Brian was born on the 10th March 1913 in Wellington, New Zealand. He went to school at St. Patrick’s High School and Marist Brothers in Syney and enlisted in Sydney on the 22th July 1940.
He was a founder member of 457 Squadron and was posted missing after combat with enemy aircraft on on the 26th March 1942. While he was with the Squadron, he had one confirmed, shared, victory.
Thank you Brian and God Bless.
The following is a story told by an Association member, Laurie Daly. He came across the cup refrred to in the story one Saturday morning back in 1993. That afternoon Australia played Germany in a hockey international at Homebush. As the young men lined up, shook hands, and stood tor the national anthems, one couldn’t help but reflect that if Brian Halse had lived in another era, he may have gripped a hockey stick and not the throttle of a Spitfire when he was in the War fighting against Germany.
It stood at the rear of the trophy cabinet at Sutherland District Hockey Club: a tall, tarnished, silver cup with engraving which was difficult to read. But the old pot, the Brian J. Halse Memorial Trophy told a story going back over 70years: the story of a goalkeeper who went to war.
In the 1930s, Brian was a leading goalie in Sydney hockey, making numerous appearances for NSW, and was a member of its Australian championship 1935 team. He kept against visiting sides from India and New Zealand and, in 1936, he won a Sydney premiership with Eastern Suburbs. In 1939, he enjoyed a strong season gaining selection for NSW against Australian Universities, playing this game in the morning and backing up for his club that afternoon. He was rewarded with several stitches to his head in an era when protective gear was very basic. The following week he was East’s best player in its 1-0 loss to Randwick in the club Grand Final. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote, “Randwick would have scored at least six goals, but for the brilliant work of Halse in goal”.
Six days later, Hitler invaded Poland and Australia went to War. Brian, then a 27 year old accountant from Bondi, enlisted in the RAAF. He passed the stiff medical and aptitude tests and after training in Australia and Canada, graduated near the top of his class and was posted as a pilot to a fighter squadron in England.
On Thursday 26th March 1942, twelve Australian Spitfires climbed high over the English countryside and set course for Le Havre on the coast of German occupied France. Second in command of B Flight was FlyingOfficer Brian Halse, now a senior pilot with the RAAF’s 457 Fighter Squadron based at Redhill in Surrey. Their mission that sunny spring morning was to escort RAF bombers undertaking a low level attack on German shipping.
Alerted by radar, the new Focke Wulf 190’s of the Luftwaffe’s crack Geschwader 49 scrambled to intercept the intruders, and soon the Spitfires were locked in combat above the French coast. One of the German fighters spiralled down in flames, but once the bombers had completed their mission the Spitfires had done their job.
Low on fuel and ammunition, the Australians turned for the safety of their Redhill base but more Focke Wulfs arrived to do battle, and high above the English Channel the sky was filled with diving, rolling, weaving aircraft intent on each other’s destruction. One of the Spitfires fell out of the sky in a long death plunge to the waters below. There was no sign of a parachute and the aircraft sank like a stone. At Redhill that morning, Flying Officer Halse failed to return.
In 1948, Eastern Suburbs Hockey Club presented the Brian J. Halse Memorial Trophy to Sydney Hockey for the mos tsuccessful club in the top three grades – The Club Championship Trophy. The detailed inscription on the cup reads in part, “In memory of our former distinguished player…shot down over the English Channel”.
The photo of the letter is a record of Brian’s time with the RAAF. The other one is of a group of aircrew at Redhill. We do not know if Brian is in the photo.
Phil Listemann (Author of the History of 457 Squadron) and David Hamilton
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association