A man of the world: How life’s path led Edgar Braybrooks everywhere

So, is intelligence work like it seems in films?

“Hardly,” Edgar Braybrooks said.

What about James Bond?

“No, that’s a load of codswallop.”

Mr Braybrooks, of West Albury, turns 100 tomorrow, but the milestone isn’t enough to change the discretion he’s practised over many decades. Even wife Angela, 86, heard little about his long career in British intelligence during their 58 years, so far, of marriage.

“We just knew he was in the police and special branch,” she said.

“If it was dangerous, I was never told.”

From Palestine to India, Singapore, Indonesia, Austria, Malaya, Nigeria, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, Mr Braybrooks worked across the world before the couple moved to Australia in 1974. Of course their two children came too – John, now in Canberra, and Susan, better known as Member for Farrer Sussan Ley (the MP added another ‘s’).

Only a year earlier, the Braybrooks had visited Buckingham Palace for Mr Braybrooks to be awarded his MBE by the Queen for services to British interests in the Persian Gulf.

Born in Norwich, Norfolk, on January 17, 1918, Mr Braybrooks was the youngest of five children and enjoyed his regular scout camps.

“I wasn’t too brilliant at school, I think we’ll gloss over that,” he said with a chuckle.

At 19, he applied to join the police in England and Palestine and opted for the latter when accepted into both.

“I always wanted to travel and see the world and I always thought I’d like to join the police force,” he said.

But at this time, 1938-1942, keeping the peace in Palestine “was not an easy matter”.

“On one occasion we were ambushed and exchanged fire with Arab rebels,” Mr Braybrooks said. 

Family tragedy – two pilot brothers killed in 1941 and his mother also dying around the same time – saw him return to England and later join the British Army Intelligence Corps. After various postings, he left the army and became an intelligence officer during the Cold War.

Mr Braybrooks met nurse Angela Weston in England and the couple married in 1960 in Nigeria. The growing family then spent about 11 years in the Persian Gulf before immigrating to Australia, where he again worked in intelligence in Canberra. Hobby farms, horses and gardening have also been features of the Braybrooks’ life.

When pressed, Mr Braybrooks recalled once chasing an armed man through Arab villages alone and needing to use some force to bring the offender in.

But in general the grandfather of five wasn’t inclined to elaborate about his longtime work.

“It’s not so tangible as some,” he said.