BRAHAM, Wing Commander JRD 'Bob' (1920-1974)
Plaque erected in 2017 by English Heritage at 139 Hendon Way, London NW2 2NA, London Borough of Barnet
Wing Commander J.R.D. 'BOB' BRAHAM 1920-1974 RAF Fighter Pilot lived here as a boy
Wing Commander JRD ‘Bob’ Braham was an RAF pilot during the Second World War. He won more awards for gallantry than any other British serviceman, with a total of seven decorations. His blue plaque marks his former childhood home at 139 Hendon Way in Barnet, London.
John Robert Daniel Braham was born in Holcombe, Somerset and was educated in London and Taunton. His spell at 139 Hendon Way as a young boy in 1931–3 was a transitory one – from his birth until his emigration to Canada 33 years later, Braham lived at 10 different English addresses. But Hendon Way holds more meaning for aviation enthusiasts than most addresses: the English Heritage blue plaque to Amy Johnson can be found nearby at Vernon Court, Hendon Way, and the RAF Museum is also based in Hendon.
Braham left Hendon Way in 1933 to enter boarding school at Taunton. Four years later, he was accepted into the RAF.
By the outbreak of the Second World War Braham had gained his wings. He specialised as a night-fighter pilot and brought down his first plane in August 1940. Twenty-eight others were to follow. This was an unsurpassed number for a night-fighter and one of the highest for any RAF pilot.
Braham, together with his regular navigator William James ‘Sticks’ Gregory, were soon recognised as the most formidable night-fighting combination in the RAF. Braham’s nocturnal prowess was such that in 1942 he was given command of 141 Squadron at Ford, near Chichester, Sussex, and was promoted to wing commander. He was the youngest person ever to hold that rank.
INTRUDER MISSIONS AND CAPTURE
In 1943, as the bomber offensive carried the aerial battle into Germany, Braham and Gregory accompanied the bomber streams and destroyed a number of enemy fighters on intruder missions. In February 1944, after his 20th victory – 19 of them at night – Braham was put in charge of night operations at No.2 Light Bomber Group headquarters, but he still continued to pilot a number of operational flights. By this time, Braham had won each of the Distinguished Service Order and the Distinguished Flying Cross three times over, a unique feat.
However Braham’s continuous active duty finally took its toll, and he fell victim to combat fatigue. His 316 missions came to end when he was downed over Denmark in June 1944 on a daylight sortie. Braham spent the rest of the war in prison camps and, while in transit, narrowly escaped being killed by hostile civilians in early 1945. He was liberated by the British near Lübeck on 2 May 1945.
During the course of his RAF career he survived 11 hits on his aircraft and 5 crash landings. In 1951 he was awarded his seventh decoration, the Air Force Cross, and he was also awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre and the Order of the Crown. Braham and his family emigrated to Canada in 1952, where he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He died aged 53 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.