Mick Bruckshaw was born on 9th May 1917 and was educated at Bolton School. He went on to study pharmacy at Manchester University and volunteered for the RAF, joining in October 1940. His first solo flight was May 14th 1941 and got his wings on 13th September 1941. He started with 57
Operational Training Unit then 602 squadron flying Spitfires. In January 1942 he was transferred to 274 squadron in North Africa, flying Hurricanes. His first operational scramble was
on February 28th and in April, whilst engine testing, got “jumped” by a 109F, receiving bullet splinters in his arm and face. (“Sgt Eagle dealt with the 109!”)
By June, the squadron was
constantly involved in bombing missions after the German Panzer breakthrough had occurred and by October, the Battle of El Alemain, the turning point of the Middle Eastern campaign and possibly the whole war. By December 1942 Mick had flown 123 sorties.
92 squadron was at the forefront of fighter action in North Africa and there was intense combat. On the 17th March, Mick was involved on a sortie along with Flight Commander Neville Duke and F/O Paul Brickhill, where twelve aircraft encountered 12 Me 109’s fighter bombers, with a cover of six Me 109’s and three Macchi 202’s. A Macchi 202 scored hits on Paul Brickhill’s mainplane, which exploded his ammunition and he was forced to bail out over enemy occupied Tunisia. Paul Brickhill ended up in Stalag Luft III where he was involved with a mass escape. After the war he wrote “The Great Escape, Reach for the Sky and the Dam Busters.” This particular incident unknowingly provided the platform that gave a dynamic boost to the British Film Industry in the early 1960’s.
The Hurricanes squadrons were starting to be held back for a more defensive role about this time, being outclassed as fighters by the 109’s. Tripoli was occupied on 23rd January 1943 and Mick was transferred to 92 squadron, along with Pilot Officer Paul Brickhill.
With the tide of war turning, March and April saw fierce combat where the squadron was involved in outstanding action with SAAF Kittyhawks culminating with the announcement on 19th April, 96 enemy planes had been destroyed in the past 24 hours.
After completing 175 operational sorties, Mick was posted No 73 Operational Training Unit along with Neville Duke1 who became CO. (Duke went onto become the highest scoring fighter pilot in the Mediterranean theatre and then became a household name as a test pilot in the pioneering days of jet engines. This included breaking the world record speed in a Hawker Hunter in 1953.) The operational training was for photographic reconnaissance, which Mick completed to an above average standard. This was quickly followed by a posting to 680 Photo Reconnaissance Unit.
Mick loved flying, particularly Spitfires and marvelled at the speed of the unarmed, light weight reconnaissance plane where you flew alone. He recalled how a Focke Wulf 190 exploded trying to catch him. When the 190’s were first encountered in Africa in March 1943 they would easily pull away from the Mark V Spitfires.
He progressed to flying twin engine planes, Blenheims, Baltimores and Mosquitos based in Nicosia and photographing the campaign in the Mediterranean.
His first Sortie, on 1st March 1944 was a photo reconnaissance over Rhodes, Cos, Leros and Samos in a Mark XI Spitfire lasting 4 hours.
In early April 1944 whilst on takeoff in a Mosquito, an engine failed, resulting in the plane spinning and crashing with circle of flames which Mick had to run through, severely burning his arm. He was in hospital in Heliopolis, Cairo for several weeks, where by coincidence, his medication was almost given to another Bruckshaw, his cousin Morton, also in the RAF, who happened to be in there as well. The near mistake briefly united the two in the strangest of circumstances and Morton commented on being shocked when he saw how badly Mick was injured with burns to his face and arms. The injury effectively finished Mick’s combat action in the war, but during rehabilitation he met his future wife Dorothy, a WREN in Southampton.
Mick was back flying by May the following year and was demobilised in November 1945 and got married in the same month.
He was also particularly keen on cars and was very handy when it came to repairing them. This proved to be very useful in the desert campaign, which ran backwards and forwards across North
us with a very pictorial outlook of his war years.
Africa leaving abandoned equipment. A German staff car was found and started to provide luxury transport for the “beer runs.”This practice became even more sophisticated with use of a captured Heinkel
III for trips to Cairo! He also was fortunate to have a camera during his campaign and has left
After the war, Mick worked as a pharmacist sales representative in Northern Ireland and then ran his own chemist shop in Birmingham, with Dorothy. There were two sons Ian and James.
Mick was forced to retire in 1964, when a mystery illness struck and he developed a limp in his left leg and the paralysis spread to his lower body and confined him to a wheelchair. He was grateful for the support from the RAF with a long period in Headley Court trying to combat the illness. The later prognosis was Multiple Sclerosis and Mick died in December 1970 after a long battle which he quietly persevered with and fought, with Dorothy’s support and nursing. Mick remembered his days in the RAF and in particular 92 squadron with exhilaration, happiness along with sadness. His photographs showed a lot of smiling faces, hunting exploits for fresh meat, bartering in the markets for eggs and wine but some would not be around by the end of the
war, sometimes the next day. When a plane flew over, he would always look up and tell you the type of plane it was. He would look at the clouds and
forecast the weather always with a smile on his face, but beyond all he was a modest man with a wonderful sense of humour, which will always be remembered.
1 Mick’s brother in law, Geoffrey Brown wrote to Neville Duke in 1992 and again is 2002 where he was extremely helpful in identifying and explaining the background to a lot of Mick’s war time photos. Geoffrey produced an extensive album of Mick’s wartime years, with a collection of stories about the squadrons he was involved with. Anyone interested or with more information about these squadrons, contact Mick’s son Jim by e-mail. firstname.lastname@example.org