Winkle Flies Away

'Legend,' is something of an overused word these days. Not when used in the same sentence as 'Winkle' Brown it isn't.

A real old school hero of the 'they don't make them like that anymore,' class of gentleman passed away over the weekend.  Capt Eric Melrose Brown CBE DSC AFC, better known as 'Winkle,' Brown has died at the age of 97.

The Fleet Air Arm's most decorated pilot, his story is one that defies all odds. No-one has flown more types of aircraft (487) or performed more carrier landings (2,407) than Capt Brown, who met Hermann Goering at the Berlin Olympics in 1936… and then interrogated him after WW2.

His fluency in German meant he also questioned some of the senior Nazis at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which was liberated by the British Army in April 1945.

The year ended with the test pilot becoming the first person to land a jet aircraft on a carrier – a de Havilland Sea Vampire on to the deck of HMS Ocean at the end of 1945.

If you want a treat, you can hear his story on the Desert Island Discs archive on BBC iPlayer. Capt Brown did the programme's 3,000th edition. 

Wing Commander Kenneth Wallis

Following yesterdays post,  "Made of Different Stuff," we learn from today's Telegraph that we've lost another grand character hewn from different DNA from the rest of us and from a different age. Our world is the poorer with their passing.

Wing Commander Kenneth Wallis was certainly different. Wartime Bomber Command pilot, inventor, engineer, Bond stuntman........ actually he seems to have been somewhere between inspired genius and fully paid up barking mad nutter. 

One interviewer observed that if a screenwriter had invented Wallis, with his air of derring-do and rakish white handlebar moustache, they would have been told to come back with a more realistic character.

You couldn't make this fellow up. Among other achievements, he set a record in 1975 (now superseded) for the longest flight in an autogyro when he flew the entire length of the British Isles (“I’d have gone further, but we ran out of land”).

Enjoy the read. 

An extract from my documentary on Wing Commander Ken Wallis