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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. R E P Brooker

 

Richard Edgar Peter Brooker was born on 2nd November 1918 in Chessington, Surrey. The family moved to Ashstead, Surrey where his father was a headmaster.

Brooker, known as Bill within his family, was educated at the Royal Masonic School, Bushey, he joined the RAF on leaving the school in 1936. He was appointed Acting Pilot Officer on 12th July 1937.

On 17th 1937 July he was posted to 9 FTS Hullavington and joined 56 Squadron at North Weald on 19th February 1938.

 

Above: Brooker, seated far left, at Hullavington.

 

 

Above: In 1938, a Pilot Officer.

 

In December 1938 F/O Bryan John Wicks joined 56 Squadron and the two became friends.

 

Above: Shortly after the outbreak of war Sir Kingsley Wood, Secretary of State for Air, visited 56 Squadron and here is shaking Brooker's hand.

 

On 13th May 1940 Brooker was appointed personal assistant to AVM Keith Park at HQ 11 Group Uxbridge, he returned to 56 on 20th June 1940.

On 13th July 1940 Brooker claimed a Ju87 destroyed and on 21st August shared a Do17. In this engagement he was shot down by return fire but was only slightly injured when he made a forced-landing at Flowton Brook, Bramford, west of Ipswich. His Hurricane, P3153, burned out.

On 7th October Brooker claimed two probables, a Me110 and a Do17.

 

Above: 56 Squadron in 1940, Brooker seated on far right of bench.

Below: Brooker at readiness, from a Pathe newsreel.

 

 

On 23rd April 1941 Brooker was given command of No. 1 Squadron. On leaving 56 he was presented with an 'Iron Cross', fashioned by Bryan Wicks 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. Brooker claimed to value this higher than his official awards.

 

 

During the night of 11th/12th May he shot down a He111 over London and attacked three more. Brooker damaged a Me109 on 21st May and destroyed another on 21st June.

He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 30th May 1941).

On 29th July 1941 the DFC was presented to him by King George VI at Buckingham Palace. Bryan Wicks was also decorated with the DFC at the same ceremony and the two families joined forces afterwards for lunch and a show in celebration.

Brooker was posted to the Far East on 9th November 1941 as Aide-de-Camp to ACM Sir Robert Brooke Popham, C-in-C Far East.

He took command of 232 Squadron at Singapore on 20th January 1942 after the CO was killed. On the 26th Brooker shot down a Kawasaki Ki27 and on 13th February a Ki48. During the retreat in late February, 232 Squadron reached Java, where it combined with the ground staff of 242 Squadron whose pilots and aircraft had remained in Malta.

On 4th March Brooker destroyed a Japanese fighter. It was decided to destroy the squadron's remaining Hurricanes, after which Brooker and some other pilots flew in a Lodestar to Australia. His personal possessions and logbook had to be abandoned.

He was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 27th March 1942). Whilst in Australia Brooker helped form and then commanded 77 (RAAF) Squadron, flying Kittyhawks.

He was next attached to the RNZAF, arriving at their HQ at Masterton, North Island on 18th June 1942. From July 1942 to February 1943 he commanded 14 Squadron RNZAF, forming it from the survivors of 488 Squadron RNZAF who also fought on Singapore, Sumatra and Java, operating Buffalos and then Hurricanes. They were re-equipped with Kittyhawks.

On 15th February 1943 he was posted to Whenuapai before returning to the UK via the US in April 1943.

 

Above: At some time in 1943 Brooker was invited to cut a cake celebrating the fourth anniversary of the founding of the Womens Auxiliary Air Force.

 

In May 1943 he was posted to No. 1 Special Low Altitude Instructional School at Milfield, Northumberland as Wing Commander Flying. He was also temporarily in command of 59 OTU, also at Milfield, till in January 1944 both closed and were replaced by the Fighter Leader School. This developed ground attack methods for the coming invasion, Brooker was kept on as a Staff Instructor.

 

Above: at Milfield, Brooker seated centre.

 

From May to July 1944 Brooker was Wing Leader of 123 Wing, operating Typhoons from Thorney Island, and was awarded the DSO (gazetted 1st December 1944). His Typhoon MN570 was coded 'B' for Brooker, as was his Tempest later.

 

Above: his Typhoon taking off on D-Day.

 

In the autumn of 1944 Brooker, tour-expired, was sent on a RAF Staff College course at Gerrards Cross, after which he was not expected to do any more operational flying. This was uncongenial and he managed to arrange a posting in January 1945 as CO of 122 Wing at Volkel, Holland. He damaged a Me109 on 22nd February.

 

 

Brooker was shot down and killed on 16th April 1945 while leading 80 Squadron on a Wing operation over Wittenberge on the Elbe. In a running fight with Fw190s his Tempest NV641 ‘B’ was shot down near Neuruppin, NW of Berlin. Very unusually he had forgotten to wear his dog-tags that day (above).

His wingman Sgt. WF Turner in NV983 was also lost.

Brooker was awarded a Bar to the DSO (gazetted 12th February 1946), which was given with effect from the day before his death.

He is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 264.

 

 

 

The majority of research and all images courtesy of Malcolm Sutherland (nephew).

 

 

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