and much of its underside. He switched off the engine and jumped out smartly, to be greeted by the Dutch groundcrew who shook his hands repeatedly. He realised they were thanking him for pulling away from them before hitting the ground - when in fact he had been rather more anxious not to have crashed into their bomb trolleys!
It transpired later - after the C.O. had collected him and driven him back to dispersal - that the Hurricane had been damaged by a bomb splinter during the raid and that Fitzherbert had seen the radiator streaming glycol but had been unable to warn him sooner as his R/T wasn’t working. The reconnaissance sortie was abandoned, due to the lateness of the afternoon.
The pilots again adjourned to the Savoy Honan Hotel in Bandoeng for the night, and during dinner, Sqdn Ldr Brooker announced that two Dutch transport aircraft were due in that night to begin evacuating pilots. In the first instance wounded pilots would accompany Wg Cmmdr Maguire and himself, while four more pilots could have seats - to be settled by drawing lots. On his departure Julian was to take command of the remaining pilots and aircraft. In the event, the evacuating aircraft did not put in an appearance that night.
Meanwhile, Sgts Dunn and Young had not yet arrived from Tjiliiltan in the petrol bowser, but they were on the way. The bowser had been loaded with pilot’s personal possessions, including a number of gramophone records. Their journey was anything but uneventful. They had set off with Gordon Dunn driving, and were shortly overtaken by army convoy, as he recalled :
“An army sergeant enquired of our destination and on establishing this, said he would drive back from time to time to make sure we were not in trouble. We continued on our way, quite uneventfully until we reached the mountainous area, when the engine started to overheat. Pulling into the side of the road near a paddy field, we found an old tin and with this gathered water from the field and refilled the radiator. Within a short while of recommencing the journey we came to a steep decline, at the bottom of which was a stream with a narrow bridge. As there was a matching steep incline on the other side, I decided to accelerate, aiming the vehicle at the centre of the bridge. I noted that the speed had reached 50mph when Tom shouted a warning. An old man with a donkey and cart suddenly appeared on the bridge. There was nothing I could do, so half expecting a collision, we careered across the bridge, missing the man and donkey but hitting the back of the cart, before shooting up the other side!”
Apart from the radiator overheating again, the rest of the trip was relatively uneventful until evening time. As they parked for the night a Dutch officer approached them with a request for some fuel for his car. After facilitating him they experienced difficulty in turning off the tap and lost about 100 gallons of fuel. In return for the petrol, the officer found them accommodation and placed an army guard on the bowser. Next morning however, they found that they could not communicate with the guard, who spoke only Javanese and would not let them enter the vehicle; they had to wait for the return of the officer before they could get underway. Andir was eventually reached without further mishap but not before they had noticed a stenciled warning on the side of bowser “This vehicle not to exceed 15mph” They were hardly surprised therefore, when they later learned that the bowser would no longer travel faster than 2mph! Their main regret however was that their gramophone records had practically melted away in the intense heat of the glove compartment where they had been placed!
Thursday 5th March Wng Cmdr Maguire and Sqdn Ldr Brooker spent much of the morning in Bandoeng, where they experienced great difficulties with Dutch officials. Since many of the senior officers considered that further resistance was useless, and were divided in their wish to surrender, or to assist the RAF in continuing the fight, pleas for assistance failed. However, when verbal threats were employed, supplies of fuel - but not oxygen - were forthcoming. Having failed to carry out the reconnaissance detailed for the previous afternoon, Flt Lt Parker - on this occasion with Plt Off Lockwood as escort - took off as soon as sufficient cloud had formed to offer some refuge should Japanese fighters appear. A few miles to the west the cloud layer actually covered the tops of the hills .........(an eventful trip) ... His return was enthusiastically welcomed by all, including the normally stolid C.O., for having seen him persued across the airfield by the hostile fighters, coupled with his delayed return, all had assumed that he had been shot down. Even Wg Cmmdr Maguire telephoned his congratulations on his return and on his shooting down the bomber. However, he was suprised to learn that Parker had not sighted any enemy troops on the road to Bandoeng...
Friday 6th March In the morning Tjilatjap was heavily raided again, this time by land-based bombers .... One of the missing Hurricane pilots returned to the fold during the morning when Plt Off Tom Watson unexpectedly arrived in Bandoeng with quite a story to tell following his crash four days earlier:-
I managed to crash-land, wheels up, in a rice paddy field not too far away from the Japanese. Apart from a small bump on the head I was O.K. I got as far away from the scene of the crash as I could, and as fast as I could, and then started my trek back. The Japanese were between me and Batavia and I suppose I rather advanced with them, trying to keep out of sight. I threw away my flying helmet, put dirt on my face and tried to look as much like a native as possible. However, I had two problems. one that I have been bald since my late teens and the sun gave me hell, and the other was we had no proper flying equipment and all I had on my feet were low shoes. However, I found an old native straw hat after the first day which kept the sun off my head but at night it rained and the mud in my shoes started to wear on my flesh so that my feet became somewhat raw. Most of the Indonesians were afraid of me but one young boy really helped me. He could speak some English. There was no food to be had, water I drank out of any place I could find it, and I didn’t dare go to sleep. Japanese patrols were about quite a bit and once I hid while they passed. I was lucky there was something like a haystack to hide in. The second day the boy walked with me most of the time and was able, by talking to other Indonesians, to ascertain where the Japanese were. It soon became obvious that I could not get back to Batavia and I headed for the hills. I eventually reached the Tjilitan River and crossed it downstream from where the Japanese were repairing the main bridge that had been destroyed.
Watson then met an elderly native who helped him put together some bamboo poles to form a raft, although it would not hold his weight it acted as a support for him in pushing his way across the river. He decided to make for Tjililitan and shortly after crossing the river saw a horse cart and driver, which he commandeered to take him to his destination. However, he soon met a Dutch cavalry patrol that had suffered some casualties, including their officer, and therefore they had spare horses. He joined up with them, when he realised they were also heading for Tjililitan:-
“My experience as a horseman was not great at any time, and galloping with them through the jungle was rather harrowing. I was dead tired and my feet were in poor shape. We finally reached the town in the hills at about the same time as the Japanese. An Australian army captain saw me and told me to get in his truck with him, which I did. He was heading for the mountains where what was left of the Dutch and Australian troops planned to put up some sort of last stand. I also vaguely recall that my Australian friend had the responsibility of blowing up bridges after we had crossed them, to impede the progress of the Japanese. We arrived at this mountain base at night. From walking and riding horseback I was very stiff and riding in the truck had not helped. My feet were so sore that when I got out of the truck I could not stand up for a while. Here I learned that Batavia had fallen and what was left of the air force had had established at Andir aerodrome at Bandoeng. A Dutch captain got me a car and driver and gave me a letter to his wife in Bandoeng. I must have arrived at his home about midnight. His wife took off my shoes, bathed my feet, gave me sleeping clothes and I slept the night there. In the morning she found me socks and two canvas shoes which weren’t exactly a pair but were more comfortable as they were soft. I then set off to fine 242 Squadron.”
On locating the squadron’s HQ in Bandoeng it was arranged that he should be driven to the airfield. Watson’s traumatic adventure was not yet over however, and was about to take a turn for the better, but first:-
“Sandy Allen was driving me to the drome at a good clip when a truck was pushed across the road and we crashed into it. I was through the windshield and received rather a bad cut on the forehead. I came to with three rather beautiful young Dutch women caring for me. I tried to have them take me to a civilian doctor, as I did not wish to be taken POW at this stage, which would most likely happen if I went to a military hospital. However, I did end up in one. I was given an anaesthetic and an Australian doctor operated on me. I was rather lucky not to lose an eye.”
Undaunted by its diminishing resources, the small RAF fighter contingent continued to operate, although from Andir the pilots could hear gunfire in the hills and watched Japanese aircraft patrolling over the fighting area. A rumour rapidly spread that the remaining Dutch Brewster fighters, fitted with extra tanks, were preparing to evacuate Java, their destination being Australia! The disturbing factor was that the few remaining Hurricanes were to act as decoys to allow them to get away unmolested. The rumour appeared to become reality when Wng Cmmdr Maguire - although totally opposed to such a plan , but being overruled by the AOC - detailed newly-promoted Sdn Ldr Julian (who had just been advised by Air Vice-Marshal Maltby that he was to take command of the unit following the decision to evacuate Sdn Ldr Brooker) to carry out the operation.
With only six Hurricanes now available it fell to the senior pilots to undertake the task. As soon as sufficient cloud had formed to provide some sort of cover, the Hurricanes took off in pairs. However, Sgt Jimmy King’s engine cut just as he had become airbourne and he was obliged to force-land in a swamp. His No 2 circled overhead and was relieved to see him emerge unhurt, but by this time contact with the other four fighters had been lost and his companion was forced to return to base.
Sqdn Ldr. Julian led the remaining four Hurricanes into cloud, the formation having evidently escaped notice by patrolling Japanese fighters. The section separated, Julian and Gartrell heading for the Lembang area whilst Parker and Lockwood flew towards Kalidjati, where they came upon three bombers. Parker gave chase to one of these, Lockwood going after the other two. The latter made a diving attack on the rear bomber, but gained no hits, then came up directly behind it and closed to 100 yards. Observing his fire hitting one engine, he concentrated on the other and both started to burn. as his windscreen was covered with oil from his victims damaged engines, he lost sight of the bomber and returned to Andir, followed shortly by Parker. The latter also claimed a bomber shot down and confirmed having seen that which Lockwood had attacked, burning in the jungle........... That afternoon the three serviceable Hurricanes were ordered to patrol the mountain area to the north of Bandoeng.... Jimmy Parker recorded:-
“I was getting a bit fed up with this. On the ground I was scared stiff of having to take off and I was suffering from ‘pink-eye’, not at all happy to look up into the sun. However, I was more ashamed to appear scared in front of the others whilst we had a fair chance of survival.”
...... Parker’s plane was hit but he landed safely.... one shell had exploded in his starboard fuel tank, badly damaging the wing root although not causing a fire. The tail unit was scored and tattered, and he could feel a jagged hole in his armour plate seat....... fortunately he had been wearing a Dutch parachute which had thick webbing crossing in the middle of the back, which had undoubtedly saved him from serious injury. A heavy calibre shell had pierced the armour-plating of his seat; most of the fragments of this and the seat were embedded in the webbing of the parachute. However, several pieces had penetrated his back, just to the right of his spine.
With the onset of nightfall three Dutch Lodestars and a KNLM DC-3 landed on a road near Bandoeng, to make one of the last evacuation flights out of Java. Again the RAF was allocated eight seats in one Lodestar. These were earmarked for Wng Cmmdr Maguire, Sdn Ldr Brooker, the injured Plt Off Watson, who had been collected from hospital, Sgt Sandeman Allen (who had also suffered a head injury in the motor accident) and Sgt Hardie, who was still suffering from ear trouble. Lot-drawing among the other pilots for the remaining seats brought allocations for Sgts King and Fairburn, while Plt Offs Fitzherbert and Bainbridge, and Sgt Porter were to standby in case there should be sufficient room for them. The aircraft was crammed with very senior Dutch officials, together with their families, and the pilot was very anxious to get away.
Wng Cmmdr Maguire discovered that the cargo holds were being loaded with luggage and got out of the aircraft to try and persuade the ground crew to off-load this to let more pilots aboard. The engines were running and a crowd of people, anxious to board the aircraft, were being held back by guards with fixed bayonets. Whilst the Wing Commander was arguing with the ground crew, someone closed the door and the Lodestar taxied out and took off! Sgt Fairburn was also left behind, having gained an allocation in the draw, he and fellow Australian Tom Young had retired to have a farewell drink and meal, but, on returning to Andir, found that the aircraft had already departed. Meanwhile the remains of the squadron had been ordered to Tasikmalaja from Andir, but bad weather and darkness prevented them completing the flight and they landed again at Andir to await morning.
end of extract from Bloody Shambles
Back at home :- Java falls to the Japanese and we hear no more news until 18th March when we thankfully hear from Peter by cable that he is safe in Perth, Australia - that is followed by a further cable on 20th March from Melbourne.
We hear no more direct news from Peter until 27th March 1942 when it is announced in all the Evening papers that he has been awarded a Bar to his D.F.C. for his gallant and cheerful work, leading his Squadron (No. 232) against the Japanese in Singapore and the Dutch East Indies. Another proud day for the family.
“Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross - Acting Squadron Leader Richard Edgar Peter Brooker D.F.C. (39931) No 232 Squadron. This officer has continuously led the squadron into action against largely superior numbers of enemy aircraft at Singapore and in the Netherlands East Indies. He has displayed gallantry, determination and cheerfulness in the face of heavy odds.”
from the fourth Supplement to The London Gazette of Tuesday 24th March 1942; Friday 27th March 1942
“Flier who “cheerfully faced great odds” - A Squadron Leader who combined gallantry and determination with cheerfulness even at Singapore and in the Dutch East Indies despite superior numbers of enemy aircraft has been awarded the Bar to the D.F.C. He is acting Squadron Leader Richard E.P. Brooker D.F.C. of No 232 Squadron and it is stated he continuously led his squadron against heavy odds. His home is at Ashtead.” the Evening News, Friday 27th March 1942
“Cheerful Squadron Leader Beat Odds -- A Squadron Leader who combined gallantry and determination with cheerfulness, even at Singapore and in the Netherlands East Indies, has just been awarded the bar to the D.F.C. He is Acting Squadron Leader Richard Edgar Peter Brooker D.F.C. (232 Squadron) and it is stated he continuously led his squadron into action against numerically stronger enemy aircraft. Squadron-Leader Brooker, whose home is at Ashtead, was educated at the Royal Masonic School and commissioned in 1937” Evening Star 27.3.42
“R.A.F. Awards. Gallantry against the enemy. The King has approved the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying against the enemy:- Bar to the D.F.C. - Atg Sq Ldr. R.E.P.Brooker D.F.C. 232 Sq He has continuously led the squadron into action against largely superior numbers of enemy aircraft at Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies. He has displayed gallantry, determination and cheerfulness in the face of heavy odds.” The Times, 28th March 1942
Acting Squadron Leader Richard Edgar Peter Brooker (232 Squadron) has been awarded a bar to his D.F.C. Born at Chessington in 1918. Squadron Leader Brooker now lives at Ashtead. He was educated at the Royal Masonic School Bushey and was commissioned in 1937. He was awarded the D.F.C. in May last year when it was stated that since taking command of his squadron he had greatly assisted in the brilliant work done by his men. The bar to his D.F.C. is awarded for his continuous leadership of the squadron into action against largely superior numbers of enemy aircraft at Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies. ‘He has displayed gallantry, determination and cheerfulness in the face of heavy odds’ states the official citation.” The Surrey Advertiser
AWARD FOR ASHTEAD MAN a squadron leader who combined gallantry and determination with cheerfulness even at Singapore and in the Netherlands East Indies has been awarded the bar to the D.F.C.
He is Acting Squadron Leader Richard Edgar Peter Brooker (232 Squadron) and it is stated that he continuously led his squadron into action against numerically stronger enemy aircraft.
Squadron Leader Brooker, whose home is at ‘Little Hunstan’ Ottways Lane Ashtead, was educated at the Royal Masonic School, his father who has been dead for 18 years being a mason. He was a keen scholar and very fond of games, and in his last year at school he went with a school team to play hockey against German teams. On leaving school he wanted to fly and instead of going to a university he joined the R.A.F.
His grandfather, Mr. R.C. Brooker is still living in Ashtead, being over 80 years if age. He was the headmaster of Ashtead Church of England School for a number of years and was also Clerk to the old Ashtead Parish Council.
In July of last year, Squadron Leader Brooker went to the investiture at Buckingham Palace where the King awarded him the D.F.C. He is 23 years of age and was commissioned in 1937 He did duty during the whole of the Battle of Britain.” from the Epsom and Ewell Herald 3.4.42
The investiture was at 10.15am on 19th October 1943
A tribute from one of 232 Squadron - quoted in a letter received from Byng (S/Ldr A.W.Ridler) from Columbo in April 1942
“I met a bloke called Cooper-Slipper yesterday, who had been in Peter’s squadron in the Far East - and what he didn’t say about that brother of yours is nobody’s business: ‘A born leader who has the whole-hearted respect of his Squadron - who never claimed a victory, preferring to give it to others, who cannot be shaken by anything and leads his Squadron into whatever trouble may have developed, whatever the odds.’ In fact Cooper-Slipper gave him such a build-up I just stood by and gaped til he had finished. Even the bloke with whom I am sharing a room has worked with Peter - they were on the same job, the one for which Peter was rushed out from England.
Yes I guess A.M. will appreciate the amount of thought that went before R.E.P’s joining the R.A.F. I should be seeing him soon - everything that turns up I check up in case he’s with them - but no luck so far - and I know why. He’s first man in and means to be not out at the finish.”
7th March 1942 Peter reached Australia (Perth), Melbourne 17th March and back to Perth 23rd March where he joined 77 R.A.A.F. Squadron Pearce. On arrival in Australia his estimated flying hours were 1300 hours England, plus 100 hours Singapore/Sumatra?Java. His log book and all personal belongings had to be abandoned in Singapore when Japanese invaded.
26th April 1942 he joined No 76 R.A.A.F. Squadron at Townsville, flying Kittyhawks, helping train R.A.A.F. squadron etc. with Commander St. Vincent
Letter to his mother from Townsville:-
No 76 Sqdn
2nd July 1942
Here is a letter to you which will be very belated but I’ll tell you what news there is here now. Of course there are thousands of questions I’d like to ask you about everybody at home but I’m looking forward to one of your letters catching up with me in the near future and then I trust I get plenty of news. I expect quite a lot of your mail will never reach me but I’m hoping for a good bundle soon.
I’ll just run through a few dates for you about my little sojourn in the Far East. As you may have guessed, as for a rest it was to say the least a change and I don’t know whether you received any of the letters I posted from there but in case you didn’t I arrived there on Dec 14th, just a month after leaving. I did a stooge job for a bit sitting on the ground, but then some of the old friends I flew so much with in England arrived and, the C.O. being shot down in his first battle, I took it over. From then on I was pretty busy. I stayed in Singapore until Feb 8th, which was pretty late, then flew to Palembang.
That was a wizard place, what I saw of it, and the Dutch people very charming. I was pretty busy then until Feb 15th when I retired with my bunch of merry pilots to Batavia. This was also a wizard city and here we hoped to have rest and enjoy ourselves, but our little yellow friends thought differently and we were soon pretty busy again. At Batavia I stayed with a very pleasant Dutch man and his American wife. They were really terribly kind to us and did everything they possibly could to make us comfortable. It was a private house and myself and another S/L were billeted there. I stayed with them until March 5th when I had to fly out again to Bandoeng. We were about the busiest we have ever been here. Although I didn’t have time to appreciate it, I think Bandoeng would have been a perfect place to stay or live in peace time. It was quite high, surrounded by mountains, and the climate was lovely. I couldn’t stay though and on the night of March 7th I flew from there to Perth in Australia. Here I was taken over by a most charming young woman (married) and she lent us her flat, introduced us to some beautiful girls and I had, I think, the most enjoyable week I’ve had since I left home. I got on very well with one girl, a real beauty. Very dark with beautiful brown eyes and I think I could almost have fallen properly, but the next week-end I was shoved on another aircraft and taken, via various interesting little towns, where we stayed the night to Melbourne. Here I was introduced to some of the elite and taken out to dinner a lot and generally rushed around until the next week-end when I was dumped on an aircraft early one morning and found myself in Perth again that evening. Here I worked quite hard for a month. Also got on extremely well with aforesaid young lady and enjoyed life very greatly. Then, with less than a day’s warning, I was dumped on an aircraft for Townsville stopping at Melbourne and Brisbane a night each en route. So you see I’ve been moving about a bit and seeing quite a bit. Now I seem slightly settled, though one can never tell. I’m rather lonely here though from the young lady point of view but I shall have to see what I can do in the near future. These Australian gals aren’t at all bad as a whole. Don’t worry though, I’m not getting married or anything like that yet awhile.
Well! I seem to have scribbled something and I apologise for it being in pencil but I’m living in a tent and my fountain pen doesn’t work properly.
Incidentally I lost all my private belongings bar my watch, the silver cigarette lighter Betty gave me, and my shaving outfit. I came away from Java with only the shorts and shirt I stood up in.
I trust you are getting my cables regularly and I am looking forward to getting some mail from you.
Much love to Mary, Betty, Bruce and the rest of the family. With very much love to you; keep fit and cheerful. I am an old soldier so don’t worry.
Thank you for praying for me. That’s why I’ve been so lucky
13th June 1942 he left Townsville en route to Auckland, New Zealand, again with A/Cmdr Vincent, He was with 15 Squadron R.N.Z.A.F., then 11 O.T.U. at Ohakea. Most of his time in New Zealand was with No.1 14 Squadron R.N.Z.A.F. at Masterton where several of his pilots from Singapore and Java were now stationed. He was flying Kittyhawks and Harvards, helping training etc.
Some of the New Zealanders he worked with, including S/L Hutcheson, P/O Don Clow, P/O Jack Maharry (64 Spitfire Squdn, shot down in 1944) later came back to Britain specifically to ‘be with the Boss’
During his time at Masterton, while having a bath, he had the unnerving experience of an earthquake - something he said he found far more terrifying than anything he had been through before!
March 1943 he was returned to U.K. via the U.S.A.
Fighter Leader School RAF Milfield 1943. Squadron Leader REP Brooker, second row back on extreme right.
At the end of March 1943 he returned to Britain via America -Canada and across the Atlantic on the Q.E.2. The ship was traveling in convoy, something Peter found quite nerve-wracking as they had to be constantly on the look out for the enemy. He was apparently escorting some documents.
May 1943 he was posted to No 1 Special low Altitude Instructional School (SLAIS) at Milfield, Northumberland, training there with Hurricanes on low flying and target shooting. The country estate was well stocked with game and the men were able to enjoy shooting. Consequently as Peter said, they lived off the fat of the land. His mother’s postman was not impressed at having to deliver a hare to Little Hunstan, with the address label tied round its ears!
June 1943 promoted to Acting Wing Commander, flying Typhoons and Spitfires by February 1944 continuing practice bombing attacks etc.
B Squadron in May 1944, Course 44 at RAF Milfield Northumberland
May 1944 again in operational sorties flying Typhoon attacks against well defended enemy targets, radio stations etc. He was now based at Tangmere until the end of 1944
3rd June 1944 orders received to paint the famous ‘Invasion stripes’ on the Typhoons and on all Allied aircraft operational in the area; this was accomplished by the next day
5th June 1944 - D.Day Second Tactical Air Force, 84 Group, 123 Wing Thorney Island, Wing Commander R.E.P. Brooker, 198 Squadron, 609 Squadron
“Brooker was very experienced on Hurricanes, having flown both in the U.K. and Singapore, claiming a total of seven victories and two probables by early 1944 and had just completed a spell as C.O. of the Fighter Leader’s School. ... His Typhoon MN570 was simply marked ‘B’ for Brooker, as was his Tempest when he led 122 Wing.” (The Typhoon & Tempest Story, Thomas & Shores)
1st December 1944 Wing Commander Brooker awarded the D.S.O.
“Air Ministry, 1st December 1944
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy. Acting Wing Commander Richard Edgar Peter Brooker, D.F.C. (39931) R.A.F.O.
This officer has displayed the highest standard of gallantry and determination in his attacks on the enemy. During a phase of intensive air operations over Northern France prior to the landing of the invasion forces, Wing Commander Brooker led large formations of aircraft in attacks against a wide range of well defended targets, including a number of radio stations. Much of the success achieved can be attributed to this officer’s careful planning, inspiring leadership and skill in action. His record is most impressive.” Third supplement to The London Gazette of Tuesday 28th November 1944, Friday 1st December 1944
“D.S.O. LED No.1 TRUCK-BUSTERS. Acting Wing Commander R.E.P. Brooker D.F.C. of Ashtead , who before the invasion led large formations in attacks against well-defended targets in Northern France, including a number of radio stations, has been awarded the D.S.O. ‘Much of the success achieved can be attributed to this officer’s careful planning, inspiring leadership and skill in action’ says the announcement.”
His sister Mary states:-
Peter was never overly impressed with his own medals - believing that he was no braver than any of the other young men who he flew with. The life of a fighter pilot was short, many achieving only a few flying hours before being shot down, either due to bad luck or inexperience. The unnecessary deaths exasperated and saddened him, such as those of the Polish and Czechoslovakian pilots. These men, enraged at the enemy that had devastated their homeland, would, in a frenzy of fury and frustration, ram enemy fighters with their aircraft when they had run out of ammunition.
In the autumn of 1944 Peter was sent on an R.A.F. Staff College course at Gerrards Cross (after which he was not expected to do any more operational flying) and the family were relieved to feel that his tour of “ops” were over. However, Peter did not like the idea of an ‘office job’ and managed to get over to No 122 Wing Headquarters on the Continent with the British Liberation Army, supposedly non-flying. (commanded by Jamie Jameson) Casualties were high in the Germans’ last desperate all-out attack against our aircraft and Peter was operational flying again by January 1945. Pierre Closterman’s book ‘The Big Show’ gives an all too vivid account of this period.
The last time we saw Peter home for a brief 48 hour leave he was looking completely exhausted. He had to be back for ‘something big’ which he told us we would hear about soon enough. This proved to be the Allied Armies crossing the river Rhine. 122 Wing were giving air cover. In the Wing he was once again with his old 56 Squadron, also 486, 274 and 80 Squadrons.
1944 Fighter Leader School RAF Milfield, Northumberland. REP Brooker seated centre
February 1945 “122 Wing had also received a new Wing Leader at this time, Wing Commander Brooker, D.S.O., D.F.C , taking over from Wing Commander Wray, who was rested. Richard Brooker had flown in the Battle of Britain and in the defence of Singapore before leading 123 Typhoon Wing during the Invasion; he already had some seven aerial victories to his credit. 122 Wing was also reinforced during February by the arrival of 41 Squadron, equipped with Griffon-engined Spitfire XIVs. to support the Tempests by providing high cover........ The arrival of the new units coincided with a marked increase in activity as 2nd TAF launched operation ‘Clarion’ in an effort to wipe out all remaining German transport prior to the completion of 21st Army Group’s move up to the Rhine.
22nd February “At 1320 hours Wing Commander Brooker led seven 3 Squadron Tempests on a reconnaissance over the Nienburg-Plene area, where considerable unwelcome attention was received from US Ninth Air Force P-51s. Shaking these off, the formation encountered a lone B-24 near Steinhuder Lake, four pilots breaking away to escort this, while Brooker led the remaining in a strafing attack. Over Rhein a pair of Bf 109s were then seen below, and were attacked, Brooker claiming one destroyed and a second being damaged; as the British pilots were reforming, ten Fw 190s from I/JG 26 attacked and Pilot Officer Bailey’s aircraft was shot down by Leutnant Waldemar Soffing. It seems that Brooker’s claim may subsequently have been reduced to a ‘damaged’ by headquarters.
...combat over Neuruppin proved costly .... Wing Commander Brooker, the 122 Wing Leader and Sergeant Turner both failed to return. Brooker had been heard to report over the radio that his engine was cutting. Both were believed to have been shot down by the Focke-Wulfs.” from The Typhoon & Tempest Story, Thomas & Shores.
extracts from ‘The Big Show’ by Pierre Clostermann, D.F.C.
January 1945 ...... the Luftwaffes’s last effort ....attacking Allied lines.... By an extraordinary twist of fortune 122 Wing was doing a sweep over Germany in force and, when they were called back, most of the Tempests were short of ammunition. By a miracle Volkel was one of the three airfields which were untouched. Everywhere else it was a catastrophe. At Brussels/Evere alone 123 transport aircraft, Flying Fortresses, Typhoons and Spitfires were wiped out. At Eindhobven a Canadian Typhoon Wing, 124, and a Polish Spitfire Wing were completely destroyed. In all nearly 300 Allied aircraft had been put out of action in a few minutes. The few Tempests and Spitfires which managed to intervene shot down 36 Huns from the shoals while British and American ack-ack accounted for 57 more, i.e. about 93 German aircraft, whose remains were found after a week of search in our lines.
This operation had been brilliantly worked out and superbly executed. Allied public opinion would have been dealt a staggering blow if it had known of it. The American censorship and the Press services, in a flat spin, tried to present this attack as a great Allied victory, by publishing peculiar figures. We pilots were still laughing about them three months later......... In the week following, 122 Wing, in effect alone kept the aerial offensive going, from dawn to dusk, and in 16 days lost 18 pilots and 23 aircraft. ....
My training, such as it was, in Typhoons and Tempests being completed, I set off for Holland. .....What had they (pilots) gone through? They had only risked being roasted alive, trapped under the blazing remains of a Spitfire, or seeing the earth surge up before them when, imprisoned in the narrow metal coffin of a cockpit with its hood jammed, you count the four, three, two seconds left for you to live. Three times a day for months on end, they had hurled their poor shrinking bodies into the flak, missing death by a hair’s breadth, each time, until the last .... War for us was not the desperate bayonet charge of a thousand human beings, sweating with fear, supporting and sustaining each other in a helpless anonymous massacre. For us it was a deliberate, individual act, a conscious, scientific sacrifice. unaided, alone, each one of us had every day to conquer the stab of fear in our breast, to preserve, reform, our ebbing store of will power. We had to do all that ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times, and then after each mission, take up again a normal healthy life - an appalling strain. The moment we stepped down from our planes, we found other human beings like us, the same flesh and blood, but who walked about, made love, went to the pictures, listened to the wireless as they smoked their pipes and read a book - and who knew they would be alive the next day!
.....(arrival in the south of Holland).. Suddenly an enormous airfield, pitted with craters, with two great brick runways. Wrecked hangars, gutted buildings, here and there what looked like gypsy encampments - piles of empty petrol tins, camouflaged tents. Round each encampment, twenty or so Spitfires or Tempest in impeccable alignment. A snow-plough, surrounded by a cloud of powdered snow, was clearing one of the runways. - this was Volkel. 122 Wing was commanded by Wing Commander Brooker, D.S.O., D.F.C., He received me standing at the door of his command post trailer. I was introduced to him and handed him my posting order and my flying log. As he examined them in silence, I had a chance to have a good look at him. He seemed very tired. He looked about thirty (he was actually 26 then) and, although his features still looked young enough, his eyes were bloodshot. “Well Pierre, I’m glad to have you here. As you know, we are having a pretty busy time. You’ll be posted to 274 Squadron and command ‘A’ flight. You’ve come at just the right moment, as Fairbanks, who’s C.O., was wounded by flak this morning, and Hibbert, the senior flight commander, left yesterday on ten-days leave; so you’ll be in charge until he comes back.” as I climbed into the jeep he added “don’t take too much notice of what the other pilots tell you. Their morale’s a bit low, these last few days, because of losses and bad weather. Here are the ops reports. Have a good look through them and give them back to me tomorrow morning. Get your stuff unpacked - we’ll meet in the mess for dinner and I’ll introduce your pilots to you”.
... The officers’ mess of 122 Wing was reached down a big school corridor with rows of coat pegs along the walls. On the right were the kitchens, the dining room and the bar, on the left a ping-pong room and a library. The classrooms had been turned into dormitories. An appalling disorder reigned everywhere. camp beds at all angles, suitcases bulging with dirty clothes, period armchairs, oriental rugs, dirty crockery, cigarette ends, buckets of soapy water, dried mud, revolvers and ammunition, empty bottles and newspapers. On the first floor it was the same again, except in one room, 80’ by 30’ divided up by wooden partitions like dormitories in public schools. A more or less decent order prevailed there. The Unit commanders and the old pilots lived there and the batmen had the situation more or less in hand. The floor above was still inhabited by its rightful occupants and we sometimes passed them on the stairs on their way to the services in the church near by, silent, lost in a spiritual world which ignored our war and soared above its ills. Yesterday they shared the building with gunners from a German flak battalion, today it was an R.A.F. Wing, and tomorrow? only God knew. Life was very quiet at Volkel. Perhaps the atmosphere of the seminary had something to do with it. On Sunday evenings a curious scent pervaded the corridors - fried bacon, beer and incense!
After a frugal dinner the flight commanders put up on the big blackboard in the dining room the list of pilots on dawn ‘readiness’ for the next day, who would have to be awakened. The pilots off duty after tea had to dress up and shave for the evening. They queued up from 4.30pm, bucket in hand, in front of the only hot water tap. This was supplied by an oil furnace that was fed with 150 octane petrol. It couldnt take it and blew up every third day.
The others appeared at nightfall, returning from an alert or trip, muddy, dead beat. They ate their dinner in silence, drank down a glass of beer by the corner of the bar and hurried off to turn in. For a mess bar ours was very quiet - too quiet. The bar is always a gauge of pilot’s morale - here it was positively mournful. Yet it was very well stocked thanks to what we had found in Jerry cellars, thanks to the lorry which the stores types took every fortnight to Naafi headquarters in Paris, thanks also to the arrangements which the more resourceful had made with breweries in Brussels. Never once did cigarettes, liqueurs, whisky, gin champagne or beer give out.
However, our Roll of Honour board, on top of an already long list of 123 pilots lost since the Normandy landing (6.6.44) there were now the names of 47 pilots killed or reported missing in the previous month. And February had started badly with 8 pilots lost in less than ten days. ........
‘Rat Catching’ :- The Messerschmitt 262’s were becoming a distinct nuisance. These blasted jets were appearing on our front in ever-increasing numbers. Every day at dawn and at twilight they came over, singly, at ground level, to take their photographs. Every now and then, just for a change, patrols of six, seven or even twelve, came and machine gunned or bombed our lines. For Kenway’s controllers they were a difficult proposition. Radar couldn’t pick them up properly as the as the posts swept the 360 degrees of the horizon too slowly to follow and fix the echo of a ‘262’ batting along at nearly 600mph at tree-top level. 21st Army group G.H.Q. didn’t understand these technical sublets and bombarded G.H.Q. with peremptory notes, demanding immediate steps to have these armed reconnaissance’s stopped. Poor Wing Commander Lapsley cudgeled his brains to find some means of intercepting ‘262’s’ with Tempests capable of only 490 mph. Finally he and Brooker worked out the ‘rat code’ (the later called the bastard code by the pilots). The principle of the thing was as follows. Two pairs of Tempests were permanently kept at a state of immediate alert - i.e. the planes were actually in scrambling position on the runway, with the pilots ready strapped in their cockpits, their finger on the starter, engines warmed up, radio switched on. As soon as a ‘262’ crossed the Rhine towards our lines, Lapsley sent out a warning in clear from his control post straight to the pilots as follows “Hallo, Talbot leader, scramble rat, scramble rat!” The engines were immediately started up, 3 red Verey lights went up to clear the circuit and give the rat-catchers priority. The quarry being too speedy for any attempt to catch it to be worth while, the two Tempests immediately made for Rhine/Hopsten, the jet fighter’s base. Exactly 8 minutes from the sounding of the alarm the Tempests would be patrolling the approaches of the Rhine at 10,000 feet, and trying to catch an Me 262 returning from his trip, when he would have to slow down to let his down undercart and his flaps before landing. In one week we brought down 8 ‘rats’ in this way. .... The Germans soon found the answer to ‘rat-catching’. The Me 262’s were told to return home at full speed and at ground level - which made them very difficult to spot, owing to their camouflage - and not to slow up until they got to the flak lane. Once there they could land at leisure and in complete safety.
....... a tragedy when we landed. My No 3 had been winged by flak and was therefore landing first. a hundred yards from the airfield the duty Anson, doing a long flat approach, suddenly emerged under him. The two pilots couldn’t see each other and blindly converged towards one another. Red 3 had obviously switched off his radio and didnt hear the runway controller’s desperate call. At the last moment the Anson sheered brutally off, but too late. The tangled remains of the two planes blazed in front of the control trailer. Seven dead. The Anson was bringing five new pilots to reinforce the Wing. Brooker had been keeping the Wing hard at it all the week. his 3 Squadron had lost 17 pilots. We had destroyed 24 German planes and 52 locomotives. In 274 Squadron we were reduced to 11 pilots and 16 planes... on 20th March in the morning the duty Anson had brought us four Sergeant Pilots and one Warrant officer. The last of these five new recruits got himself killed on the 23rd. The old stagers, worn out by their three sorties a day, were already hard put to it to save their own skins, let alone look after the new comers. These poor kids, fresh from O.T.U., had had just about three or four hours flying time on Tempests. Frightened by their machines, which they flew with great difficulty, they got themselves massacred by the flak and the Messerschmitt 109’s. ..... The pilots’ nerves seemed all n pieces, witness the uninterrupted succession of stupid accidents which were occurring - smashed undercarts, taxi-ing accidents, burnt-out brakes, punctures, bad landings, scrambles with propellers at coarse etc. The Wing couldn’t go on like that. Between 15th February and 15th March we had had 31 pilots killed or reported missing. Out of all the pilots who made up 274 Squadron in Fairbanks time, only two officers, a sergeant and myself survived. All Brooker could do was show the categorical orders from G.H.Q. - we must hold on until the Rhine was crossed………
(16th April 1945)
What a morning! We had been on ‘readiness’ since 4.30a.m. My team was exhausted and all those tired youngsters stood the cold badly. 7.30 am. Orders and counter-orders had succeeded each other and everything seemed to be going wrong this morrning. It had started when the diesel generators had packed up, putting out the flare path just as the first of three Spitfires XIV’s of 41 Squadron, Yellow Section, was landing. The one behind him had stalled at a height of 30 feet, crashed and caught fire. The third, piloted by a young Pole called Kalka, had stayed up over the field for about ten minutes, short of juice and diverted too late on Eindhoven, the pilot had baled out. Huddling round the door of the Dispersal we had vaguely caught sight of his Spitfire in the clouds with its undercart and flaps down; and the whirling black shape of the pilot falling. We had seen the parachute opening and had followed it as the wind swept it off. An hour later the jeep brought back his stiff body wrapped in the frosted silk of the parachute. The poor devil had fallen in the Meuse and its freezing waters had given him no chance.
Just as the sullen day was unwillingly breaking, four Tempest had taken off, led by Wing Commander Brooker. An hour and a half later only two came back. After machine-gunning a train in the Osnabruck region, with only half-hearted reaction from its flak, the section had re-formed. Suddenly Barry had seen a fine trail of smoke filtering from his chief’s radiator. Brooker had been unaware of the danger and now waggled his wings to try and see. Even in the mirror the smoke was scarcely visible. Then suddenly the Tempest shook and a long slender flame unrolled in its slipstream. The other planes moved quickly out of the way and saw Brooker’s gloved hands wrestling with the catches of the cockpit cover. Suddenly his face was lit up by a red glow - the fire had penetrated into the cockpit. The Tempest turned over violently, skidding on its back. Appalled, Brooker’s mates had eyes for nothing but his disabled machine. They did not see two shadows silently steal out of the iridescent mist. Just an incandescent trail of tracers and a glimpse of big black crosses on the wings of two Focke-Wulfs before they vanished again. A second Tempest went into a spin and its flaming fragments joined Brooker’s alongside the autobahn.
His last flight was on the evening of 16th April 1945, 18.30 on an armed recce over Wittenburghe, on the River Elbe.
Uncorroborated account from R.A.F. pilots – when realizing he was on fire and couldn’t get out, Peter deliberately drove the Tempest into a crash dive.
Mary managed to get access to the official Air Ministry Records. Copy of official record at Air Ministry:-
“W/Cmdr flying aircraft 122 Wing 486 Squadron. Missing 16th April 18.30 hours day operation armed recce Wittenburghe. Missing particulars unknown.
Pilot 39931 S/Ldr (A/W/Cmdr) R.E.P.Brooker 122 Wing
Missing particulars unknown. Normal fighter equipment. Long range tanks, presumed enemy action.
Leading six aircraft of 80 Squadron. Approx 5 miles Allied side of River Elbe near Wittenburghe, T7600. Encountered 7/8 F.W. 190’s whilst at 6,000 ft. and followed them down to low level - more F.W. 190’s came up behind, of which two subsequently shot down. Light flak encountered from woods at Wittenburghe. Nothing heard or seen of W/Cmdr Brooker after engagement with F.W. 190s”).
from W/Cmdr Jameson
122 Wing Headquarters,
Royal Air Force
c/o British Liberation Army
23rd April 1945
Dear Mrs. Brooker,
By this time you will have had the sad news that your son is missing from operations over Germany and I thought that you would like to know the circumstances appertaining to the operation from which he did not return.
He was leading one of the Squadrons on an armed reconnaissance in the area on the enemy side of the River Elbe near Wittenburge when they met and chased three F.W. 190s. Five more F.W. 190’s then joined in the fight and there was also some anti-aircraft fire. One of the Pilots reports seeing your son on the tail of a German aircraft, after which he was seen to pull up into a climb and nothing more was heard or seen of him. Peter was a most outstanding Pilot and brilliant leader and organiser, and was extremely well-liked and admired by everyone of all the Wing. His loss is a sad blow, not only to us and my Wing, but to the Allied cause as a whole, for which he fought so gallantly.
It will be a comfort for you to know that there is a possibility that your son baled out or carried out a forced landing in enemy territory, and that he may be safe as a prisoner of war, or that he may even reach our lines. I most sincerely hope that this is the case. Meanwhile, may I offer you my personal condolences and the deepest sympathy of all ranks in your extremely anxious suspense.
Group Captain Commanding
No.122 Wing Headquarters
Peter was awarded a posthumous Bar to his D.S.O.
“Air Ministry, 12th February 1946
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards:
Bar to the Distinguished Service Order Acting Wing Commander
Richard Edgar Peter Brooker, D.S.O., D.F.C. (39931), R.A.F. with effect from 15th April 1945”
from Second Supplement to The London Gazette of Friday the 8th February 1946, Tuesday 12th February 1946
A BRILLIANT OFFICER - Acting Wing Commander Richard Edgar Peter Brooker D.S.O.,D.F.C.., R.A.F. (since deceased) son of Mrs. K. Brooker of Little Hunstan, Ashtead, has been awarded Bar to the Distinguished Service Order with effect from April 15th 1945. Born in 1918 at Chessington, he was educated at the Royal Masonic School, Bushey. After serving a short period as a pupil pilot, he was commissioned in July 1937. He was awarded the D.F.C. in May 1941, Bar to the D.F.C. in March 1942 and the D.S.O. in November 1944. From May to August 1944, this officer, states the citation, led a Wing of rocket firing Typhoons, and during that time he completed many hazardous but successful attacks against heavily defended enemy radar stations, military headquarters and railways. Under his command his Wing have destroyed at least 87 enemy aircraft and damaged 62. This great achievement has been largely owing to Wing Commander Brooker’s brilliant planning and skillful leadership” February 1946
Headquarters, Fighter Command
Royal Air Force
Dear Mrs. Brooker,
Having returned comparatively recently from Burma, I have only heard lately of the tragic loss of your son Peter, last April. I write now to offer my very real sympathy to you, and to tell you how extremely sorry I was to hear the news. I had looked forward to getting him with me once again - this time in England.
Peter was with me first at North Weald when I was Group Captain commanding the station in 1941. Later he was in my group - No 226 in Singapore, Sumatra and Java, where he carried out such magnificent work, and for which I was able to get him a bar to his D.F.C.
We got into Australia by different methods but at about the same time, and I was asked by the Australians to stay there for a time to organise their Fighter defence.
I kept Peter with me, and he commanded two fighter squadrons. I subsequently went on to New Zealand - after four months - and again took him with me. He carried on in his usual manner and we were there, as you know, for nine months. When I eventually came home, I insisted on his coming with me, though I had to send him on from the U.S.A. as I had work to do there for a few weeks.
I returned to the East after a short time at home, and so I was not able to see him again, and I had a great shock when I was told recently that he had met his death so near the end of the war.
He was such a grand chap, and I always had the very highest opinion of him, and do miss - and will continue to miss him, very much indeed. He was as instinctive leader - which quality he achieved by sheer strength of character.
It was the same with British as it was with the Australian and New Zealand pilots and general crews; he did not get a faked and ‘popular’ reputation by ‘being a jolly good fellow’ - by drinking and smoking and easy mixing thereby - but in spite of being a non drinker and non smoker, was respected by all, and what he said in a very quiet voice achieved so much more than many others by shouting and strong language.
In Java, when things were going very badly, the pilots in his squadron were overworked and tired and consequently naturally a bit ‘jittery’ and it was only when he led the Squadron, personally, in the air, that every man did his best automatically - so that he flew much more than he should have done and kept them together. I asked one of his Sergeant pilots how he was, and if he was tired and he replied that he and all the others were all right “as long as the C.O. is leading us”. That was a very fine tribute that I have always remembered. I had a letter too from one of his pilots who had been wounded, begging me to get him back to the same squadron where he “ could serve again under Squadron Leader Brooker, the finest C.O. any man could ever have” - or words to that effect. - That again I have always remembered.
Believe me, Mrs. Brooker, I feel his loss very keenly, and hope that by so doing I may share your loss thereby, and be some small help to you - I know that time is a healer and that his loss occurred eight months ago, but I am quite sure this must be still very recent to you - because he is the sort of lad who goes on.
If there is anything else I can do in any way I shall be only too willing to help - he did so much for me - and all of us - that I would welcome the opportunity of repaying a little of it.
with real sympathy
Yours Stanley F. Vincent
(Air Vice Marshal R.A.F.)
to Peter’s recently married sister Mary:-
December 11th 1945
Dear Mrs. Simpson,
I hope you will forgive my writing to offer my very sincere sympathy for you and all your family on the tragic death of your late brother Squadron Leader Brooker. I was his AOC in Java and saw the gallant work he did the and also some of that which he did before in Singapore, where I arrived a few weeks before its capitulation. He was truly magnificent - volunteering, as you probably know he did, to command a fighter squadron when our fighters there were greatly outnumbered and outclassed as to type of aircraft , by the enemy. His example of courage and cheerful optimism in the face of odds, and of circumstances, which would have dampened many was an inspiration to all of us -both his juniors and his seniors. I had every intention on release from captivity of reporting, in my official account about Malay and Java operations, about his doing, as indeed I shall do but I had hoped to have been able to see him get the reward that he deserved by seeing his own name stand out prominently in the official report on the Far East. But that can not be now: I am so sorry.
The news of his death only reached me today, and came as one of the greatest shocks I have received since my release. It is more than tragic to think that he too is gone. I can feel for you having heard myself on my return from Japan that my boy, also in a fighter squadron, had been killed whilst I was a prisoner.
I am very distressed to think that I am partly responsible for having added to your distress by having, in my ignorance ,at the time, of your brother’s death, included his name amongst those from whom reports are wanted about Malay and Java operations, about which I am endeavoring to compile an account on my return. I know only too well how such mistakes can keep open wounds which time heals only too slowly. I can but ask you to accept my very real apologies, and to express my regret to those of your family whom I must also have hurt.
Without wanting to thrust myself upon you, if there is anything that I can do to help you or your family please let me know and I will do my best to have it attended to.
Again offering my sincere sympathy
P.C.Maltby Air Vice Marshal R.A.F.
Barry Sutton -author of “The Way of a Pilot” - became Group Captain eventually. Born Oxfordshire 1919. When he was two years old his father set off to the Argentine with the hopes of making a fortune on a ranch, but returned minus a fortune a few years later. From the age of two Barry lived with his grandfather in Canada for a year before going to South America for a year before, at the age of four, returning to Oxfordshire.. Started as newspaper reporter, at the age of 19 he joined the R.A.F., two years before the outbreak of war. He was in combat since outbreak of the war, wounded and shot down in France in the spring of 1940. He fought in the Battle of Britain and baled out of his blazing Hurricane in August 1940 over Canterbury. He spent a year in hospital recovering from serious burns.
“Group Captain Barry Sutton, who had died at the age of 69, (16.3.88) was a Battle of Britain pilot who - like Richard Hillary, author of ‘The Last Enemy’ - was badly burned and wrote a classic account of the air war in the summer of 1940.
But in contrast to Hillary’s prose, Sutton poured out his heart in a long poem, The Summer of the Firebird, which was broadcast by Martin Jarvis on BBC radio 4 to mark the battle’s 40th anniversary eight years ago.
As authorised ‘ace’, with at least 6 1/2 kills over France, Britain and Burma, the quiet and modest Sutton was sensitive about his success. Reflecting in his poem on a bomber and its crew he had shot down while flying with No 56 Hurricane Squadron in August 1940, he wrote:-
They found the wreck near Colechester.
And offered me a prize I would have wished not to see;
A thin wallet in which there were two green banknotes,
two tickets for a theatre in Paris and a snapshot of a young woman whose eyes condemned.
Fraser Barton Sutton was born at Witney, Oxford in 1919 and educated at Northampton School. In 1936 he joined the Northampton Chronicle and Echo as a reporter, later switching to the Nottingham Journal and Evening News, while training at Newcastle in the RAFVB.
Granted a short service commission in April, then joined No 56 Squadron and was wounded in one foot during the fall of France. He was in the thick of the July and August fighting over the Channel and southern England, evocatively describing the inside of his Hurricane cockpit:-
Breathe its heady mist of hot oil, hot glycol,
The musky tang of those snarling pipes
Ranging the blunted snout.
Then on August 26th, Sutton was shot down in a blazing Hurricane:-
Now, the fluttering of silk above, this swooning through space -
Silence except for the sound of a bird. Unashamed I
bubble and pray, and hold aloft hands from which already hang
Long skeins of flesh
The smell of this singed oxygen mask and my cheeks sickens me.
So God, the last communicant,
after so much neglect, and this bird singing
Alone remain to listen in this quiet.
Falling and blazing against the distant haze
I saw my shattered, spent Hurricane,
Slowly writhe and smoke its last epitaph.
Do I care where it falls?
I ought, but Dear God I am ashamed.
“Fried”, as it was said at that time, Sutton was treated at the RAF hospital Halton and by early 1942 found himself again in action.
Flying with No 135 another Hurricane Squadron, at Mingaladon as the Japanese drove into Burma and on to India he edged up his score to a certain 6 1/2 , surviving combats in which 22 Hurricanes were lost for the gain of 50 Japanese aircraft. By 1944 Sutton commanded a Wing of Hurricanes and Spitfires and helped to drive the Japanese out of Burma, his long spell of operations being acknowledged with a DFC.
He remained in the RAF receiving a series of staff appointments and stations commands until in 1962 he joined the British Defence Liaison Staff in Australia, returning in 1965 to command RAF Bassinbourn before retirement the following year.
Sutton, who published “The Way of a Pilot” in 1942, is survived at their home in Jersey by his wife and their two daughters.
Air Vice-Marshal Park
“The air officer commanding the south of England fighter Group from which the Dunkirk patrols were sent out was Air Vice-Marshal Keith Rodney Park., a tall wiry, eagerly smiling New Zealander in his late forties. At the beginning of the war he had been Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding’s senior air staff officer at Fighter Command Headquarters. Then he fell ill, had a serious operation and, on recovery, was given command of the southern Group.” from Fighter Command, A.B. Austin, 1942
“The Air Marshall who cannot be kept down - out of the air that is - was invested by the King with the insignia of the C.B. yesterday. He is Air Vice-Marshal K. Park, commanding the Fighter Group in the defence of London and the South-East from daylight attacks; the man whose squadrons enabled us to win the first phase of the Battle of Britain.
Since the raids on Britain started he has flown his own Hurricane regularly to find out for himself the problems of his pilots. Once a British pilot, suspecting the Air Marshal’s plane was one captured by the Germans and being used by them for reconnaissance, forced him down. He flew to Dunkirk to observe the beaches for himself, and his Hurricane was the last British fighter on patrol when the last two troop-laden ships left.
Air Vice-Marshal Park is a horseman too. As an A.D.C. to the King at the Coronation he rode behind his Majesty on a charger which he said was the finest horse he had ever ridden.”
1942 - “Malta’s man of the moment -The Malta ‘massacre’ has thrilled Britain. Here is the man in charge, Air Vice-Marshal K.R. Park, Air Officer Commanding Malta, ready to start on a tour of the island’s R.A.F. establishments. He invariably uses a fighter airplane for these tours.”
F/O Bryan John Wicks (Peter’s best friend)
“Wicks, son of a Wiltshire parson, was a lanky six-footer with huge feet but the nimblest of hands This probably accounted for the fact that he was a particularly good aerobatic pilot, as well as a fine pianist. We used to get a lot of fun out of Wick’s feet, and I remember one of our biggest laughs at his (or their) expense was... when three of us drove down tot he aerodrome from the Mess in Joslin’s car. It was very early in the morning and we were due to patrol a convoy off Harwich in half an hours time. We piled into the car and prepared to drive off, but Joslin, in the driver’s seat, found that for some reason his door would not shut. At last he had to get out and make a thorough investigation. He soon found the cause of the trouble. It was one of Wick’s feet. He had dozed off in the back seat, stretched his legs, and somehow stuck his huge foot neat the hinge of the door.” (from The Way of a Pilot, Barry Sutton)
“An R.A.F. Fighter Command pilot whose Hurricane was shot down near the Belgian frontier, has just rejoined his squadron after being missing for nearly a fortnight. In the meantime, both the British and French authorities had suspected him of being a spy.
After being forced down by enemy fighters he made his way for ten days disguised as a Belgian peasant refugee across country from far behind the German lines. He obtained most of his food from German soldiers. Numerous German troops questioned him and other refugees with whom he traveled. His knowledge of French saved him from many awkward situations.
He passed through the German front by crawling through long grass for more than a mile to a canal. As soon as he crossed the canal he was arrested by the French. “Most of the Belgians with whom I traveled guessed that I was English, but they did not give me away”. he says. “I was advised to talk as little as possible when Germans appeared, for I was told that my French had a terrible English accent! When I found the Belgians moving back towards Belgium I attached myself to parties of French peasants.” Once he borrowed a motorcar to drive Belgian refugees through the German lines. German soldiers held up the car when they had gone only a few miles and took it away.
“Incidentally, I owe my final escape to the Royal Air Force. I was on the outskirts of Dunkirk and I had to pass through the German patrolled area at the back of the town. Every few hundred yards German sentries were posted along the roads. It was thus impossible for anyone to get by. One day there was a terrible aerial battle. Hurricaines and Metterschmitts and Heinkels and Spitfires were doing their stuff. It was a thrilling show, and the sentries thought so too. They looked skywards and I slipped through. When I reached the canal I called across to a group of French soldiers and got over the canal in a small boat. The French arrested me on suspicion. I was taken before the Lieutenant and from the lieutenant to a major, and so up the scale until at length I was brought before a general. I told him who I was, and where I came from. Eventually I was passed on to the British authorities at Dunkirk.
Once again I was suspected, though I was treated extremely well. a naval commander took charge of me and I was technically under arrest until I had been brought to England in a motor torpedo boat, questioned at the Admiralty, and later at the Air Ministry, where my identity was established. People who saw me in London must have thought I was either a spy of a Fifth Columnist, or something like that. I was subjected to the strangest looks.”
His clothes, given him by a Belgian, included a battered old hat, pipe-like trousers nearly six inches too short, a dirty grey jacket and an ancient light grey overcoat”.
‘The prize for escape of the month, if there had been one, would probably have gone to the Flying Officer of 56 squadron who a fortnight after he had disappeared over Belgium, returned to his Essex fighter station wearing an old musty hat, too short stove-pipe trousers like a leggy schoolboy, a dirty grey jacket, and an old, ragged overcoat. For twelve days, he said, he had been plodding in this refugee disguise through Belgium towards the German lines round Dunkirk.” from Fighter Command, A.B.Austin 1942
“He was shot down during a patrol covering Dunkirk, and feared lost. ....ten days later ...he walked into he Mess at North Weald in the Belgian peasant’s smock in which he had passed himself off as a refugee. He had several day’s growth of beard, but had shaved off his mustache. On his head was stuck a greasy “Gorblimey” hat. A refinement of the disguise was the smell of garlic which hung round him like an aura. The only criticism of the whole make-up might have been that it was altogether too typical - a shade too theatrical to fool anyone. Nevertheless, it couldn’t have suited Wicks better, for it got him past a German sentry post among other things.” (from The Way of a Pilot, Barry Sutton)
31st August 1940 - “Other pilots who contributed to yesterday’s ‘bag’ of 62 enemy aircraft included a pilot officer who towards the end of May, spent ten days escaping, disguised as a Belgian peasant from far behind the German lines. A Spitfire pilot who had become separated from his formation saw 30 Heinkel IIIs and went in to attack them. He set one on fire and hit two others. “Two Metterschmitt 110s then appeared on my tail,” he says, “so I returned”. Three of the four enemy aircraft which were destroyed by the anti-aircraft gunners were shot down inside minutes near the South-East coast. Two were Metterschmitt 109s and the third a Dornier 17 bomber.”
Willie Wicks was posted missing from Malta in October 1942
“Acting Squadron Leader Bryan John Wicks, D.F.C. reported missing, for the second time, last February, is now presumed to have been killed in action. Born at Felixstowe in 1920 he was educated at Seaford College Sussex, and was commissioned as an acting pilot officer on May 7th 1938. After training he was posted to No 56 (Fighter) Squadron, with which he gained the D.F.C. in June 1941. He had served with the squadron ever since war began, had destroyed at least three enemy aircraft and shared in the destruction of others, and throughout showed excellent qualities of leadership and determination. In May 1940, during the intensive operations in France, he was forced to land behind the German lines after destroying one of their aircraft and was reported missing, but he succeeded in reaching England safely.”
“Two D.F.C.’s are included in today’s R.A.F. casualty list which names 163 airmen who have lost their lives.
Flying Officer D. Fulford, D.F.C. and Acting Squadron Leader B.J.Wick s D.F.C. are presumed killed in action.”
“The vicar refused to believe his fighter pilot son died when he was shot down near Malta in 1942. After all, he had been shot down before and returned after being missing for 12 days.
So when the villagers wanted to put up a war memorial he was always against it. ‘No no’ he used to say quietly. ‘I know my boy will come back.’ Now that the vicar, the Revd Frederick Wicks has died the villagers of Garadon Wiltshire (population 505) have had their way at last. A memorial to his son will be unveiled next Sunday - Remembrance Sunday.
‘Mr. Wicks fought against having the memorial because he was praying for a second miraculous escape’. a villager, Miss Iris Higgins, of Manor Farm, told me last night.
‘he told me once of a dream he had in which he saw his son, in uniform, talking with two other airmen on an island.’ said her mother, Mrs. Alice Higgins.
‘He wouldn’t hear of us putting up a memorial’. said parish councilor Mr. Hubert Stallard. ‘Such was his faith that his son would return.’ Villages told me of the first escape of the tall, fair-haired fighter pilot. In was in May 1940. Flying a Hurricane, he was shot down over France near Arras. he was hidden by the French, betrayed by a collaborator, an captured by the Germans. He escaped, disguised himself as a Belgian refugee, and reached the Dunkirk beaches.
On Sunday in the village church the memorial will be unveiled to the only serviceman from Garadon to die during the 1939-45 war - Squadron Leader Bryan Wicks, D.F.C. Aged 22.
‘Byng’ S/Ldr A.W. Ridler was one of those who encouraged Peter to join the R.A.F. His sister Margory was a schoolfriend of Peter’s younger sister Mary. Occasionally their school assembly would be interrupted by low flying aircraft - they knew who was responsible when Byng was stationed at nearby Kenley! Byng was a real chatterbox, on visits to Little Hunstan he would pick up a highly polished ornament, an old brass half-pint milk churn, and, hanging it on his tunic button, would wander around the house using it as an ashtray. At one point in his war career half his foot was blown off and it was thought that he would never fly again. However, he persisted in exercising, going up and down stairs until he had restored almost full mobility, and was able to get back to flying again. He went out to Burma and eventually India. Survived the war
Peter’s Group Captain 1945
from The Daily Telegraph October 1996
Air Commodore P.G.’Jamie’ Jameson:- Air Commodore.’Jamie’ Jameson, who has died aged 83, landed his Hurricane fighter in extraordinary circumstances, on to the aircraft carrier ‘Glorious’ off Norway in June 1940; the ship was sunk shortly afterwards with the loss of almost all hands.
As Norway was overrun by German invaders, the R.A.F.’S No 46 Squadron was ordered to burn it Hurricanes and get out of its Norwegian base, Jameson and his Squadron Commander Kenneth ‘Bing’ Cross were aghast.
Determined to save what they could of their precious fighters they decided to fly them to Glorious, although they knew that the R.A.F. had concluded after trials that landing a Hurricane on a carrier was ‘not possible’.
Cross, turning a Nelsonian blind eye and obtaining reluctant permission from the carrier’s captain, the mercurial d’Oyly-Hughes, ordered Jameson to lead a first section of three Hurricanes to the carrier 150 miles out in the North Sea.
In the Arctic twilight the ship’s company held its breath as each Hurricane made its approach to the tilting deck.
The Hurricanes had no carrier arrester gear , but, pinning their hope on the efficiency of the 14lb sandbag that Jameson had placed under each tailplane, all the pilots landed safely. Seven more Hurricanes followed, as did 10 Gladiator biplanes of 263 Squadron.
Within hours however, Jameson’s ingenuity was to count for nothing. Glorious fell in with the German battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneiswnau and was sent to the bottom with only 39 survivors out of a compliment of 1,5000 men. Among them were Jameson and Cross (who is now a retired Air Chief Marshal).
Jameson and Cross scrambled on to a Carely float with 27 others . As their fellows began to die of exposure Jameson rigged a rough square sail from discarded shirts.
Then from a button on his tunic he produced a miniature escape compass and grabbed a passing oar. Spirits rose as he announced he was setting course for the Faroe Islands.
After three days only seven survivors remained. They were rescued by a small Norwegian ship and landed on the Faroes, where two more died. Subsequently Jameson earned a reputation as one of the R.A.F.’s most resourceful and decorated fighter leaders, being awarded the D.S.O. and Bar and being mentioned four times in dispatches.
Patrick Geraint Jameson was born in Wellington New Zealand on Nov 10 1912. After leaving the Hutt Valley High School he was employed as a clerk with Colonial Mutal Life and learned to fly privately at the Wellington Aero Club, Rongotai.
In January 1936 he took passage for Britain at his own expense on the SS Aerongi and was granted an R.A.F. short-service commission. The next year he joined 46 Squadron at Kenley, becoming a flight commander in March 1939
In April 1940 he was preparing to move with the squadron to France when he was unexpectedly issued with Arctic clothing and sent to Abbots Inch airfield near Glasgow.
After landing, the pilots to their astonishment were required to taxi their aircraft across fields and down lanes until they reached a jetty on the Clyde where the Hurricanes were loaded on to barges for the 20-mile journey to Glorious.
The carrier steamed northwards on May 18th and crossed the Arctic circle in company with Furious carrying 263 Squadron and its Gladiators. jameson, his heart pounding, underwent the novel experience of flying a high speed fighter off her deck.
The designated airfield at Skaanland, north of Narvik, proved too soft and soggy for the first arrivals and, following some unhappy landings, Cross radioed Jameson to lead the remainder to nearby Bardufloss.
Shortly afterwards Jamson and his number two, Pilot Officer Drummond, spotted one Junker 88 and two Heinkel 111 bombers near Narvik. He shot one down, his first lone kill, he had shared two huge six-engined Dornier flying boats the day before.
After surviving the sinking of the Glorious Jameson recovered at the Gleneagles Hotel which was being used as a hospital.
Six weeks sick leave in Ireland put him right, and on Sept 17 1940 he received command of 266, a Spitfire squadron at Wittering while the Battle of Britain was still raging.
Jameson developed his reputation as a fighter pilot, destroying a He.111 at night the following April, and continued to raise his score under the difficult conditions of night fighting.
Early in 1942 he was promoted Wing Commander and led the Wittering fighter wing of the 485 (New Zealand) 411 (Canadian) and 610 (County of Chester) squadrons.
In mid-August he led the wing as part of massive air cover provided for the costly and ill-fated Operation Jubilee assault on Dieppe. Jameson’s wing flew four times that day, some pilots skimming the shingle of the beaches and catching glimpses of overturned tanks, blackened landing craft and bodies, mostly Canadian - the debris of a lost battle.
Air losses were horrendous. While Jameson survived, the R.A.F. lost 106 aircraft, of which 88 were fighters, as against 48 enemy aircraft destroyed.
In December he was posted to North Weald to lead the Norwegian fighter wing, with the personal call sign Mahjong. He again improved his score as he attacked targets in France and escorted heavy bomber formations.
The following May he became Wing Commander Training at No 11 Group and in July 1944, after the invasion, took command of 122, a Tempest wing in Normandy and led it throughout the North West Europe campaign.
Accepting a permanent commission, Jameson commanded the station at Schleswigland and in 1946 attended Staff College at Haifa.
A Vampire jet course and staff and fighter school appointments followed until, in 1952, he returned to Germany to command the 2nd Tactical Air Force station at Wunsdorf.
In 1954 he was appointed Senior Air Staff Officer at 11 Group, moving after two years to 2nd TAF as Deputy SASO. in 1959 He joined the headquarters staff of Operation Grapple, the codename for the R.A.F.’s megaton nuclear bomb trials at Christmas Island.
Jameson retired in 1960, and after being treated for tuberculosis - a consequence of his debilitating wartime service - returned on a full disability pension to his native New Zealand. An accomplished countryman he indulged his love of fishing.
Jameson was appointed CB in 1959 Norway and the Netherlands also honoured him.
He married in 1941 Hilda Webster, his boyhood sweetheart, who had followed him from New Zealand, something almost impossible to do in wartime; they had a daughter.
Air Vice Marshal Stanley Flamank Vincent
Peter’s Station Commander, North Weald 1941 (wrote letter of sympathy on his return to England 1946.)
“Air Ace of Two Wars Dies at 78. Air Vice-Marshal Stanley Flamank Vincent, who shot down enemy aircraft from a single-seater fighter in both world wars has died aged 78 at Bury St. Edmunds.
In the 1914-18 war, he shot down at least two planes, and on one occasion fought a duel with the German ace, Manfred von Richthofen. After the war in 1918 he taught the then Prince of Wales to fly.
In the 1939-45 war he was at 43 one of the oldest pilots in the Battle of Britain. He was awarded the D.F.C. for making a lone attack on 18 Dorniers and 20 Metterschmitt 109s of which he shot down at least four Dorniers. In 1940 and 1941 he was station commander, Northolt and North Weald.
Later in the war he served as Air Officer Commanding 221 Group, South East Asia Air Forces, Burma. He was promoted Air Vice Marshal in 1947 and retired in 1950
In 1949 he led the Battle of Britain fly past in a lone Hurricane. When he published a book on his flying experience “Flying Fever” in 1972, it had a foreword by Lord Mountbatten. From 1954 to 1965 he was commandant of the Eastern Area Royal Observer Corps. He leaves a widow, two sons and a daughter.
Bloody Shambles - The First Comprehensive account of Air Operations over South-East Asia, Christopher. Shores & Brian. Cull, with Yasuho Izawa, pub Grubb Street 1992
Vol 1, ISBN 0 948817 50 X; vol 2 1993 ISBN 0 948817 67 4
Last Flight From Singapore, by A.G.Donaghue, Macmillan & CO 1944
Flight Lieutenant Arthur Gerald Donaghue D.F.C., the first American pilot to take part in combat with the R.A.F.. He sustained a leg injury but in April 1942 he returned to duty, this time in Ceylon. In June he was sent to Bombay, and by August was back at an R.A.F. station on the English Channel, where for a few weeks he was acting Commanding Officer of the squadron. He was looking forward to being home on leave in Minnesota for Christmas but failed to return from a patrol, during which he is known to have badly damaged and probably destroyed an enemy bomber. His death is officially presumed to have occurred on September 11th 1942. He left behind him the manuscript Last Flight From Singapore...
”There’s no denying that I was terribly disillusioned by much of what I had seen and experienced out here (Singapore) - things that I have avoided or passed over in this story because it isn’t in my province as a member of the forces to speak of them, and because I could only do harm by telling of them now. The enemy dot advertise their failings either, you know. Doubtless you have seen references to this in the press, so there’s no harm to admitting that I saw many things out here that were very bad. The humiliating memories of them, and the overwhelming realization of the great defeat we had suffered, with the consequent imperiling of our entire cause, after all the bright hopes I’d had when I came out here less than a month before, combined to make me more discouraged and heartsick than I had ever been before...... Of the 48 beautiful new Hurricanes we had flown to Singapore, scarcely a dozen were left the day I was wounded. ... I gathered that little more than half the pilots were alive, and we had little to show. We had stopped our enemies nowhere.”
No. 1 Squadron:- “ It has been claimed that the beginning of history for No. Squadron can be traced as far back as 1878, the year in which first experiments in the use of balloons by the army was recorded. A claim which, unfortunately, can only be based on its connection with lighter-than-air craft, because it was not until the formation of the Air Battalion of the R.E.’s on February 28th, 1911, that the number ‘one’ came into being, and balloons had first seen service in Bechuanaland in 1884.
The Air Battalion was divided into two companies; No. taking over the airships and No. the aeroplanes, and the position remained the same when the formation of the Royal Flying Corps was announced in April 1913, though the designation was changed from companies to squadrons.
By this date the military airship, beginning with the ‘Nulli Secundus’ in 1907, was well established, and No 1. Squadron R.F.C., now based at Farnborough under the command of Major E.M. Maitland, had on charge the Delta, Beta, Gamma, etc. From here they continued to demonstrate the use of the dirigible in war and it was during those early days that they carried out successful experiments in the use of W/T for air-to-ground communications.” from In All Things First, a short history of No. 1 Squadron, Royal Air Force, by J.L. Dixon
Rank: Acting Squadron Leader
Unit: No. 1 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Awarded on: May 30th, 1941
Action: Citation: "This officer led his flight with considerable skill and ability over a long period, during which he destroyed a number of enemy aircraft. Since taking command of the squadron, he has greatly assisted in the brilliant work performed by the squadron. Throughout Squadron Leader Brooker has set an excellent example."
Rank: Acting Squadron Leader
Unit: No. 232 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Awarded on: March 27th, 1942
Action: Citation: "This officer has continuously led the squadron into action against largely superior numbers of enemy aircraft at Singapore and in the Netherlands East Indies. He has displayed gallantry, determination and cheerfulness in the face of heavy odds."
Details: Second DFC awarded as a bar for on the ribbon of the first DFC.
Rank: Acting Wing Commander
Unit: Reserve of Air Force Officers Awarded on: December 1st, 1944
Action: Citation: "This officer has displayed the highest standard of gallantry and determination in his attacks on the enemy. During a phase of intensive air operations over Northern France, prior to the landing of the invasion forces, Wing Commander Brooker led large formations of aircraft in attacks against a wide range of well defended targets, including a number of radio stations. Much of the success achieved can be attributed to this officer's careful planning, inspiring leadership and skill in action. His record is most impressive."
Rank: Acting Wing Commander
Awarded on: February 12th, 1946
Action: Citation: "From May to August, 1944, this officer led a wing of rocket-firing Typhoons, and during that time he completed many hazardous but successful attacks against heavily defended enemy rad«r stations, military headquarters, and railways. Under his command his wing have.destroyed at least 87 enemy, aircraft and damaged 62. This great achievement has been largely owing to Wing Cdr. Brooker's brilliant planning and skilful leadership."
Details: With effect from I5th April, 1945 (since deceased). Second DSO awarded as a bar for on the ribbon of the first DSO.
Click photos to enlarge
Flying Officer REP Brooker shaking hands with Sir Kingsley Wood 56 Squadron Northweald 1939
Photo above: Wing Commander R E P Brooker, the No. 123 Wing Leader, takes off from Thorney Island, Hampshire, in his Hawker Typhoon Mark IB, MN570 ‘B’, with seven more Typhoons of No. 198 Squadron RAF, on a sortie over the Normandy beachhead. They attacked and destroyed several German armoured vehicles on the Caen-Falaise road.
56 Squadron Hurricans in the summer of 1939
RAF 9 Flying Training School. Photo dated 27 september 1937. Neg.No. A387. R E P Brooker extreme right, second row from back
56 Squadron at Northweald in 1940. R E P Brooker is on the front row wearing flying boots.
Wing Commander REP Brooker cutting caje for WAAF's 40th birthday at RAF Milfield 1943
Flying Officer REP Brooker on stand by at RAF Northweld during the Battle of Britain. Still taken from Pathe News Reel.
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