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Gallantry medals of Battle of Britain ace could fetch £200,000

Gallantry medals of Battle of Britain ace who downed 16 Nazi aircraft and smoked cigarettes from his cockpit window while flying home from a dog fight could fetch £200,000 at auction

  • Air Commodore Peter Malam Brothers destroyed 16 enemy aircraft during WWII 
  • Was veteran of Battle of France, the Battle of Britain, the Dieppe raid and D-Day
  • Most of his ‘kills’ came in 1940 when he served as one of the ‘The Few’
  • Air Commodore Brothers was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice
  • Also received the Distinguished Service Order and the CBE for bravery  

The gallantry medals awarded to one of the RAF’s finest Battle of Britain aces are being sold by his family for £200,000.

Air Commodore Peter Malam Brothers destroyed 16 enemy aircraft during the Second World War.

He was a veteran of the Battle of France, the Battle of Britain, the Dieppe raid and D-Day. 

In his RAF log books, which are also being sold, he drew red swastikas to mark all his ‘kills’ and wrote the words ‘Good Show’ to describe the 1944 Normandy invasion.

Most of his ‘kills’ came in 1940 when he served as one of the ‘The Few’ who defeated the German Luftwaffe and stopped Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Britain. 

The then Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill famously referred to the pilots in a speech in which he uttered the words, ‘Never was so much owed by so many to so few.’ 

Air Commodore Brothers was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice, the Distinguished Service Order and the CBE for bravery, skill and service to the RAF.  

The ace was even known to unwind from a dog fight by sliding his cockpit canopy back and lighting a cigarette as he flew home. 


The gallantry medals awarded to one of the RAF’s finest Battle of Britain aces are being sold by his family for £200,000. Air Commodore Peter Malam Brothers destroyed 16 enemy aircraft during the Second World War

Air Commodore Brothers flew up to four sorties a day in his Hurricane to repel enemy bomber and fighter planes from attacking airfields in southern England.

On one occasion he found himself heavily outnumbered by Messerschmitt 109s but still broke away to shoot down a Dornier 215 bomber.

After lunch he went up again and destroyed a Junkers 88 bomber. 

In 1942, Air Commodore Brothers flew four sorties in support of the disastrous Dieppe raid in northern France.

During the ill-fated invasion, several RAF fighter planes were shot down by friendly fire from Royal Navy ships.

It was thanks to Air Commodore Brothers’ observations at Dieppe that ‘friendly’ stripes were later painted underneath Allied aircraft so the same mistake could not be repeated for D-Day.

Air Commodore Brothers was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice, the Distinguished Service Order and the CBE for her bravery, skill and service to the RAF. Pictured: Distinguished Flying Cross with Second Award Bar (left); 1939-1945 Star with Battle of Britain clasp (second from left); Air Crew Europe Star with France and Germany Clasp (third from left and centre); Defence Medal (third from right and second from right), War Medal General Service Medal (right). Top is The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, 2nd type, Military Division, Companion’s (CBE) neck badge

On D-Day, on June 6, 1944, when Allied troops invaded Nazi-occupied France, the air ace was there to support ground troops the Allied armada and flew low over the beaches to protect soldiers.

He and his squadron spotted a German anti-aircraft armoured train heading for the coast and led a low-level attack to put it out of action.

He noted in his logbook the words ‘Operation Overlord’ and wrote: ‘Last night, this morning, Britain + Allied forces set foot on Hitler’s “European Fortress”. 

‘Landings all according to plan with only light opposition + few casualties. 

‘Out of 1,100 British + American a/c (aircraft) only 23 were lost. 4,000 ships taking part + 11,000 aircraft. 

‘Air opposition nil. Bridgehead firmly established + troops pressing on behind Caen. Good show.’ 

His family now feel it is the right time to sell on his medals and five log books and have made them available for sale at Dominic Winter Auctions of Cirencester, Gloucestershire.

His family now feel it is the right time to sell on his medals and five log books (number two pictured) and have made them available for sale at Dominic Winter Auctions of Cirencester, Gloucestershire

On D-Day, on June 6, 1944, when Allied troops invaded Nazi-occupied France, the air ace was there to support ground troops the Allied armada and flew low over the beaches to protect soldiers. He noted in his logbook the words ‘Operation Overlord’ and wrote: ‘Last night, this morning, Britain + Allied forces set foot on Hitler’s “European Fortress”‘

Henry Meadows, medals specialist at the saleroom, said: ‘Air Commodore Brothers was one of finest pilots the RAF has ever seen.

‘He flew from the start of the war all the way through, downing 16 enemy aircraft and damaging others.

‘The medals have come via the family and are hugely desirable for collectors, museums and institutions.

‘Not only was Brothers a brilliant pilot, but during the most difficult time of the Battle of Britain he helped restore the confidence of the young, inexperienced airmen of 257 Squadron which had seen heavy losses.

‘When he and his wingman jointly shot down a bomber he refused to claim the victory and insisted it was his inexperienced colleague who should be credited.

‘Five logbooks including the one with his Battle of Britain victories are also in the lot – he marked his success against the enemy with swastikas.

Another page from one of Air Commodore Brothers’ logbooks shows how he has stuck in newspaper cuttings about operations he was involved in 

‘There really will be huge interest in the sale that also includes his CBE which he was awarded in 1964.

‘Without Pete Brothers and his fellow flyers who Churchill famously referred to as The Few, the outcome of the war would have been very different.’

Andy Saunders, a Battle of Britain historian, said: ‘Peter Brothers was a remarkable man with an exceptionally distinguished RAF career.

The D-Day Normandy landings that turned the Second World War in the Allies’ favour 

Operation Overlord saw some 156,000 Allied troops landing in Normandy on June , 1944.

It is thought as many as 4,400 were killed in an operation Winston Churchill described as ‘undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place’.

The assault was conducted in two phases: an airborne landing of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions on the coast of France commencing at 6.30am.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing. 

Some 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved.

Approximately 10,000 allies were injured or killed, including 6,603 American, of which 2,499 were fatal.

Between 4,000 and 9,000 German troops were killed – and it proved the pivotal moment of the war, in the allied forces’ favour.

‘I was privileged to know him and found him a modest and unassuming man – although he had every reason to be far from modest, given his stellar career from the Battle of France, Britain and beyond – right up to service in the Malayan campaign of the early 1950s.

‘He was a gentleman through-and-through, the very epitome of a Battle of Britain pilot.’

Air Commodore Brothers was born in Prestwich, Greater Manchester in 1917. He learned to fly as a 16-year-old and joined the RAF in 1936 as a pilot in 32 Squadron.

He took part in the Battle of France, downing two Messerschmitt 109s in May 1940.

During the Battle of Britain that followed he flew Hurricanes from Biggin Hill, Kent.

He recalled later that the moment the war ‘became personal’ for him was when the mirror his wife Annette was applying make-up in was shattered by a splinter caused by a German bomb.

Despite the astonishing danger he faced in the air, he was also nearly killed as he slept when a line of enemy bombs landed yards from his bed.

He didn’t even stir and was surprised when he woke in the morning to find craters and spent anti-aircraft shells all around.

By August 1940 he had achieved ‘ace’ status with eight kills and was awarded his first DFC.

The citation for it notes one of his hair-raising dog fights: ‘This officer’s flight encountered about one hundred enemy aircraft. 

He led the flight in attack against them, but before this could be pressed home, he himself was attacked by a number of Messerschmitt 110s.

‘Turning to meet them, he found himself in a stalled position; he spun out of it and immediately sighted and engaged a Dornier 215 which was shot down.. Later in the day he destroyed a Messerschmitt 109.’

He went on to serve in 457 Squadron as acting squadron leader and then 602 Squadron as wing leader

He received a bar for the medal in June 1943 for displaying ‘outstanding keenness and efficiency’ and in November 1944 was awarded the DSO for his ‘courageous, outstanding and brilliant’ leadership.

At the end of the war Brothers he had notched up 875 operational hours and took part in the first Battle of Britain flypast led by the legendary Douglas Bader

Although he left the RAF in 1947 he re-joined two years later.

In March 1950 his bomber squadron was the first to participate in the Malayan Emergency and he finally retired from the RAF in 1973 and set up a consultancy.

He remained an active supporter of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and died in 2008, three years after his wife with whom he had two daughters.

He lived in the village of Eastbury, near Newbury, Berkshire, before his death.

A replica of his 32 Squadron Hurricane stands outside Fighter Command’s former HQ at Bentley Priory, north London.

His medals and log books will be sold on May 20.

The Battle of Britain: Hitler’s failed attempt to crush the RAF

In the summer of 1940, as the Nazi war machine marched its way across Europe and set its sights on Britain, the RAF braced for the worst. 

Young men, in their late teens or early twenties, were trained to fly Spitfires and Hurricanes for the coming Battle for Britain, with others flying Blenheims, Beaufighters and Defiants, becoming the ‘aces’ who would secure the country’s freedom from Hitler’s grasp. 

But Britain’s defiance came at a cost. From an estimated crew of 3,000 pilots, roughly half survived the four-month battle, with 544 Fighter Command pilots and crew among the dead, more than 700 from Bomber Command and almost 300 from Coastal Command falling to secure Britain’s skies. 

The losses were heavy, but the Germans, who thought they could eradicate the RAF in a matter of weeks, lost more. 

2,500 Luftwaffe aircrew were killed in the battle, forcing German Air Command to reconsider how easily Britain would fall to an invading Nazi occupation force. 

The pilots who gave everything in the aerial fight for British freedom were named ‘The Few’, after a speech from Sir Winston Churchill, who said: ‘The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion.

‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’ 

‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’ (pictured: An aerial photograph of Spitfires) 

After the fall of France to the Axis in May 1940, German High Command considered how best to push the fight across the English Channel to take Britain out of the fight.

Up until mid-July the German campaign consisted of relatively small-scale day and night air raids, targeting towns, aerodromes, ports and the aircraft industry.

But the Luftwaffe was at full readiness, ready to ramp up attacks on ships and ports and eliminate the RAF in the air and on the ground.

After the Allies were defeated in western mainland Europe, the German Air Force set up bases near the Channel to more readily take on Britain, hurriedly establishing the infrastructure needed to co-ordinate an aerial conflict with the UK.

As the Battle of Britain begun, the Royal Air Force consistently downed more Axis aircraft than they lost, but British fighters were often overwhelmed by the greater number of enemy aircraft.

Pictured: One of the most iconic images of the summer of 1940 and the fight above Dunkirk, with Squadron 610’s F/Lt Ellis pictured at the head of his section in DW-O, Sgt Arnfield in DW-K and F/O Warner in DW-Q

Fighting in France and Norway had left British squadrons weakened as the time now came to defend the homeland from Nazi occupation, but as the year went on, the RAF’s fighting force increased in strength, with more pilots, aircraft and operational squadrons being made available.

The Luftwaffe started a mounting campaign of daylight bombing raids, targeting strategic targets such as shipping convoys, ports, and airfields – and probing inland to force RAF squadrons to engage in an attempt to exhaust them.

German air units also stepped up night raids across the West, Midlands and East Coast, targeting the aircraft industry with the objective of weakening Britain’s Home Defence system, especially that of Fighter Command, in order to prepare for a full-scale aerial assault in August.

Heavy losses were sustained on both sides.

The main Luftwaffe assault against the RAF, named ‘Adler Tag’ (Eagle Day), was postponed from August 10 to three days later due to poor weather.

Hawker Hurricane planes from No 111 Squadron RAF based at Northolt in flight formation, circa 1940

Pictured: Squadron 610’s fighter pilots, a unit which witnessed some of the most intensive aerial combat in the Second World War (taken at RAF Acklington, in Northumberland, between 17-19 September 1940)

The Germans’ plan was to make RAF Fighter Command abandon south east  England within four days and defeat British aerial forces completely in four weeks.

The Luftwaffe battled ruthlessly in an attempt to exhaust Fighter Command through ceaseless attacks on ground installations, which were moved further inland, with airfields in southern England facing intensive daylight raids while night attacks targeted ports, shipping targets and the aircraft industry.

But despite sustaining heavy damage across the south, Fighter Command continued to push back against the Germans in a series of air battles, which inflicted critical losses upon the enemy, who thought the RAF would have been exhausted by this point.

Both sides feared becoming exhausted through the constant engagements.

Pictured: German plans to invade Britain, if naval and air superiority was achieved

Focus of the German attacks then shifted to London, where the RAF would lose 248 and the Luftwaffe would lose 322 between August 26 and September 6.

By September London had become the primary target of Luftwaffe aggression, with large-scale round-the-clock attacks carried out by large bomber formations with fighter escorts.

German Air Command had still not exhausted the RAF as it had hoped to, and British forces continued to face off against their German counterparts, with Fighter Command pushing back Hitler’s forces, forcing German invasion plans to be postponed.

By October, it had become apparent to the Germans that the RAF was still very much intact, and the Luftwaffe struck against Britain with single-engined modified fighter-bombers, which were hard to catch upon entry and still dangerous on their way out.

By the middle of the month German strategy had pivoted from exhausting the RAF to a ruthless bombing campaign targeting the Government, civilian population and the war economy – with London still the primary target.

But as of November, London became less of a target, with the Battle of Britain morphing into a new conflict – the Blitz.

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