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John Randall Daniel 'Bob' Braham DSO & Two Bars, DFC & Two Bars, AFC (6 April 1920 – 7 February 1974), was one of the most highly decorated airman of the RAF in World War II. He claimed 29 enemy aircraft destroyed, probably destroyed one more, and damaged 6. He was the top scoring RAF ace flying twin-engined fighters and was fifth among RAF fighter pilots in all theatres of war.

Early life

He was born on 6 April 1920 in Holcombe, Somersetmarker. His father was a Methodist Minister and a Doctor of Theology who had served as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps in World War I.Braham was educated at public school in Tauntonmarker in Somerset and Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Blackburnmarker, Lancashire.

Early career

In December 1937 he joined the RAF as an officer cadet, attaining his pilot's wings in August 1938. (Braham 1961, p.35)

Military career

His first squadron was 29 Squadron in December 1938, flying the two-seater Hawker Demon. Early in 1939, No 29 Squadron re-equipped with the Bristol Blenheim, but soon after switched to the Hawker Hurricane. Braham carried out his first operational patrols of World War II in September 1939. He had by now been given the nickname 'Bob', which stayed with him throughout his service career. (Braham 1961, p.41)No 29 Squadron was now designated a night-fighter squadron and once again received Blenheim l's. In mid 1940, they were being equipped with the early AI Mk III RDF 'radar' and four Browning machine guns in a pack under the belly. The squadron started night flights over Lincolnshiremarker in June 1940. On the night of 24/25 August 1940, during the Battle of Britain, Bob destroyed his first enemy aircraft, a Dornier Do 17, guided by his AI operator Sgt. Wilsden. (Braham 1961, pp. 56–58)

In October 1940, the squadron started to receive the more modern Bristol Beaufighter Mk IFs with Mk IV AI radar.

Braham received a DFC in January 1941. In March he destroyed another enemy aircraft, a Dornier Do 17 of Stab.Kampfgeschwader 2, his first in a Beaufighter. No 29 Squadron moved to RAF West Mallingmarker, Kentmarker in May 1941 and it was from here that Braham really developed his night fighting skills, with the start of his association with two Navigators/Radar Operators who would contribute so much to his success: 'Sticks' Gregory and 'Jacko' Jacobs. (Braham 1961)

By November 1941 he had claimed 7 enemy aircraft, and was a Flight Lieutenant, receiving a bar to his DFC. In January 1942, Braham finished his tour of operations and was posted from No 29 Squadron to No 51 OTU at Cranfieldmarker as an instructor with his Navigator/AI operator F/Sgt 'Sticks' Gregory. (Braham 1961, p.107)

While at Cranfield, Braham and Gregory visited 29 Squadron at West Mallingmarker and, operating on the night of the 6/7 June 1942 in a borrowed Beaufighter, destroyed a Dornier 217 raiding Canterburymarker. He was posted back to No 29 Squadron from 51 OTU in July 1942 as a Squadron Leader and Flight Commander. After damaging a Ju 88 on the 24th, he destroyed another on the 28th. On the 29th he attacked and damaged a Junkers Ju 88 flying at 150 ft above the English Channelmarker. Return fire from the Ju 88 caused his port engine to catch fire, forcing a crash landing near Beachy Head. Neither he nor Jacobs were injured. He was awarded his first DSO in October 1942. (Braham 1961, p.125)

By this time, Bob Braham had destroyed 12 enemy aircraft, with 1 probable and 4 damaged. He was then given command of No. 141 Squadron RAF at Ford in late 1942 as a 22 year-old Wing Commander. With him went his AI operator Gregory, now a Flying Officer with the DFC and DFM. (Braham 1961, pp.133–136)

No 141 Squadron's Beaufighter Mk.IF's moved to Cornwallmarker in February 1943 to carry out night patrols over Brittany and SW France and daylight patrols over the Bay of Biscaymarker and Atlantic Approaches to protect Coastal Command aircraft.

Serrate and bomber support

In May 1943, No 141 Squadron moved to RAF Witteringmarker. It had been chosen to be the first night fighter squadron to operate over Germany and occupied Europe in the bomber support role. Their Beaufighters were equipped with a new homer/receiver called Serrate, which picked up the radar impulses given out by the German night fighter's' Lichtenstein AI radar. The Beaufighters were also equipped with Mk IV radar.

Serrate operations started in June 1943. Braham had immediate success, destroying an Bf 110 over Holland. When Braham left No 141 Squadron in October 1943, the squadron had destroyed 14 enemy aircraft using Serrate. His own score on Serrate operations was 7 destroyed, bringing his total to 20. Several of the Luftwaffe pilots he shot down were experienced Experten, with numerous night kills to their credit; 4./NJG 1 lost both Fw. Krafft (15 claims) killed and Fw. Vinke (53 claims) (bailed out; his crew was killed) on 17 August while Hpt. August Geiger (IV/NJG 1; 53 claims) was shot down and drowned on 29 September. Braham was awarded the first bar to his DSO on 24 September 1943.

Prisoner of war

Against his wishes, Wg Cdr Braham was rested from operations and posted from No 141 Squadron on 1 October 1943. He took a staff course at the Staff College, Camberleymarker from October 1943 until February 1944. He was then posted as 'Wing Commander Night Operations ' at HQ No. 2 Group RAF. Although a Staff Officer at HQ, Braham was able, with persistence, to persuade his AOC, Air Vice Marshal Basil Embry to allow him to 'free-lance' using a Mosquito FBVI loaned from one of the various squadrons in the group. On 12 May Braham's Mosquito was hit by both anti-aircraft fire and fire from a Bf 109 over Denmarkmarker. Braham and Gregory bailed out 70 miles from the English coast, being hauled out of the water by Air-Sea Rescue. (Braham 1961, pp.234–239)His last operation of the war was a lone daylight 'Ranger' operation over Denmark and north Germany on 25 June 1944. Attacked by two Focke-Wulf Fw 190's of Jagdgeschwader 1 over Denmarkmarker, he managed to crash land his crippled plane on a sandstrip by the coast and was captured. One of the German pilots (Robert Spreckles) insisted on meeting him and the two became friends after the war. By the time he was shot down, Braham had carried out 15 'Ranger' operations over France, Denmark and Germany, during which he destroyed another 9 enemy aircraft.

Postwar career

In July 1945, W/C Braham joined the Night Fighter Development Wing of the Central Fighter Establishment where he tested and developed existing and new night fighting equipment.There followed a period of two years of non-flying appointments, with HQ Technical Training Command, OC No 2 Wing, No 3 Recruits Centre Padgate and the Air Ministry in London. In August 1948, he was posted to command the Fighter Interception Development Squadron and Night Fighter Leader School of the Central Fighter Establishment.

In May 1952, he resigned from the RAF for the second time. He joined the RCAF with the rank of Wing Commander and commanded their first all-weather jet fighter unit based at North Bay, Ontariomarker. Braham left No 3 AW(F)OTU in June 1955 for a staff appointment at Air Force HQ in Ottawamarker, which he held for over two years.

Retirement

He resigned from the Royal Canadian Air Force in January 1968 and settled in Nova Scotiamarker.

In December 1973, he suddenly became ill and died in hospital from a brain tumour on 7 February 1974 at the age of 53. He left a widow and 3 sons.

MilitaryAwards



References

Notes

Bibliography

  • Braham, John Randall Daniel. Night Fighter. New York: Norton, 1962. 255 p., LCCN 62-007967 (1st US edition)
    • Braham, John Randall Daniel. Night Fighter. New York: Bantam Books, 1984. ISBN 0-553-24127-3. (Specially illustrated ed.)
  • Braham, John Randall Daniel. Scramble!. London: William Kimber, 1985. ISBN 0-7183-0587-6. (New ed.)
  • Price, Dr. Alfred. Spitfire Mark V Aces, 1941–1945, Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey, 1994. ISBN 1-85532-635-3.
  • Shores, Christopher F. and Clive Williams. Aces High: a Tribute to the most notable fighter pilots of the British and Commonwealth Forces in WWII. London: Grub Street, 1994. ISBN 1-89869-700-0. (New ed.)
  • Spooner, Squadron Leader Tony, DSO, DFC, RAF(Retd.). Night fighter ace. Phoenix Mill, Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1997. ISBN 0-75093-473-5.



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