Interview with Rita Brooks


Interview with Rita Brooks


Rita’s late husband was Flight Lieutenant Edward Brooks DFC, DFM. He was in the Home Guard before he enlisted with the Royal Air Force in February 1941, and sometime later went to RAF Uxbridge. Following his training at Blackpool the recruits were billeted in a former seaside boarding house. Whilst at Blackpool they had their vaccinations before going home on leave. On reaching home Ted collapsed and was diagnosed with vaccine fever and he spent most of his leave in RAF Kenley hospital.
Ted was trained as a wireless operator and was posted to Northern Ireland to serve on a small antiaircraft observation unit. Next he went to Operational Training Units at RAF Litchfield where they crewed up. His crew was posted to 12 Squadron at RAF Wickenby. Ted’s first tour commenced on 13 May 1943. The operation had to be cancelled due to an engine catching fire. The pilot managed to extinguish the fire by going into a steep dive. Targets included the Ruhr, Berlin, Peenemünde, Cologne, Turin, Genoa and Hamburg. On the 8 October 1943 the tour ended with an operation to Stuttgart. On their leave on 22 October 1943 the crew made a BBC broadcast entitled 'Lancaster crew describes an operation'. Ted was then posted to RAF Lindholme as an instructor but then joined a second crew and was posted to RAF Binbrook with 460 Squadron. On D-Day they supported the landings by bombing batteries. In August 1945 Ted finally left the service from RAF Swinderby.







00:14:54 audio recording


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AS Right we’re in business. We’re ready to start. Ok, thank you.
RB Right. My late husband was Flight Lieutenant Edward Brooks DFC, DFM. Now Ted hadn’t meant to join the RAF. He’d already started work as an office boy in London and had joined the Home Guard, but he wanted to join the Army. So he went to the army recruiting office and all was going well, until with the innocence of youth, he stated that he wish to join the Oxford and Bucks, the regiment in which his uncle Company Sergeant Major Edward Brooks had been awarded the Victoria Cross in 1917. The recruiting sergeant looked up and said : ‘You can’t pick and choose sonny.” To which Ted replied : ‘Right, I’ll go and join the RAF.’ This he promptly did. His date of enlistment February 1941. But he was dismayed to learn that they were unable to take him immediately, but they gave him a lapel badge to indicate that he’d enlisted and that they would let him know. The months passed and although he must have been very busy, working during the day and Home Guard duties at night, he just wanted to be in the service, so after several months had elapsed he wrote to the Air Ministry [Shuffle of paper]. Two months later, two weeks later he was at Uxbridge. There followed the initial three months training course at Blackpool. There they were billeted in a former seaside boarding house. They had to surrender their ration books to the landlady and they were always hungry. Their meals were served in the dining room, but they soon realised that the Corporal in charge of the bul- billet had all his meals in the kitchen with the landlady, and was enjoying much better fare. On the day they all left, to register their dissatisfaction [turning of page] they nailed a kipper to the underside of the dining room table. Another memory of Blackpool was, before leaving they were lined up, sleeves rolled up and given multiple vaccinations. Then they were allowed to go home on leave before their next posting. Ted collapsed on arriving home and taken by ambulance to RAF Henley hospital, they lived nearby, where Vaccine Fever was diagnosed, and where he spent most of his leave. The chapter Ted contributed to “Lancaster At War Two” as wireless operator follows his training up to OTU where he said he met the RAAF. At some time during those previous months his mother, always concerned for her sons comfort, was worried that his regulations shirts were too rough. So she bought him officer’s shirts which she sent to him and which he wore on a night out to the local town. He was, however, picked up by the MPs and put on a charge for this offence. This was quickly followed by an individual posting to Northern Ireland to serve on a small anti-aircraft observation unit miles from anywhere. The isolation of this unit and the ever-present threat of the IRA made him sleep with his rifle alongside. They were a small group of young lads unused to cooking for themselves, so each one took their turn to be cook for the day buying meat and vegetables from the local farmers. Stew was the main meal of the day but Ted was horrified to see how it was being cooked. Meat and vegetables were thrown into a large saucepan, potatoes, carrots etc just as they had been lifted from the ground complete with the soil. Ted said that he’d do the cooking. Then to OTU at Litchfield where they crewed up. Five of the crew were Australian with the pilot being Murray Brown. I had the privilege of knowing Murray Brown and John Clarke, his 460 Squadron pilot in post war years when they visited the UK. The crew were posted to 12 Squadron at Wickenby, a satellite station of Binbrook. The Commanding Officer was Group Captain Huey Edwards, who was the CO of Binbrook [alarm sounding in background]. Many post war years later, Ted saw an article by Group Captain Basil Crummy[?] who said he was Wickenby’s first CO. Ted said he’s confirm the facts by writing to Sir Huey Edwards VC who kindly wrote at some length explaining that for a short while he was in charge of Binbrook, Wickenby and one other station, Basil Crummy taking over from him soon after. I realised a little while ago that these letters from Sir Huey should be in an appropriate archive, and I donated them to the RAAF Museum, Melbourne. And so Ted’s first com- tour commenced on 13th May 1943. The target being Bochum. The operation had to be abandoned after crossing the enemy coast due to an outer engine catching fire , and they had decided that would have to ditch but Murray went into a steep dive and mercifully the fire went out. When looking through their list of t- targets it illustrated Bomber Commands Battle of the Ruhr, known to the crews as Happy Valley. Also Peenemunde, Berlin, Cologne, Turin, Genoa and Hamburg. [Turning of paper]. Many years later in the 1950s we sailed along the River Elbe to Hamburg. As we reached our moorings Ted looked at the other bank where there was a large sign Blohm and Voss. Ted said that the shipyard had been their aiming point. Their tour finished with Stuttgart on 8th October 1943. After returning from Mannheim they were on their crew bus on their way from dispersal to the interrogation room when it collided with a petrol tanker which had broken down on the perimeter track. They were all pitched forward off their seats and were dazed for some seconds, Ted had been smoking at the time but when he came to he realised that it was still in his mouth but broken in half. They hadn’t realised, however, that a member of the crew had been pitched out they continued. Some considerable time later when he[stuttered] he they continued but some con - considerable time later [stutters] he appeared in the briefing room and amongst other things was asked for his escape rations. He said : ‘He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t as he’d had to eat them on the long trek back.’ On their leave on the 22nd of October 43, the crew made a BBC broadcast entitled : “Lancaster crew describes an operation.” I found in Ted’s papers a receipt from the BBC for three pound. Ted was then posted to Lindholme instructing. He said that one night in the mess Squadron Leader John Clarke came up to him and said that he was forming a crew to do a second tour, would Ted like to join him? ‘Yes,’ he said and so to his posting to Binbrook and 460 Squadron. The first operation there was the 22nd/23rd May on Dortmund and the last 16th September, Rhine which was the night of on [incomplete]. [Turning of page] The pattern of this tour was essentially supporting the invasion. On D-Day 5th/6th June 44, their target was the Normandy coastal bat- batteries in which over a thousand aircraft were involved. Their target being the battery St Martin de Varreville. The following night the important six way junction near, road junction near Bayeux and the Forest de Cereza. There followed oil plants, flying bomb sites culminating in their final operation 16th/17th September Arnhem. Bomber Commands main operations that night were in support of the following days landings. Several surrounding airfields were to be bombed 46- 460’s target was Rhine. However John Clarke’s crew was selected to remain behind after bombing Rhine [cough]. They were secretly briefed to carry out a low level reconnaissance over Arnhem, and told because of the importance [sneeze] of this assignment the radio equipment would be modified to take quartz crystals, so that the tuning would be spot on to transmit their observations. Just as Ted was about to enter the aircraft the Signals Officer drew up thrusting two small objects into his hands. ‘I don’t know how to use them,’ said Ted. ‘Neither do I,’ said he, ‘but you’ve plenty of time to find out.’ So ended his operational career. During this time, I’m not sure whether it was 12 or 460 Ted had been feeling very unwell during the day but they were told that would be taking two high ranking army officers on their night’s operations as they wished to observe the German anti-aircraft defences. During the flight Ted felt very sick but there was no suitable receptacle. He looked down and by his position he saw two upturned army caps, these he suitably filled and then despatched them down the flare shute. On landing the two chaps searched for their caps but they were told by the crew that very strange things happen at night. He always suffered from severe migraines in post war years, this he attributed to the fact that on one trip shrapnel had penetrated the fuselage and severed his oxygen tube. He didn’t tell his pilot at the time as he knew it’d been very dangerous to reduce height and did not do so until it was safe. However he said the pain in his head was just unimaginable. After Binbrook, I believe it was back to Lindholme, there they would take ground crews to see the destruction in Germany. On one separate occasion the flu had to [laugh] the crew had to fly to the Luftwaffe base on the Island of Sylt, purpose unknown. They dined in the mess with the German officers and I understand it was rather a tense situation. After time he flew to Brussels but burnt a tyre, burst a tyre on landing. They were there one month before a replacement tyre was obtained. He said that he had volunteered for Tiger Force and that he had crewed up. I believe that this was the plan for the RAF and USAF bombing campaign of Ger- of Japan. And I found confirmation of this in his 460 records. Finally, in summer 1946 he was demobbed at Swinderby. You will note that in the 12 Squadron crew list I didn’t named the mid-upper gummer gunner. This is because on July 28th/29th they were briefed for Cologne and during the outward flight he had collapsed very distressed and had to be physically restrained by other crew members. The operation had to be abandoned and they returned to base after dropping their bombs in the sea. [Sharp turn of page]. After that they had several replacement MUGs. He finally left the service in August 1945 from RAF Swinderby.
AS Thank you very much.



Adam Sadler, “Interview with Rita Brooks ,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 14, 2024,

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