Sergeant Robert Brookes’ Memories from the War

This is what his son wrote me about his father thus helping me to date later all the pictures he has shared.

I thought he was briefly in a Typhoon or Hurricane squadron that transitioned to Spitfires, prior to being moved to the 403. The reason he was transferred is that he did not get along with his first boss (his squadron commander?).

I remember him saying that the ‘by the book’ way of changing a tire on a Spitfire (although this might have been a Hurricane, but I am pretty sure he said Spitfire) was very time consuming. So instead he had a couple of fellows pull down on the opposite wing to raise the tire off the ground just enough to change it, which was a much easier and faster process that could be done right on the runway. But this was not the official way to do it so he kept getting in trouble. Things like this got him sent off to a different squadron, which I thought was the 403.

He said at the new squadron they were much more open to innovation. The 403 was certainly the squadron that was near and dear to his heart. The path of the 403 matches his stories, as he went into France, Belgium and Holland before being sent home.

Another story he liked to tell is that he had originally signed up to be a pilot. He failed the testing due to colour blindness. They had to put him somewhere so because he knew how to play the drums, they put him in the band (at this time the volunteers were staying at the Horse Palace in Toronto) – this would have been early 1940 when things were just getting going. He of course had not volunteered to only play in a marching band. So one day he was sitting in his bunk, kind of fed up, and he heard the call for all airframe mechanics to report to be shipped out to St. Thomas for training. So he just packed his stuff up and pretended to have been assigned to that group, managed to pass through, and next thing he knew he was an airframe mechanic! He said that the training was a bit behind and they actually learned how to make and fix parts out of wood, since the British trainers had experience from WWI.

I am pretty sure he was in the squadron when Buzz Beurling was there. I remember him saying that he had a very special crew and no one else was allowed to touch his plane.

Robert Brookes enlisted on December 14 1940. He was honorably discharged on April 21 1945. He went overseas on September 18 1941 and returned to Canada on March 9 1945.

Robert Brookes’ son will try to obtain his father’s record of service file so we can update his father’s tenure in the RCAF.

Next time No. 1 T.T.S. St. Thomas.

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