Sergeant Brooks, Eric

Craig Robertson

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Full NameEric Hamilton Brooks
Nickname
Number2366227
RankSergeant
Nationality
Date of Birth10.07.1908 Addlestone, Surrey
Date of Death08.12.2005 (Aged 97)
Gravesite
FatherRichard Henry Brooks
MotherMartha Ellen Davy
Enlisted27.02.1941 Catterick, Yorkshire
Military3 brothers, 2 sisters
Royal Corps of Signals 1924
discharged due ill health

Royal Corps of Signals (Sigmn 2366227)
Long Range Desert Group 1942
L Det SAS 1942
1 SAS 1942-43
Popski's Private Army September 1943 - August 1945 Cpl - Sgt) (Blitz Patrol)
Married1932 Rose (dissolved) 1 daughter
04.1949 Kathleen Sophia Allcock (born 1910, died 1993) 1 daughter
Further Informationpostwar employed by P.O. International Telex Exchange, London
retired 1973 to Ashford, Middlesex

following residencies
43 The Alders,Hanworth,Middlesex 1940s
24 Vanbrugh Fields,Blackheath,London SE3 1951
214 Gipsy Road,Welling,Kent DA16 1JH early 1990s
130B Feltham Hill Road,Ashford,Middlesex 1995

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Telegraph Obituary:

Eric Brooks, who has died aged 97, commanded the signals section in Popski's Private Army in the Italian campaign.

On the outbreak of the Second World War, Brooks was welcomed back to the Royal Corps of Signals, with which he had served on first enlisting in the Army. He was posted to Cairo where he joined the clandestine Irregular Wireless Operators' School.

Refusing to work out of uniform, Brooks was transferred as a signaller to the Long Range Desert Group, operating in the Libyan desert behind enemy lines.

When his truck was blown up during a raid, he evaded capture by walking many miles back to base. He was so badly dehydrated that his vocal chords shrivelled, leaving him with a gravelly voice for the rest of his life.

Brooks was an exceptional signals operator who could coax wireless transmissions over very long distances from sets with a range of no more than 20 miles.

He was recruited to L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade, the unit from which 1 SAS was later formed, by Lt-Col David Stirling and took part in raids on Axis airfields and petrol dumps.

At the end of the campaign in North Africa, Brooks was stranded in his wireless truck at M'Saken, when he was found and recruited by Lt-Col Vladimir Peniakoff. Born in Belgium of Russian parentage, Peniakoff, known as "Popski", was in command of No 1 Demolition Squadron.

The squadron became known as Popski's Private Army (PPA) and worked with the Arabs on intelligence-gathering and raiding operations in enemy-occupied territory.

"The arrangement with Brooks was private," Popski said afterwards, " but he stayed with us until the end of the war."

Brooks accompanied PPA to Italy and took part in the landings at Taranto in September 1943. PPA was initially involved in diversionary activities, but was later transformed from a loose, two-patrol unit into an organised raiding force equipped for special operations.

Each patrolman had to be a good navigator and motor mechanic, a competent machine-gunner, demolition expert and resourceful fighter. Brooks, then a sergeant, and a comrade, Sergeant Beautyman, were described by their commanders as wireless geniuses.

Despite operating in primitive and often dangerous conditions, they constructed and operated the WT system, trained the patrolmen and carried out secret monitoring of the airwaves.

The PPA Jeep-borne patrols were in action continuously from mid-June until winter 1944. They splashed through rivers, wound their way down gorges and up mountains, skidding on the greasy, rain-soaked sheep tracks, living on the rooftop of Italy as they skirmished northwards, probing for chinks in the German defences.

Near Perugia, Brooks was given command of the Signals Section. At Sant'Appolinare in Classe, near Ravenna, intervention by Popski saved the basilica and its sixth-century mosaics from destruction by the artillery. In autumn 2005 the city of Ravenna sent Brooks a parchment scroll in gratitude for his part in the rescue operation.

In the last phase of the campaign, PPA captured more than 1,300 prisoners, 16 field guns and many smaller weapons. At the end of the war, it was Brooks who handed Popski the signal slip informing him that Germany had surrendered.

Eric Hamilton Brooks, one of eight children, was born on July 10 1908 in the Holly Tree public house at Addlestone, Surrey, where his father was landlord. An idyllic childhood came to an end when his father died and his mother moved to a small cottage.

Young Eric, together with some of his siblings, was removed to Shaftesbury Homes and went to a local school. Aged 13 he helped the family by working in an aircraft factory and caddying on a golf course. Three years later he enlisted in the Army.

Wireless telegraphy interested him, and he went into the Royal Corps of Signals. Long-distance running in mid-winter at Catterick camp brought a lung infection to the Army's notice and he was discharged.

After the end of the war, Brooks accompanied Popski to Belgium and Switzerland on covert diplomacy in an attempt to bring about the abdication of the King of the Belgians. Brooks then went to work for the Post Office, where he was based in the international cable room.

Ostensibly a telegrapher, he was also used in security operations. These included attempts to monitor the signals being sent from the high-powered wireless transmitter that was used by the spies Peter and Helen Kroger, and visits behind the Iron Curtain.

While Brooks was secretary of the Government Wireless Operators' Association there was some acrimony over the merger with the Post Office Workers' Union, and Brooks later admitted that he had bugged the telephones of Dr Charles (later Lord) Hill, the Postmaster-General, and Clive Jenkins, the general secretary of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs.

Brooks retired in 1973. He married first, in 1932 (later dissolved), Rose Freelove. He married secondly, in 1949, Kathleen Alcock, who predeceased him.

Eric Brooks died on December 8, and is survived by a daughter from his first marriage and a daughter from his second.


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