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Aviator wwii hero 'Winkle' Brown flew 14 version of Spitfire, 1st to land on carrier, escaped 11crashes, survived torpedo attack

By WcP.Life.Coach - Posted on 27 February 2016

most decorated test pilot of all time

Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown discusses Luftwaffe Aircraft - Published on Apr 23, 2014

Readers' comments -
"A great man he was the Last of a rare breed"
"Capt.Brown, a classic sort of guy"
"An amazing man. Superb achievements in pretty much every aspect of his career."
"Thanks for the video. It is good to see the Pilots telling their stories in what they did in the second world war. The real warriors of the sky and the planes they fly."

Vedio: Capt. Eric 'Winkle' Brown: the first Mosquito carrier deck landing, Published on Jul 16, 2015

In March 1944 the De Havilland Mosquito undertook carrier deck landing trials on HMS Indefatigable in the Irish Sea, giving the then Lieut. Brown the chance to make the first deck landing of a British heavy twin-engine aircraft. In this video the Patron of The People's Mosquito talks about the aircraft and the challenges he faced when presented with the task of landing it on deck.

Reader's comment: "Capt Eric 'Winkle' Brown truly is one of the finest examples of the Greatest Generation. What an honour to watch this video."

Brown held the world record for the most aircraft carrier deck take-offs and landings performed (2,407 and 2,271 respectively) and achieved several "firsts" in naval aviation, including the first landings on an aircraft carrier of a twin-engined aircraft an aircraft with a tricycle undercarriage, a jet propelled aircraft, and rotary-wing aircraft. He also flew almost every category of RAF aircraft: glider, fighter, bomber, airliner, amphibian, flying boat, and helicopter. During the Second World War, he also flew many types of German aircraft, including new jets and rocket planes. He was a pioneer of jet technology into the post-war era.

On returning to a United Kingdom now at war, he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a Fleet Air Arm pilot, where he was posted to 802 Squadron, initially serving on the first escort carrier HMS Audacity flying the Grumman Martlet. During his service on board the Audacity he shot down two Focke-Wulf Fw 200 "Condor" maritime patrol aircraft, using head-on attacks to exploit the blind spot in their defensive armament. The Audacity was torpedoed and sunk on 21 December 1941 by U-751, commanded by Gerhard Bigalk. The first rescue ship left through warnings of a nearby U-boat, and Brown was left immersed overnight with a dwindling band of survivors, until rescued next day suffering from hypothermia .

The loss of life was such that 802 Squadron was disbanded until February 1942. On 10 March 1942 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his service on Audacity, in particular "For bravery and skill in action against Enemy aircraft and in the protection of a Convoy against heavy and sustained Enemy attacks".

Following the loss of Audacity, Brown resumed operational flying, being seconded to Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) squadrons flying escort operations to USAAF B-17s over France. His job was to train them in deck-landing techniques, though on airfields.[Note 1] As a form of quid pro quo he joined them on fighter operations.

Next operational once again, in 1943, he then went back to the RAE, this time to perform experimental flying, almost immediately being transferred to southern Italy to evaluate captured Regia Aeronautica and Luftwaffe aircraft. This Brown did with almost no tuition, information having to be gleaned from whatever documents were available. On completion of these duties, his commander, being impressed with his performance, sent him back to the RAE with the recommendation that he be employed in the Aerodynamics Flight department at Farnborough. During the first month in the Flight, Brown flew thirteen aircraft types, including a captured Focke-Wulf Fw 190.

Brown was posted to the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough, where his experience in deck landings was sought. While there he initially performed testing of the newly navalised Sea Hurricane and Seafire. His aptitude for deck landings led to his posting for the testing of carriers' landing arrangements before they were brought into service. The testing involved multiple combinations of landing point and type of aircraft, with the result being that by the close of 1943 he had performed around 1,500 deck landings on 22 different carriers. In six years at RAE, Brown recalled that he hardly ever took a single day's leave. During carrier compatibility trials, Brown crash-landed a Fairey Firefly Mk I, Z1844, on the deck of HMS Pretoria Castle on 9 September 1943, when the arrestor hook indicator light falsely showed the hook was in the "down" position. The fighter hit the crash barrier, sheared off its undercarriage and shredded the propeller, but he was unhurt.

While at Farnborough as Chief Naval Test Pilot, Brown was involved in the deck landing trials of the Sea Mosquito, the heaviest aircraft yet chosen to be flown from a British carrier. Brown landed one for the first time on HMS Indefatigable on 25 March 1944. This was the first landing on a carrier by a twin-engined aircraft.[15] The fastest speed for deck landing was 86 kts, while the aircraft's stall speed was 110 kts. He also flew several stints with Fighter Command in the air defence of Great Britain. During this time, in the summer of 1944 Brown's home was destroyed by a V-1 "Doodlebug" cruise missile, concussing his wife and causing serious injury to their cleaner. At this time, the RAE was the leading authority on high-speed flight and Brown became involved in this sort of testing, flights being flown where the aircraft, usually a Spitfire, would be dived at speeds of the high subsonic and near transonic region. Figures achieved by Brown and his colleagues during these tests reached Mach 0.86 for a standard Spitfire IX, to Mach 0.92 for a modified Spitfire PR Mk XI flown by his colleague Sqn Ldr Anthony F. Martindale.

Scotland's greatest ever pilot Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown reveals his World War II stories
He flew 487 types of aircraft, escaped 11 crashes, was the first person to land a jet on an aircraft carrier, witnessed the Nuremberg Rally and survived a torpedo attack and arrest by the SS in an action-packed career.

Eric 'Winkle' Brown from Leith is the most decorated test pilot of all time, has flown more types of aircraft than anyone in history (a record 487), survived 11 crashes, was the first person to land a jet on an aircraft carrier in 1945 and holds an MBE, OBE and CBE.
Eric visited Germany before World War II, was at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he watched Jesse Owens triumph, and witnessed the Nuremberg Rally.

He was arrested by the SS, survived his ship being torpedoed at sea, was at the liberation of the Belsen concentration camp and interviewed camp hierarchy such as the notorious Irma Grese, nicknamed “the beautiful beast of Belsen”, and Nazi leaders Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Goering.

Eric also met Churchill and King George VI, put his life on the line as designers pushed the jet-propelled aircraft to the limit and was friends with astronaut Neil Armstrong.

He said: “I have a sense of having led a very hectic life and sometimes feeling it was out of control. In war, naturally, you expect to be a bit hectic but it became even more hectic after the war and I wasn’t prepared for that. But the challenge was very, very exciting.”

Eric first flew in a plane when he was just eight with his dad, a World War I Royal Air Corps pilot. When his father and other former pilots were invited to attend the 1936 Olympics by the newly formed Luftwaffe, he went along.

And he was taken for a hair-raising flight by German stunt pilot Ernst Udet, who advised him to take flying lessons and learn German.

He did, studying at Edinburgh University and joining their air squadron. He was later approached by the Foreign Office to return to Germany as part of the Diplomatic Corps and he was sent on a teacher exchange programme for six months in 1939.

The former Royal High pupil enjoyed his time in Germany but, when war was declared, the SS turned up at his door. He was arrested and locked up for three days before eventually being released over the Swiss border.

His pre-war experience of Germany couldn’t have contrasted more with what he experienced at Belsen, where his language skills saw him act as a translator.

It was difficult to comprehend what he saw there – piles of bodies and the barely alive survivors, 20,000 of whom had typhus and “were literally dying zombies”.

Eric "Winkle" Brown in action during the Second World War

Eric said: “It turned me upside down because I had made some very good friends, especially among my students, in Germany and I saw them as fine young men. Perhaps I was politically naive in not realising the underlying evil of the Nazi regime but after, when I saw Belsen, I was not prepared to make allowances for them at all.

“Having said that, as I’ve got older, I realise that every nation has an element of evil in it and if you allow that element to get into power, it can be dangerous.

“In Germany, the treaty of Versailles had taken its pride away and if you take a country’s pride away, it will do anything to get it back. Now I can recognise that but it still does not excuse what went on in the concentration camps.”

The great-grandfather has since reconciled himself with Germany.

He said: “I realised that you can’t condemn a whole nation because of a very evil section of it and I am now back on what I might call normal terms with the Germans.”

During the war, Eric initially served with the Fleet Air Arm, where he earned his nickname Winkle on account of his short stature. He worked on HMS Audacity, an aircraft carrier escorting vital convoys between Britain and Gibraltar, until it was torpedoed in 1941. He was one of the few survivors.

His flying skills then saw him placed on special duties as a test pilot. He trained and flew with Spitfire pilots before serving in the top-secret Aerodynamics Flight based in Farnborough. He also became commanding officer of Enemy Aircraft Flight, running the rule over Nazi hardware.

After the war, he worked with Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine, regularly risking his life pushing the boundaries of jet aviation. Both in battle and during peacetime, he saw many colleagues lose their lives. He puts his own survival down to his attitude.

He said: “I wouldn’t say I felt fear. We used to have a phrase, ‘Kick your tyres, light your fires and the last one off’s a sissy.’ I was not of that school at all. You can’t assume an attitude like that – you have to be serious and, frankly, I was a bit of an academic as a pilot because I was meticulous.

“For a test flight, I would talk it over with the boffin who was going to conduct the test. I was meticulous about talking it through and preparing myself for it. You have to take it seriously.”

Eric, who has one son, two granddaughters and three grandchildren, now lives in Surrey but retains his accent and close links with Scotland.

He said: “I still have close contact with Edinburgh University. I’m a former student and they very kindly gave me an honorary doctorate along with my friend of 30 years Neil Armstrong.”

Eric stopped flying when he was 70. Coming down to earth was initially a difficult process but he jokes that he’ll still go up – but only with someone who has more flying hours than him.

an elite test pilot requires a certain type of personality - Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown - You're up there on your own, and you feel like the king of the castle
He is a war hero in the truest sense of the word. He is part of an elite group of test pilots who took the untried - and sometimes deadly - theories of aeroplane designers down the runway and into the sky. Over his career, he flew 487 different types of aircraft, a world record that is unlikely ever to be matched. It's a job that requires a certain type of personality, he told Radio Four's PM programme.

"I have a nature that doesn't panic in these situations," he said.
"My brain goes very sort of cold, and very good at considering things."
Nobody is without fear, he said, but there was often a casual attitude among the other pilots.
"They'd say "kick your tyres, light your fires, and the last one off's a sissy".
"I was not of that school at all. I always put two things down to my survival. I was always meticulous in my preparation.
"Secondly, my height - I'm only 5ft 7in - saved me because there were occasions I would have lost my legs in crashes." It was his height that earned him his nickname "Winkle" - short for "periwinkle", a type of small mollusc - from his colleagues. "I would put my legs under the seat and curl up like a little ball in the cockpit," he said.

Captain Brown, the most decorated test pilot of all time, was also the first person ever to land a jet on an aircraft carrier in 1945.
He described the moment like being a "matchbox floating in a bath".

Brown flew 14 version of the Spitfire and many other iconic planes
"In fact when I met Neil [Armstrong], to my horror and embarrassment, I really didn't recognise him," he said.
"He said 'well, I'm a naval aviator like you are and I've heard of your deck landing exploits'.
"There we are, I'm talking to the guy who is the top dog of the lot, and he knows me and I don't recognise him. How embarrassing."
"Here was a man who touched the hand of God. And yet modest beyond words, so modest in fact that he didn't want anyone to talk about it."

But Captain Brown said he would still sooner be a test pilot than an astronaut.
"It is a huge thrill," he said.
"You're up there on your own, and you really feel like this is life. I'm the king of the castle up here. That's really what it's like."

Brown ensured he made lots of preparations for his flights. He survived so many of them. As a naval pilot you are sent off into the "big blue yonder", says Brown, and you are "not sure where your carrier is - maybe a hundred miles away somewhere in the ocean". Some planes never found their way back, lost out at sea because the carrier could not reveal its position.

Brown says it was a game of Russian roulette as at one stage "we had one incident every nine landings".

When landing on a carrier, "you are essentially aiming for a small lay-by in the middle of a large lake", explains Bowman. "It is a three-dimensional problem through a fog, with none of the same visual references you get on land. It is one of the most demanding tasks you can do as a pilot."

Any kind of landing was difficult, but designers had yet to fit planes to the task. Much of what is now designed into planes to make carrier landings easier comes from Brown and his peers.

The US Navy were said to have given one man the specific job of breaking Brown's record. "To his everlasting credit he got up to 1,600 and then had a nervous breakdown," says Brown.

Fear is something test pilots have to deal with on a regular basis. Bowman says that they look for pilots who can "compartmentalise the job at hand from the rest of your emotions".

But for Brown fear was never an issue. "I react almost the opposite. If things are really difficult I go ice cold and my brain seems to go up a gear."

Aviator wwii hero 'Winkle' Brown flew 14 version of Spitfire *update* 1936-2016: the prototype Spitfire 1st flew fr Southampton Airport in 1936
March 5th 2016 marks 80 years since the first flight of the Supermarine Spitfire, which had a vital role defending the UK during the Battle of Britain.
Southampton is integral to the story of the Spitfire. The prototype Spitfire first flew from Southampton Airport in 1936 and production of the earliest models was based at the Supermarine factory in Woolston. This was bombed in the second world war with great loss of life to local workers.

Production continued in and around Southampton dispersed in locations as varied as bus garages and laundrettes. The bravery of Southampton people in continuing to build the Spitfire under constant threat of enemy bombing raids was crucial in the protection of England, and the Allie's eventual victory.


Image courtesy Wikipedia, Imperial War Museum, British Royal Airforce, BBC, Telegraph UK, Daily Mail, Guardian, and PBS

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