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Roy Brown

Arthur Roy Brown was born in Carleton Place, Ontario on 23 December 1893.

Avro 504KTo assist his father (a prominent local businessman), with the family’s expanding electrical company, he transferred to a business school where he studied accounting. He wanted to continue his business education at university, but wasn’t able to matriculate at his current school. He then moved to Edmonton where he stayed with his Aunt Blanch, and attended Victoria High School from 1913 to 1915.

Although Roy Brown was an officer cadet in the Army Officers’ Training Corps in 1915, he was more interested in the flying services. He returned to Ontario and discovered that he had to have an Aero Certificate to be accepted into the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). He travelled to the Wright Brothers flying school in Dayton, Ohio, earned his certificate on 13 November 1915, and headed back to Canada.

By 15 November 1915, he was appointed temporary probationary flight sub-lieutenant of the RNAS in Ottawa. On 22 November, Brown made his way to England.

Once there, he continued his education at Chingford where he learned how to fly and land aircraft that flew faster than those he had used in the past. His educational progress then slowed due to a series of illnesses. When Brown eventually returned to training, he crashed in an Avro 504 on 2 May 1916, but managed to climb out of the wreckage and walk about a half-mile to a telephone. The next day, it was discovered that he had a back injury, which prevented him from flying for three months.

In September, Brown moved on to Eastchurch Gunnery School but did not complete his training until January 1917. Next, he travelled to Cranwell to complete his advanced training. Brown was posted to Number 9 Naval Squadron in March 1917. He flew a Sopwith Pup on patrols.

In April, Brown flew with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) during the Battle of Arras along the western front. He became ill and was not able to fly during the battle in April that became known as "Bloody April" because the Germans introduced the much more powerful Albatros DIIIs.

Brown returned to duty and trained for advanced flying with the Number 11 and Number 4 Naval Squadrons. He achieved his first aerial victory on 17 July and was promoted to flight lieutenant. In August, he was posted to Number 9 Squadron and flew the temperamental Sopwith Camel.

In September, Number 9 Squadron was taken out of the RFC and placed back into the RNAS. Brown was placed in Number 4 (Naval) Wing. He was moved to the Frontier Aerodrome near Ostend on the Belgian frontier, just as the Germans were stepping up their observations in the area, greatly increasing the number of dogfights.

On 6 October, Brown won the Distinguished Service Cross when during a large fight he noticed a single Camel being attacked by four German Albatros. Although both of his guns were jammed, but he dove into the group of four German aircraft, causing them to break off the attack and saving the British pilot. Later on 13 October, he attacked a German DFW and brought it down. By 16 October he had been promoted to the rank of acting flight commander.

Brown was on leave in Canada from 10 November 1917 until 30 January 1918. He returned to England, and his squadron was refitted with the new BR1 Camels. On 22 March, he attacked a group of seven German aircraft and downed one.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) came into being on 1 April 1918, and Brown’s squadron became the 209 Squadron. He was made captain and moved to the Somme sector in France, which was seeing the heaviest fighting. There were daily dogfights, with the average survival period of a new pilot being 11 days. Those aces that had large numbers of victories were experienced pilots shooting down new arrivals unable to defend themselves.

Between 20 and 29 March, the Germans were able to push the lines back 64 kilometres, resulting in an urgent effort to halt their march forward. To do this, RAF pilots flew four missions a day, flying just above the ground and firing at soldiers below.

In April 1918, Brown was credited with shooting down the Red Baron while out on a patrol.

Brown was later transferred to Number 2 School of Aerial Fighting and made an instructor. On 5 July 1918, he was taking off when the motor in his Camel suddenly stopped. Directly ahead were telegraph lines and trees. He tried to turn, but lost power and fell to the ground, mangling the aircraft very badly. The motor ended up on top of him. The near-fatal crash left Brown recovering in hospital for months.

Brown returned to civilian life and became an accountant and later, a sales manager. He founded a small airline in Quebec and Ontario. During the Second World War, he attempted to enter the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), but was rejected. He then became the advisory editor for Canadian Aviation magazine, but had to give up the position due to bad health.

Brown died of a heart attack at age 50 on 9 March 1944 in Stouffville, Ontario.


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