Sergeant James William Brotherston (1149550) served in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve during World War Two. Born on 5th February 1915, he was the son of James Alexander Brotherston and Minnie Brotherston (née Coutts) of 47 Glentane Street, Belfast, Co. Antrim.
James senior was a draughtsman in the Workman Clark Shipyard and the family would later move to 6 Ravenhill Park Gardens, Belfast, Co. Antrim. The couple also had two other sons, Alexander Coutts Brotherston and Brian Brotherston, who served in the Merchant Navy, and the Royal Air Force respectively.
At the age of 10 years old, James attended Campbell College, Belfast, Co. Antrim and after leaving in 1932, he took a job with Harland and Wolff in the city. James was a gifted sportsman who was a member of Cooke Rugby Football Club, Donegall Square Tennis and Badminton Club, Ormeau Golf Club, and most notably, the Harlandic Wolves ice hockey team who won the Gaston Cup in 1940.
While many sporting activities took a break during wartime, this allowed families such as the Brotherstons to contribute to the war effort. Minnie was one of many women who contributed to raising funds for war planes in 1940. The following year, James’ ice hockey team held a charity concert to assist with raising funds for the war effort.
Brotherston in the RAF
On the outbreak of war, he joined Belvoir Park Home Guard. In January 1941, he joined Queen’s University Air Squadron. He received basic training there before leaving for Canada to train as a pilot. There, he received his wings in July 1942.
On his return to the UK, he joined RAF No. 2 Flying Instructor School at RAF Montrose, Angus, Scotland. He died on Tuesday 8th December 1942 aged 27 years old as a result of an accident while on active service in Scotland. While on a training flight, James’ plane came down at Laurencekirk on the approach to RAF Montrose.
James William Brotherston’s grave is in Section K, Grave 455 of Knockbreda Cemetery, Belfast, Co. Antrim. A funeral took place took place on Saturday 12th December 1942. Distinguished guests paid their respects from all his sporting clubs, as well as Commander Miles Villiers Delap DFC of Queen’s University Air Squadron. Family friend Fred Thompson MP also attended. Brotherston’s coffin was draped in a union flag supplied by the commanding officer of his air base in Scotland. Reverend WA Megaw and Reverend A Holland officiated at the ceremony.