Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown and his Royal navy pilot medals
The Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton, Somerset, is showing the honours and log books of Second World War veteran Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown, who died last year at the age of 97.
The collection was offered for sale at auction by Bonham’s last year but failed to find a buyer.
Thanks to the intervention of an anonymous donor, they were bought by the museum.
Medals of Britain’s most decorated Royal Navy pilot were put on public display for the first time
Captain Eric Brown in the cockpit of the Vampire, 1945
The collection includes his Distinguished Service Medal, Air Force Cross and Defence Medal with King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.
Captain Brown, who was born in Edinburgh in 1919, flew 487 different types of aircraft, made 2,407 landings on aircraft carriers and 2,721 launches by catapult in the days before pilots had aids such as radar and satellite positioning to help them.
It is thought no other military pilot in history will fly more aircraft types as Capt Brown’s career spanned a unique period of development in British, German and American aviation.
Royal navy pilot medals of Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown
Captain Brown earned the nickname Winkle due to his height at 5ft7ins
During the second World War he flew gliders, flying boats and helicopters as well as fighter planes, and was the first man to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
I would put my legs under the seat and curl up like a little ball in the cockpit
Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown
During his career he survived 11 plane crashes and was at the liberation of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.
Captain Brown earned the nickname Winkle due to his height at 5ft7ins and believed his relatively diminutive stature helped save his life.
He explained: “There were occasions I would have lost my legs in crashes.
Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown
“I would put my legs under the seat and curl up like a little ball in the cockpit.”
His bravery and flying skills earned him the DSC in 1941 and the MBE three years later. By then his role had switched to test pilot and after the German surrender he assessed the Nazi fleet of jets.
He became one of only a handful of Allied pilots to have flown the Germans’ Messerschmitt Komet rocket plane, an aircraft so dangerous to fly that he was only let loose at the controls after signing a disclaimer for its German ground crew.
Log book of Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown
World War II: Unseen pictures
Tue, January 27, 2015
These US Army images appeared to be lost in time but photographer Levi Bettweiser bought 31 rusty reels from an auction in Ohio, USA. The shots, which have been identified as locations across the UK, including Boston Harbour, Lucky Strike Beach and LaHavre Harbour thanks to labels on the reels, shed new light on wartime life for US soldiers.
Mercury Press & Media Ltd/The Rescued Film Project
1 of 33
More than 30 Second World War pictures have finally been developed – 70 years after the end of the conflict.
During the Korean War Brown was seconded to the US Naval Test Centre and in 1957 he was back in Germany, this time training a new generation of German naval aviators to Nato standards.
Promoted to captain he was appointed deputy director of Naval Air Warfare at the Admiralty.
When the Labour government cancelled a new carrier Brown had helped develop, he confronted Denis Healey, then defence secretary, at a briefing and asked him: “Are you still a communist?”
He retired in 1970 with a CBE and became chief executive of the British Helicopter Advisory Board, promoting his vision of a national heliport network as well as championing air ambulances and police helicopters.