Letter to Charles Hamilton's Mother



Letter to Charles Hamilton's Mother


The letter explains the circumstances of the night Charles was shot down. Charles jumped out first and Brian next. Brian landed on land but there was no sign of Charles.




Temporal Coverage



Seven handwritten sheets


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The Officers’ Mess,
R.A.F. Bradwell Bay,

Wednesday 25th August.

My dear Mrs. Hamilton,

You must have wondered why I have not written sooner. I had hoped to be able to fly up to Ayr and visit you so that I could tell you personally all that I can remember of the night Charles and I were shot down, but on rejoining the Squadron I find that it is impossible as long as we are at Bradwell Bay. Later, if the opportunity arises, I will certainly take advantage of it.

It was not until a few minutes ago, when I was shown your letter by F/LT Custance, that I knew that you had written to me. I never received your letter and I very much

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regret what must have seemed inexcusably bad manners. I don’t know what address you were given by the Adjutant, but I have been in so many places since I returned to England that only my home address was sure to have found me. I am very sorry indeed.

I dont know how much Ken Davison was able to tell you of the events of that night, but I feel that you would prefer me to tell you all I can, both good and bad, as they happened.

We had destroyed our fifth enemy aircraft together only two nights before, and for the third night in succession were detailed for what is know [sic] as “Bomber support” for a raid on Kiel.

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[underlined] 2 [/underlined]

When it was all over and the bombers were on their way home we had to stay until the end of our patrol time and we were hit over the target and set on fire. Charles stopped the engine when I asked him to, because it was on fire – the fire went out, but another in the wing was getting rapidly worse and we decided between us that it would be sagest to head towards Field Marshal Montgomery’s armies to the South-West, at that time surrounding Bremen: to do this we had to cross about thirty miles of sea as against the three hundred which lay between us and home.

As soon as we were hit I told Charles to put on his parachute pack and be ready to bale out should anything else happen – this he did:

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a few minutes later we were going along very slowly, on fire and on one engine in what I could only guess to be the right direction: I was blind in one eye and we had no compass left, the aircraft was like a torch and we could not maintain height properly. A German night fighter must have seen us because, not long after, there was another very loud explosion and the aeroplane went completely out of control and large pieces fell off. It was going down in a steep dive and I shouted to Charles to get out, which he had already started to do.

I still could not see with one eye, and with the cockpit full of smoke and fumes and on fire, it was very confusing.

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[underlined] 3 [/underlined]

While Charles was getting out through the door I was trying to get the roof escape-hatch open and to undo my straps because I knew that there would not time for both of us to leave by the door.

After that I found myself half in and half-out of the roof, caught, I think, by my parachute. The next thing I knew was that I was far from the aircraft & trying to find my ripcord.

I came down just on the land near the coast at the top of the bulge of land which lies between Wessemunde and Hamburg, and after walking all night I lay up all next day. When I was eventually forced to give myself up I was locked up with some Russian slave labourers before being taken to a Luftwaffe [inserted] camp [/inserted] All the time I

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expected to hear from the Germans some news of Charles because when I last saw him he was quite unhurt: then when they never mentioned him I thought it probable that he was still walking: you will appreciate that it was impossible for me to ask the Germans whether they had captured another officer because it would have immediately given away the fact that I was not the day-fighter pilot for which they took me and they would have pressed me for information about secret equipment etc. I asked all my fellow prisoners whether they had come across him in their travels across Germany but they all said no and I began to think that he must have landed in the sea.

He was very calm throughout a

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very unpleasant ordeal and when I was hit he managed to find a handkerchief to stop the bleeding. We had been together at West Malling in 1941 and had always been the best of friends. All our successes had been together and until we crewed up neither of us had shot down anything.

It is very hard for me, who have returned at last from that sortie, to find words to tell you my feelings. All I can say is how sorry I am and how proud I was to fly with him. This is very inadequate, I know, and I ask you to forgive me for that.

If there is anything at all that I can do to help you in any way please let me know, and I will be happy if I can do so in any way.

Yours very sincerely,

[underlined] Brian Thomas. [/underlined]


Brian Thomas, “Letter to Charles Hamilton's Mother,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 23, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/35549.

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