Peter Brewser

Profile picture for user beachcomber

Member for

9 years

Posts: 249

Last week my father Peter Brewser sadly passed away, I am in the process of writing a memorial booklet for him to be handed to family and friends to remember him. Some may have read some his war time memoires on this site. If you could add any more information that I could add to it I would be grateful. Interestingly I manged to trace one of his trainee pilots from those far off days unfortunately 3 days after he died.

The build up for D-Day
Something is going on – we have been cut off from the rest of the country – no letter, no telephone calls, no travel to inland areas. As if from nowhere came enormous quantities of hardware, vehicles of all kinds, queuing up for mile after miles to embark at Southampton docks. Ducks, D.D. (swimming) tanks crocodile (flame throwing) tanks, fascine tanks, box girder bridge tanks, flail tanks, interspersed with every conceivable type of vehicle. Every clump of trees in the New Forest was used to camouflage the presence of this hoard. Eventually we heard –the invasion had started. We were diverted from our studies to put up marquees to hold prisoners when they arrived but they kept being blown down, so we abandoned these attempts. Why anyone would expect prisoners to stay in a marquee is a mystery but there was a lot of mystery to that day as we subsequently learned. When they arrived they looked a lot of grey miserable men not at all the master race of legend.

Back to our studies. It is amusing that at 18 I was expected to master astro navigation, mathematics to inter BSc, the internal combustion engine, strip and reassemble a variety of weapons in the dark, English and problem solving and a host of other things, and now I am retired, am considered incapable of anything.

After the war I was offered a return to University paid for by the government presumably to Maths and turned it down. I must have known intuitively even then that there is a price to pay for advanced academic achievement. Most mathematicians are really only parroting what they have been told, advances being made by a handful of geniuses. Some of them are distinctly weird and detached from what passes for reality, suffering from autism or Aspergers (e.g. Turing Newton et. al.)

Magic Moments

“Why is he getting out? We have done a couple of circuits and bumps after being stood down for a weeks because of the snow and now he has undone his straps, got out and removed his parachute – without saying a word”

Slowly it dawns – he expects me to go it alone – my first solo and I am the first on the station to do so. There is nothing for it but to open the throttle and trundle down over the grass field gathering speed until I get to lift off.

What should I do? – level off and get to climbing speed and get to 1000 feet, turn to port 90 degrees go on for a mile or so and turn again 90 degrees. But wait a minute – the field is invisible, there was an early morning mist and with sun shining on it the field became impossible to see. What if I had not turned sufficiently? I wouldn’t be able to find the field again!

Panic, fortunately it came back into view and I made the approach after two more turns. A quick glance at the windsock to find the wind direction I don’t want a cross wind to complicate the landing. Throttle back and glide with just the wind whistling through the rigging wires, have I judged it right – too high and I would have to go around again – too low and I have to open up again or hit the hedge. Seems about right – what did they say – hold off for as long as possible and let if fall out of the air. It seems to float forever with only one occupant it is much lighter. Eventually it flops down and with a giant sigh of relief I taxi back with a growing sense of euphoria.


Later on I was talking to Pete Doe who said that was incredible – you just skimmed the grass with your wheels. Just as well because if I had touched the ground before I lost airspeed it would have bounced uncontrollably and running out of field I would have to go round again. An ignominious end to my first foray.

Much later, in fact over the years I have come to realise that in times of extreme stress your senses go into overdrive, you become hyper-aware and you become much more sensitive and capable of extraordinary things. You can’t keep it up of course – it is too exhausting but it is there to be called upon if needed.

Flying break

As a break in my flying training, and having been drafted to work on Lancaster’s at nearby Hemswell I was in 1944/45 walking around Grantham, when I fell into conversation with a girl, who seemed about my own age.

In the course of the conversation she said “I’m going to be Prime Minister” – not the sort of thing you forget easily. Certainly a preposterous ting – we had never had a female Prime Minister and were not likely to get one, and certainly not one 18 years old.

Well it seems I had been talking to Margaret Roberts, our future Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher.

I doubt whether you remember it, but if you do, you owe it to us all to make known the prescience of which you are capable Maggie!

Meanwhile back on the station my job was towing long trains of bomb trolleys out to the aircraft but on one occasion I was sitting on the train while a mad Welshman driver drove the tractor. He snatched the train, broke one of the trolleys and one of the bombs fell off, bounced on the concrete and headed for a dump of hundreds of other bombs in a bund nearby. It was a 250lb American bomb – notorious for exploding without cause. Time stood still. It is curious how memories stick, but I can still hear the sound of that bomb bouncing interminably across the concrete. Such is the nature of traumatic events – they are burned into your amygdala and will not go away - a device that advertisers use to make you remember their product without you knowing it.

During a lull in activities I thought it might be a good idea to have a trip in a Lancaster - something to tell my grand children! Little did I know they wouldn’t be interested. So they got me aboard one of these gigantic beasts and parked me in the astrodome, trundled out over the North Sea. The whole aircraft trembled violently when they tested the guns and it felt like it would shake the aircraft to bits. Worse was to come as we practised fighter evasion, the rear gunner shouting out ‘down right’ or ‘up left’ and the pilot threw this lumbering beast about like it was a fighter. Talk about G-forces!

I could not help wondering how some of the most intelligent, educated, trained and experienced men in the country could engage in such a self destructive pastime. The chances of surviving a tour were minimal. There must be some force at work that nobody can understand.

Did any on the 4000 who defeated the 5000 Date at Edington Wiltshire in A.D. 878 know that they were central and critical to the survival of English as a language? (Hence the White Horse in commemoration). They just knew they were doing something important.


“Just go and practise loops rolls and spins, both left and right – oh and don’t forget to practise forced landings” --- “How do I do that?” – “on an impulse just throttle back. Keep a constant look out for wind direction and suitable landing sites, select a site and go for it. DON’T CHANGE YOUR MIND!”

Just pootling along at 1500 feet I spotted a Canadian peasant on a tractor, presumably ploughing a field and thought – by the time I get there he’ll have turned and be heading away from me – he won’t hear me coming because of the noise of the tractor so I’ll just glide down and open up the throttle just over his head. Should give him something to talk about in the bar later on.

I never saw the effect – you can’t see anything behind you in a Cornell but I suspect there is now a very jumpy Canadian ploughing the prairies.

Further away in the low flying area was what is deemed to be the longest straight road in the world (87 miles) which also forms the main street of Yorkton Saskatchewan. Seeing a car in the distance coming in my direction, I though I would try to give the driver a memorable day and pointed my aircraft straight at it, hopping over it at the last minute. A dodgy thing to do because the telegraph poles although well set away from the road were a hazard if there were a sudden cross wind. In those day it was easy to become bored with the discipline of organise flying training and it seemed the only way to inject some interest into the whole business.

I suspect however there are a few neurotic Canadians who were happy to see those mad English *******s disappear.

Cross Country
I have just returned from a triangular foray, turning at some remote hamlet on the Canadian prairies, to arrive back at the airfield but it seems the wind must have dropped while I was away. I am several hundred feet too high. I have never been told how to do it but I knew if you need to lose height you needed to sideslip. This means dropping one wing whilst holding the nose up by applying top rudder – a tricky manoeuvre because if you stall at this height it could spin and that would be the end of you. So you keep an eye on the airspeed indicator bearing in mind that as it is skidding through the air the pitot tube may give a false reading. Anyway it works like a charm. The fuselage blankets the airflow over the wing and it loses height fast.

Only trouble is someone has just fired a red Verey cartridge from the caravan parked at the end of the runway. This is to tell me I am coming in ‘piggy back’ and someone else is trying to land at the same time. The problem is you can’t see behind or underneath you in a Cornell so you have no idea where they are. The drill is to open up the throttle; fly straight and level for 15 seconds then turn away and hope you can see them. But I never did, so I will never know whether I escaped a collision or whether it was a false alarm.

Blind Flying
‘Right – up with the hood’. This is going to be my test of blind flying on instruments only. It sure is dark in here – the only think I can see is the fluorescent glow of the needles of he various instruments – airspeed indictor, altimeter, gyro compass, turn and bank indicator, rev counter, oil pressure gauge.

‘I am going to put it into a spin in both directions – get it out of the spin’. He stalls it and it spins but the only way of telling whether it is clockwise or anti-clockwise is the turn and bank indicator where the top and bottom needles go in opposite directions. It illustrates how flying by the seat of the pants does not work – you have to rely on the instruments to tell you such as would be the case in cloud or in the dark. How many people got killed unable to get out of the spin in time before hitting the ground!

Back on straight and level he is checking my skill in blind flying when suddenly the controls are wrenched out of my hands and we go into a steep dive and turn back. It turns out that he was having a smoke in the back seat, opened the hood to throw out the fag end and the suction had sucked out his maps and he was trying to retrieve them. Not exactly a sensible thing to do when we are sitting on all this 100 octane fuel, but I guess he was so bored with teaching people to fly it was one way of passing the time.

The Bomb

They have just dropped the bomb. Everyone is waiting to see if the boneheaded Japanese would give in. Eventually they decide they have had enough – ‘the war has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage’ said the mealy mouthed Emperor, unable to accept that they were defeated – well and truly defeated – so all training stopped within an hour. Everybody went wild with delight – cars driving round all night tooting their horns. We for our part festooned the whole camp with toilet paper – it was the only way we had for expressing our overwhelming relief, knowing only too well what the losses would be in storming the Japanese mainland (estimated at 3 million).

So we stopped flying for 2 weeks but then they decided we might as well finish our course so we continued. However, so highly keyed up had we been that even this short period was enough to take the edge off our performance. So much than in my final test, amongst other things like instrument blind flying I had to perform a roll off the top. This involves going up to 5000 feet, checking there is nothing below you and going into an ever tightening turn until, stick fully back, it stalled, and as it juddered you have to put on full top rudder – it flips over incredibly fast and goes into a spin from which you have to go into recovery mode. Only this time I operate the rudder too soon and it would not spin. I am convinced that was why I was categorised as average. So when they asked do you want to continue I thought I would take my chances in the outside world, I arrogantly thought I was better than that.

Anyway some 42 years later I was talking to Colin Rose on the Torquay seafront where we had gone for one of our counselling seminars. He told me he went on with 6 others and the other 5 were all dead, killed by poor maintenance on the Mosquitos as the demob happy erks took their eye off the ball. Even he is now dead from natural causes. It makes me reflect on the way apparently trivial decisions can influence what happens.

The Far East

‘You will be guarding aircraft at jungle crash sites – your first job is a Beaufighter in a remote part of the island’ we get there and no sign of anybody. Did they get out or has somebody taken the bodies? Nothing worth saving but I did ponder on the fact that it could be one I built in my days at Bristol a year earlier. How ironic if it was.

Next job-fly down to Timor and recover the remains of the Eastern Monarch known as the admirals barge which had run off the end of the runway. First stop Batavia (now known as Jakarta, on the island of Java) where we had a little light entertainment in the Black Cat and my first taste of Eastern hospitality. Took off and droned on for hour after hour over Java, I happened to glance out of the windscreen and saw this enormous conical volcano several miles ahead and we were headed straight for it. Surely the pilot must see it. Slowly realised that both the pilot and co-pilot were sound asleep with the aircraft on autopilot. ‘Excuse me but don’t you think we should take avoiding action’ which we eventually did but looking down inside this (hopefully) extinct volcano were three beautiful lakes each of a different colour. We stopped off in Sourabaija and then on to Kupang where we could see the monthly mail boat approaching the island. Just about the most isolated and primitive part of the world with no amenities.

We set about stripping the parts out of the Dakota and came to realise we had no means of weighing them so we wouldn’t know if we were overloading our Dakota, so somebody suggested we used a bucket of water which weighs 10lb. for every gallon and hung everything on a primitive scales, calculating the weight by measuring the arms of the scales. Having removed the bulk of detachable items and loaded them into our Dakota we towed the stripped shell to the other side of the airfield, splashed petrol over the wing and with the petrol cap off the pilot fired a Verey cartridge from about 75 yards away. To our utter amazement it went straight into the filler cap – not bounced in – straight in and failed to ignite the petrol!

The take off was problematic – with all the extra weight we may not have enough runway but it did eventually stagger into the air, but an awful smell permeated the aircraft. With all the tension I thought someone had done something in their pants but apparently the Elsan had tipped over, spewing its contents into the fuselage. So we flew back to Seletar crouched down over all the junk from the Eastern Monarch.

I never got to find out why we had to get all this rubbish back to Singapore – I think it had to do with lend-lease where the Americans lent us things provided we return them after hostilities ceased.

Back Home

Working as a Methods Engineer at DeHavilland in Christchurch I had the job of engineering the navigator’s hatch for production. One of the requirements was that they should all be interchangeable across all 75 aircraft. This meant creating a red master and hawking it around all the aircraft to achieve a reasonable fit. However after many such it became apparent that a potential problem existed. When allowed to fall it created very high pressure in the damper cylinder, which also acted as the ejector mechanism for the Martin Baker seat. So high in fact the cartridges when fired could not operate the over centred latches.
I pointed this out to the designers who completely ignored it, but having been a pilot I knew how critical it is soon after takeoff if something goes wrong to be able to get out FAST. A few months later over the Sahara an eagle flew into the air intake pierced the bag tank and they needed to abandon the kite. Suddenly they wanted to know what I had been trying to tell them for the past 18 months. The solution was to drill a “0005 hole in the piston to allow the pressure to leak away.

I realised that if you have spent 18 months designing something you don’t enjoy somebody, especially a lowly engineer, telling you that there is something wrong with your precious design. Couple with a paucity of imagination and experience able to envisage what could go wrong under certain rare circumstances meant that inevitably that rare circumstance did eventually occur with a very costly outcome.

The number of things that have gone wrong over the years due to such human failings; over optimism, selective blindness, losing the big picture in morass of insignificant detail, the me-tooism of thinking in big business etc. etc. means that somebody with imagination and sensitivity should be overseeing what is going on. Not a lot of it about!!

I have alot of pictures to go with these stories
Regards beachcomber

Original post

Member for

13 years 9 months

Posts: 409

Sorry to hear abut your loss mate, but thanks for posting that - very interesting.

Member for

16 years 4 months

Posts: 6,605

:) Sorry for your loss but what a fantastic set of memories and a great tribute.Keep them coming :)

Member for

13 years 9 months

Posts: 409

Aye, any more you can post? Please do share.

Member for

15 years

Posts: 5,196

My thought echo others...sorry for your loss and thanx for sharing

Profile picture for user beachcomber

Member for

9 years

Posts: 249


Just thought I would post the RAF/Flying part of the booklet with the relevant pictures which I discovered along with his time line for the period. I managed to contact one of his buddies Peter Doe who is mentioned in the text. It's saved as a pdf I've down sampled for portability.


Profile picture for user inkworm

Member for

9 years 11 months

Posts: 1,259

Very sorry to hear of your loss but the leaflet looks like a fitting tribute, lovingly created with some very interesting photos.