Dambuster of the Day No. 9: Charles Brennan

brennan b3085

Charles Brennan’s logbook and wedding photo are in the RAF Museum in Hendon. He married his wife, Freda Pemberton, in 1940. [Pic: RAF Museum]

Sgt C Brennan
Flight engineer
Lancaster serial number: ED925/G
Call sign: AJ-M
First wave. Second aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Aircraft hit by flak. Mine dropped late and bounced over dam. Aircraft crashed on far side of dam.

Canadian Charles Brennan had been John Hopgood’s regular flight engineer in the latter part of his tour of operations on 106 Squadron, and the pair obviously got on well together.  So when Hopgood was putting together a new crew at 617 Squadron he brought Brennan in.
Brennan was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in February 1916. He moved to England in 1928 and joined the RAF at the outset of the war. After training he worked as ground crew. When the opportunity came for skilled ground crew to qualify as flight engineers for the heavy bombers, he took the chance, like many other enthusiastic young men who were keen to fly. His course at No 4 School of Technical Training at RAF St Athan finished in the early summer of 1942, and he joined 106 Squadron in June. He joined Hopgood’s crew, and flew with him for the first time on 14 August. The following day was his first operation, with a trip to Dusseldorf. He carried on with this crew until Hopgood’s tour ended, in October 1942.
By then, Brennan had flown on 16 operations but instead of being assigned to another crew, he was posted to 1660 Conversion Unit as a trainer. He flew on many training flights between 25 November 1942 and 26 March 1943 , usually with Flt Lt R J Churcher DFC as his pilot.
When Hopgood was called up by Gibson, he must have contacted Brennan and asked him to rejoin him. As Brennan was only halfway through a tour, he probably thought it a good opportunity to finish it with a pilot he knew and trusted.
One can only wonder as to what conversation passed between Brennan and Hopgood when the young pilot was injured on the fateful journey to the dams. He would have needed all his flight engineering skill to help the pilot keep the aircraft aloft, as one of the engines was damaged and running on reduced revs. Tony Burcher recalls that he was a ‘calm chap’, so also having to hold a handkerchief over Hopgood’s head wound may not have completely fazed him.
When they were hit again, as they attacked the Möhne Dam, the pair must have realised that they would never get off the flight deck themselves, and that all they could do was to give as many of their colleagues as possible the chance to escape. They were both remarkable men.
Hopgood, Brennan, Earnshaw, Minchin and Gregory are buried together in Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.

More about Brennan online:
Canadian Virtual War Memorial entry
Second World War Book of Remembrance
Logbook details
Commonwealth War Graves Commission listing

KIA 17 May 1943
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.

Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.