Flight Sgt. Hubert Brooks was posted to 419 squadron in February of 1942. It was a month of many operational stand downs and missions scrubbed for various reasons. F/Sgt. Brooks’ second month at 419 found the squadron going through a series of training or re-training for the crews on the Wellington III (X.3467). Although these training orders could also include what was termed “milk runs”, usually dropping “Nickels” over France, these leaflet runs if they were carried out are not recorded in squadron Ops Logs.
The night of April 8, 1942 found F/S Brooks and his fellow crewmen on a mission to Hamburg; together,
with the exception of F/Sgt. McWilliam replacing F/Sgt. Barbour as 2nd pilot, they had completed a successful
bombing operation on Le Havre three nights earlier. This mission to Hamburg was not to be a repeat of that
As the Wellington was initiating its run into Hamburg, both engines caught fire and the aircrew was forced
to immediately parachute from the plane. As it would turn out, all of the aircrew made it safely to the
ground, with the tragic exception of the rear gunner, P/O Howard, whose parachute had apparently jammed
in the rear escape hatch which caused Howard to ride down to his death in the burning bomber.
Brooks landed in a field close to a farmhouse about two miles north of Oldenburg (Germany). On landing,
he came down heavily on his left leg and his parachute pack landed even more heavily on his head with one
of the buckles opened a gash in his skull which started to bleed profusely. The time was approximately one
A.M. on the 9th of April 1942. Brooks started walking and by dawn made it to the outskirts of Leer (located
in the northwestern part of Germany by the Dutch border). His injuries prevented him from making further
progress so he approached a farmhouse looking for help. Unfortunately the farmer was German who immediately
notified the police. By eight o'clock that on the morning of April 9th, 1942 Brooks was a prisoner of war.
Brooks was brought to the Police H.Q. and then to the German Air Force airfield in Oldenburg where he
discovered the entire surviving crew had also been captured. Brooks and the crew were each interrogated
for about 1 hour.
Brooks was first sent to Dulag Luft, near Frankfurt A/M, and then sent to Stalag VIII B, Lamsdorf, Silesia.
This led to a series of three escapes from his captivity. Escapes that brought threats of death and beatings
as a way of making an example of Brooks to anyone else that had thoughts of escaping. The beatings and days
spent in solitary confinement in no way seemed to deter this man from being free and a nuisance to his German
The events that occurred during these escape attempts were like those of a work of fiction, but were real
events in the life of an extraordinary personality. Interwoven in these escapes were identity switches,
escapes into stormy nights sneaking past patrolling guards, cross country hide and seek with authorities,
being turned in by pro-German citizens to the Gestapo. And this is only part of the ordeals Brooks
encountered on his first escape.
With the third successful escape, Brooks became the first member of 419 Squadron to escape from captivity.
(reference: BEWARE THE MOOSE! By Flight Lieutenant A.P. Heathcote; Air Historical Branch)
Brooks made his way to Poland and in May 1943 joined the Armia Krajowa (A.K.) partisans, the Polish
Underground Army. Operating with the A.K. in an area south of Cracow in the Carpathian Mountains Brooks
was eventually promoted to 2nd lieutenant and put in command of a platoon group of 40 men.
For approximately 2 years, until February 1945, Brooks evaded re–capture and was engaged in active
guerilla warfare against the German army of occupation in southern Poland. As a result of his insurgency
activities against the enemy Brooks had a price put on his head by the Germans which would have resulted
in summary execution if captured. Brooks was liberated by the Russian Army and returned to the United
Kingdom in March 1945 via Lwow, Kiev, Odessa and Cairo.
For services rendered prior to and subsequent to his escape from
Germany, Brooks was awarded the Military Cross (M.C.) (the Military Cross was normally an Army medal - Brooks
was one of the five members of the R.C.A.F. awarded the Military Cross in World War II) (Brooks’ M.C. citation
was the longest of anyone in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WW2).
For his activities in the Polish Underground Movement (A.K.) Brooks was awarded the Polish Cross of Valour
and the Polish Cross of Merit with Swords.
In addition, Brooks was also mentioned in dispatches.
Brooks’ initial training, time with 419 squadron, his capture,
his escapes, his evasion and underground work with the
Polish A.K., his liberation by the Russian Army,
his post-war time with Missing Research & Enquiry Service
(MRES) looking for "missing presumed dead" airmen in Denmark,
Norway and the American zone of Germany, his time with the
1948 World and Olympic Hockey Champions the RCAF Flyers also
being honoured as the Winter Olympic Flag Bearer for Canada
and much more is all recorded in the web site
BROOKS, F/L Hubert (J94368) - Military Cross
On 8th April 1942, Flight Lieutenant Brooks was navigator/bomb aimer of a Wellington aircraft,
detailed to attack Hamburg. Prior to reaching the target, the aircraft caught fire and had to be abandoned.
Flight Lieutenant Brooks landed near Oldenburg. Despite an injury to his knee, he disposed of his parachute
and attempted to evade capture. Eventually his injuries caused so much pain that he was compelled to seek
assistance and in doing so, was handed over to the German authorities. He was taken to a prisoner of war
camp at Lamsdork on 16th April 1942, and remained there till 10th May 1943. During this time, Flight Lieutenant
Brooks made two unsuccessful attempts to escape and finally in May 1943, he succeeded in getting away to join
Polish partisans with whom he remained until liberated by Russian forces in January 1945. The first escape
entailed cutting the barbed wire on the hut window and also the wire of a double fence, brilliantly lighted
and patrolled by guards. Flight Lieutenant Brooks and a companion succeeded in doing this and were
travelling towards Gracow, moving by night and existing on food saved from Red Cross parcels, when
they were recaptured owing to information given by pro-German Poles. After a long interrogation,
Flight Lieutenant Brooks was placed in solitary confinement for fourteen days and, when this was over,
had to go to hospital as his feet had been badly blistered. On 10th September 1942, Flight Lieutenant
Brooks made his second bid for freedom, escaping this time with five other prisoners from the top story
of a building despite the armed guard on the ground floor. He walked to Lunenburg and successfully
concealed himself on a train to Vienna where he was again arrested. While en route to another prisoner
of war camp, Flight Lieutenant Brooks was confined in a dug-out for eight days and was severely beaten
by a German non-commissioned officer for trying to escape. On arrival at the camp, he was put in
solitary confinement for fourteen days. Finally in November 1942, Flight Lieutenant Brooks was sent to work at a sawmill at Tost. While there he planned an escape but details
became known to the Germans and he was warned that he would be shot if any attempt was made. Undeterred,
this officer revised his plans. He made several useful contacts with Poles outside the camp and obtained
civilian clothing and maps. On 10th May 1943, he and a sergeant cut through the window bars and escaped.
They successfully evaded all efforts to capture them and reached Czectochowa where they remained hidden
till January 1945. Throughout the whole period, Flight Lieutenant Brooks showed great determination.
He was not dismayed, or deterred from attempting to escape by punishments or hardships and even when he
knew he was a marked man, he continued to make further plans and efforts to escape.
BROOKS, P/O Hubert (J94368) - Mention in Despatches - No.419 Squadron - Award effective 1 January 1946 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 155/46 dated 15 February 1946.
NOTE: On 27 April 1945 at St.Hubert he applied for operational wings. AFHQ examined the request and declined to grant them. The DHist card carried notation, "Has undoubtedly done commendable work in the line of duty but unfortunately he has insufficient number of air operations against the enemy."
Clipping in file notes he had lived eight years in Ottawa (to age of 12) before going to Montreal. Described by his sister Doris as "too full of the devil for the Nazis to hold."