Who's Who - Arthur Roy Brown
Born on 23 December 1893 in Carleton Place, Ontario the son of a flour mill and power company owner, Brown was one of five children. Following a high school education Brown studied at business school in order to take his place running the family businesses. This was followed by a course at Victoria High School in Edmonton from 1913-15 so as to gain his high school matriculation.
A somewhat shy but intelligent man Brown enlisted in 1915 as an Officer Cadet at the Army Officers' Training Corps. Even at this early stage Brown was fascinated by the aerial war; it was a more attractive draw than trench warfare.
Although Brown expressed interest in joining the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) his father, concerned at the high casualty rate for RFC pilots, declined Brown's request for elementary flying school lessons. Service with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was deemed a potentially safer avenue, since these airmen were less likely to routinely undertake combat missions, instead flying coastal patrols for much of the time.
Consequently Brown, along with three friends, applied to join the RNAS upon the former completing his schooling at Edmonton. Finding that they needed Aero certificates before they could join the RNAS they embarked upon flying lessons conducted at the Wright Brothers school in Dayton, Ohio (the Toronto flying school being full).
On 13 November 1915 Brown emerged from training with his pilot's certificate after just six hours air time. Joining the RNAS in Ottawa along with his friends he was appointed Temporary Probationary Flight Sub-Lieutenant. Brown set sail for England on 22 November 1915 and upon his arrival Brown underwent further training at Chingford.
On 2 May 1916 Brown crashed his AVRO 504 aircraft, initially emerging apparently unscathed. It was only on the following morning that he experienced severe back pain; upon investigation it was revealed that he had broken one of his vertebrae. In consequence Brown spent the next two months recuperating in hospital.
In September 1916 Brown, by now recovered, was posted to Eastchurch Gunnery School and was sent for advanced training at Cranwell some four months later.
In March 1917 Brown was given a posting to No. 9 Naval Squadron and given a Sopwith Pup with which he was tasked with Belgian coastal patrols. The squadron's chief task was the defence of the North Sea fleet and in driving off German seaplanes as well occasional bombing raids.
However in April 1917 part of the Squadron - B Flight, which included Brown - was attached to the RFC to assist during the Battle of Arras. In the event Brown was taken ill until June, missing what the RFC came to call "Bloody April", when the new German aircraft, the Albatross DIII, wreaked havoc among Allied aircraft.
Once recovered from his illness Brown was posted to No. 11 Naval Squadron, primarily a training squadron. His stay there was initially brief however; the following month, July 1917, brought him a posting to No. 4 Naval Squadron before he was moved back to No. 11 Naval Squadron later the same month, flying a variety of Sopwith aircraft (including Pups, Triplanes and Camels).
Brown finally opened his aerial score on 17 July 1917 when, flying a Sopwith Pup on patrol, he brought down a German Albatross DIII south-east of Nieuport.
Appointed Flight Lieutenant Brown brought down up to three further enemy aircraft while with No. 11 Naval Squadron; however, since these were not confirmed 'kills' they were not officially credited to Brown and did not form part of his official tally.
With the disbandment of No. 11 Naval Squadron in mid-August 1917 Brown returned to No. 9 Naval Squadron, his original squadron, by now flying Sopwith Camels. All of Brown's nine remaining air successes were achieved with this aircraft.
On 6 October 1917 Brown was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in recognition of his aerial success and in particular for coming to the aid of a lone Allied pilot under fire from four German Albatrosses. Even though his own aircraft's guns had jammed he raced to the pilot's aid, forcing the German aircraft to scatter as he flew directly through them: a remarkable act of courage. Ten days following the award of his DFC Brown was promoted to Acting Flight Commander.
With the amalgamation of the RFC and the RNAS into the new Royal Air Force (RAF) at the start of April 1918 Brown's Squadron was renamed 209 Squadron. He was also appointed Captain under the new structure and the squadron posted to the Somme area. As a consequence of the initial sweeping success of the German spring advance of 1918 209 Squadron occupied no fewer than six different aerodromes between 20-29 March 1918, each time being driven further back by continued German successes.
Flying an increasing number of high-tension missions each day, Brown scored kills on 11 and 12 April in the Somme region. This brought his tally to nine. His tenth and final success came some nine days later on the morning of 21 April 1918: his victim was Richthofen.
In the most famous aerial battle of the war Brown's flight fought against the seemingly overwhelming might of Jasta 11 - the so-called 'Circus' led by von Richthofen. Brown was officially credited with shooting down von Richthofen's red Fokker DR.I, although controversy continues to the present day as to the real source of the credit. Australian Lewis gunners of 14th Artillery Brigade laid claim for bringing Richthofen down (among others). Click here to view present day photographs and film footage of the crash site.
Rewarded for his efforts that morning Brown was given a Bar to his DFC and widely praised for claiming the scalp of the war's highest scoring fighter pilot: Richthofen had amassed 80 aerial victories.
Upon viewing Richthofen's body on the following day Brown wrote that "there was a lump in my throat. If he had been my dearest friend, I could not have felt greater sorrow". He left the RAF in the aftermath of the armistice (in 1919) and returned to his homeland to work as an accountant. He also founded a small airline and worked for a while as editor of Canadian Aviation.
Attempting to re-enlist with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) with the advent of the Second World War, Brown's application was refused. He instead entered politics losing an election for the Ontario legislature in 1943.
Brown died on 9 March 1944 in Stouffville, Ontario shortly after posing for a photograph with a current prominent air ace George Beurling. He was aged 50.
Prevalent dysentery among Allied soldiers in Gallipoli came to be referred to as "the Gallipoli gallop".
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