Arthur Roy Brown was one of four aces that came from Carleton Place, during WWI. He learned to fly at the Wright Brothers' school in Dayton, Ohio at his father's expense. After receiving his pilot's certificate (Number 361), he joined the Royal Naval Air Service.
His flying career was nearly finished when he broke part of a vertebra in his spine in a training crash in April, 1916. However, he recovered quickly, possibly encouraged by being placed on half-pay while on sick-leave.
After finishing all his training he was assigned to scout duty in early 1917. Early in his career he shuffled around between 9, 11 and 4 Squadrons, RNAS. He scored his first victory on July 17, 1917 while flying Sopwith Pups in 11 Squadron. But he was finally posted to 9 Squadron, where he scored his 2nd victory in September 3, 1917. He scored his 5th victory on October 13, 1917 to become an ace. He was awarded the Distingished Service Cross on November 2, 1917.
In February 1918 he was promoted and made a flight leader. A confidential report on him at the time, stated that he was...
..a very good flight leader and fearless pilot, with good ability to command.Described as a "kind, compassionate, and honourable man," Brown apparently did his best to watch over the novices in his flight, through their first combat flights as safely as he could. He was known for setting outside of engagements, after leading the initial attacks so he could come to the aid of those who got in trouble. Like many WWI pilots, he preferred to think that he was killing the machines, not men. He worried about those pilots in his flight, as well as his comrades, and he suffered when they were lost.
During the German offensive of March 1918, Allied losses were very high. Brown was flying at least 2 missions a day on the average, as well as trying to provide extra training for the new pilots fresh out of flight schools and now placed in his charge. The strain of sustained combat was beginning to show on him. Raymond Collishaw noted on an early April visit that Brown looked exhausted: he had lost 25 pounds, his hair was prematurely turning grey, and his eyes were bloodshot and sunken. Not only was the food bad, but Brown had eaten contaminate rabbit that severely upset his gastro-intestinal tract. Against Collishaw's suggestions, Brown refused to quit flying. And to add to the misery, Naval 9's base at Bertangles was a dreary place. There were no diversions, no hot water, no fixed buildings, just tents sitting in a muddy field.
On April 21, 1918, with the new formation of the Royal Air Force taking over from the RFC and the RNAS, Naval 9 became 209 Squadron, RAF. All former RNAS Squadrons were renumbered to have a 200 series squadron number. On April 21, 209 Squadron was assigned patrol duties over the Australian part of the front between Albert and Harbonnières. The Squadron was divided into 3 flights of 5 aircraft each, with Brown's A flight in the lead. One of the four pilots in his flight was former school chum, Wilfred "Wop" May, from Edmonton. This was only Mays 3rd combat patrol and Brown had warned May to stay clear of any air combat that might occur. May was supposed to "observe and learn" rather than actively participate. In addition he was told to seperate rapidly toward Bertangles if he should find himself being attacked.
I could go on with more details, but suffice it to say that von Richthofen attacked May, Brown attacked von Richthofen, von Richthofen went down on the Allied side of the lines. As for the details, well, if you haven't read a book about Brown and von Richthofen, what are you waiting for???
The controversy is that in addition to Brown firing, there was also ground fire from the Australians, who, I might add should have shown better discipline. They might just as easily shot down May or Brown. As it is, THEY claim that one of theirs shot down the Red Baron.
While some support Brown, MANY support the claim of the Australians. While I can see the point, there's just no way we'll EVER know. As it is, the RAF confirmed Browns claim against the red Fokker Dr. I of Manfred von Richthofen. Brown was not happy about this. In fact he said, "If he had been my dearest friend, I could not have felt greater sorrow."
When it comes down to it, von Richthofen is the most responsible for his own death. He violated most, if not all of his own rules of engagement, and he became fixed on the target in front of him, totally disregarding the situation around him. I guess you could say that von Richthofen was his own 81st victory.
I will say this with regard to the Red Baron's death. Many, MANY historians insist that von Richthofen was shot through the heart. Without an internal exam, this is IMPOSSIBLE to say. Since, according to witnesses, he uttered the last words of "Alles kaput" before dying on the ground, I'd say it's highly unlikely he was shot in the heart.But that's just MY opinion.
Like most pages, this one is a work in progress, if I find the time, I WILL add the details of the Red Baron's last flight. But I encourage you, if this is any influence at all, go find a book on the subject at your public library, or book store and READ IT!!!
Created:January 9, 2002
Last updated: March 22, 2003
©2002 by Albert Lowe, All rights reserved.
Approximately 99% of the information here came from "Knights of the Air" by Lieut. Col. David L. Bashow, published in 2000 by McArthur & Company.
The opinions expressed on this web page are those of Al Lowe alone. By no means should the use of any reference be construed as to suggest that anyone else mentioned on this site shares those opinions, unless stated explicitly so.