Distinguished Flying Cross, GVI, dated 1945, Distinguished Flying Medal, GVI, 1939-45 Star, Aircrew Europe Star, bar France & Germany, Africa Star, Defence & War Medal, to Flt Lt F.J.T. “Rajah” Brooks, Royal Air Force.
Francis James Thomas “Rajah” Brooks grew up in the RAF since the age of 15 as a rebellious teenage “Halton Brat” since 1929 who went on to distinguish himself in no less than 127 operational bombing sorties, 62 of them over Libya, Greece & Albania, before going on to bomb the Low Countries and Germany over 51 operational sorties.
With his original named card box of issue for D.F.M., his Observer’s brevet badge, his Observer & Air Gunner Log Book spanning 11th April 1940 to 12th August 1941, his RAF Air Navigator’s Certificate, dated 9th April 1942.
An interesting hand written account by recipient of his service career, with other copied research and a large full copied Operations Record Book for 60, 211, 11 and 180 Squadrons covering his time during the war.
Distinguished Flying Cross, London Gazette 24th July 1945, Recommendation:
“Since being awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal on the 22nd August 1941 this leading Navigator and Bomb Aimer has highly distinguished himself during his operational career. He has led Squadron formations with determination and accuracy on 51 operations against enemy targets in the Occupied Countries and Germany. He has consistently set a high standard of professional skill and has won the confidence and admiration of all whom he had led.
On many occasions his aircraft has been flown to its target through heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire. With complete disregard for personal danger, F/Lt Brooks has all times pressed home his attacks with high courage and coolness.
During one flight his aircraft was badly damaged, the aileron control impaired and one engine seriously affected. The Air Gunner was gravely wounded and in danger of his life. Calmly F/Lt Brooks guided his pilot towards an advanced air strip and thus contributed largely to saving the lives of the wounded Air Gunner and the rest of the crew. This Officer’s tenacity, skill and courage have been one of the highest order and the Squadron record has been sustained and enhanced by the fine example which he has set.”
D.F.M. announced in the London Gazette 22nd August 1941, his recommendation:
“This senior N.C.O. has taken part in 62 repeat, 62 raids over Libya and Greece on all occasions has shown the greatest determination and courage when on duty.”
Note, they do put an emphasis on his considerable number of raids.
During his long flying career his logbook details that he flew in:
Bristol Fighters, Atlas, Tiger Moth, Hawker Hart, Hawker Audax, Heyford, Wapiti, Victoria, Valencia, Bombay, Junker 52, Blenheim Mk 1, Blenheim Mk IV, Anson & Mitchell
Francis James Thomas Brooks was born during 1914 in Revelstoke, Devon, he first joined the RAF as an Apprentice at Halton in September 1929.
Once he finished he recalls in his letter: “Passing out, posted to 57 Squad. (Hawker Harts) and immediately became an Air Gunner. I was with 60 Squad. (Blenheims) (India) at the time England entered the war. The Squad flew to Egypt and I was posted to 211 Squad. (Blenheims) in the Western Desert. My first crew shot down over Tobruk. (I being hospitalised with Tummy Bug).’
During his prewar service in India he earned his nickname “Rajah” likely due to his similarity with James “Rajah of Sarawak” Brooke during his time as a LAC Air Gunner with 57 Squadron.
Brooks was posted for operational flying to 211 Squadron in Egypt, 16 June 1940. The Squadron, upon the outbreak of war with Italy in the same month, were engaged in bombing operations over Libya. Brooks took part in a large number of sorties between June – November 1940, including to El Addam and to Tobruk seven times. During one of the latter, 9 September 1940, ‘Raid on Tobruk. Ships and tanker hit. 12 x 20lbs + 12 x 40lbs’ (Log Book refers).
Brooks moved with the Squadron to Menidi, Greece, in November 1940. The Squadron was used to reinforce the Greek Air Force, after the Italian invasion of Greece. From here Brooks carried out a large number of operational sorties on Italian bases and targets in Albania, in particular on Valona Harbour and the surrounding area. During one of at least 10 raids on this particular target that he carried out, Brooks lists in his Log Book, 13 March 1941 ‘Bombing Raid. Solo Raid. Bombing Raid with Fleet Air Arm (Valona) 2 x 500lbs G.P. 2 good hits. Awarded D.F.M.’
Brooks then himself adds in his writing:
‘211 Squad. posted to Greece and our main targets Valona harbour and the nearby airfield. (Air Gunner now became Observers). The Navy Swordfish were given a target of torpedoing ships at anchor in Valona. This operation had to be targeted at night. To keep the defences attention occupied, a Blenheim would fly over Valona, seconds before the main attack. Being the only Sgt. with many hours of night flying, I was detailed for the flight. Approaching the target area, the sky became alight with searchlights and tracers. I released my bombs, on time, just as the low flying Swordfish came over the water. With my plane getting all the attention, the Swordfish completed a perfect raid.
Both pilot and I were awarded medals. I was presented at the Palace with the D.F.M. by King George VI.’
The Germans attacked Greece from Bulgaria in April 1941, and 211 Squadron were forced to evacuate their airfields. Brooks writes in his Log Book, ‘1st Log Book destroyed with kit by fire (Greece evacuation) 23/4/41.’ Brooks was posted to 11 Squadron (Blenheims) at Aqir, Palestine, in June 1941. The Squadron were heavily involved in the occupation of Syria, and Brooks once again flew a large number of sorties between June – August 1941, including: 22 June 1941 ‘Raid – Beirut Harbour – destroyer attacked & 2 direct hits scored (4 x 250lb)’; 24 June 1941 ‘Raid – Rayak railway sidings – perfect. Many trucks destroyed’; and 28 June 1941 ‘Raid – Palmyra fort stores – perfect. Nearly all bombs on target – fire started’ – Excerpts from his Log Book.
Brooks was posted back to the UK in August 1941. He was ‘sent on a navigator course to obtain my 2nd Class Nav. Cert, I on passing sent to Bishop Court (Ireland) as a pre-ops instructor.
He then describes further in his own words:
“After ‘D’ day my C.O. [Wing Commander Boxer] was detailed for ops. He asked me if I would fly as his Nav. I agreed. Following a course on the new GEE box, we arrived at 180 Squad (Mitchells) just outside Brussels [December 1944]. This being the Tactical Command, the main targets were railway yards, crossroads and petrol and ammo dumps…. [We received a] Briefing, that at all costs, a petrol & ammo dump situated at a crossroad, had to be destroyed. These were the main dumps supplying to a Panzer unit, that was causing a lot of trouble to the U.S. Army. Known as the Battle of the Bulge.
Arriving over target area, my first run had to abort owing to clouds. I attacked again from another angle but again no clear target, but my wing dropped their loads and turned for home. The bombs fell in a field.
Being left alone and with the briefing so definite, the C.O. and I decided to go below the clouds. The run was perfect and the explosion was so huge that the plane felt it. Pulling away we were hit by a barrage. Port engine losing oil, starboard coughing and a hole in the front perspex… Wireless U/S and gunner wounded. I gave the pilot an ideal course to fly, to get to a landing strip, in Holland. Having passed the strip I had some knowledge of the area. I tended the gunner and read the area to the pilot our luck held, and we made it to the landing strip. Both pilot and myself awarded D.F.C. The crews that had left us were nearly court-martialled.”
Other targets for Brooks included: Zaltbommel Road Bridge; Wassenburg; Xanten Town; Nieuberk; Weeze; Menle Marshalling Yard; Schweinheim Rail Bridge; Geldern; the Hague; Wessel Rail Bridge; Haltern Marshalling Yard; Borken Marshalling Yard; Leer Barracks and Bremen. Having advanced to Flight Lieutenant, Brooks was posted to 170 Squadron at the end of May 1945.
He retired from the RAF on 11th December 1946.
He later died at the age of 87 during December 2001, he now lies in Mildenhall Cemetery, Suffolk.