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Eric Melrose ‘Winkle’ Brown (CBE, DSC, AFC, Hon FRAeS, RN)

Date and place of birth: Leith (Edinburgh), 21 January 1919 

Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown was one of the world’s greatest pilots.

A Royal Naval Officer and test pilot who flew 487 types of aircraft – more than anyone else in history – he was the most highly decorated Fleet Air Arm pilot to survive the war.

He holds numerous world records and naval aviation firsts including most carrier deck landings (2407); first jet landing on an aircraft carrier; first twin-engine aircraft carrier landing; and first turboprop on a carrier. 

Winkle Brown moved from Edinburgh to Galashiels with his parents in 1933 where his father, who had served in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), was born. The family lived above a shop at 20 Livingstone Place.

Having won a scholarship in 1931, Winkle Brown travelled daily to Edinburgh by train where he attended The Royal High School. He later attended Edinburgh University.

He joined the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy In 1939 and undertook flying training In Hampshire, Wiltshire and Somerset before joining a fighter squadron In Scotland. In December 1941, he survived the sinking of HMS Audacity, the first merchant aircraft carrier. 

Winkle Brown was an exceptionally gifted pilot and tested at least 56 types of German aircraft in April to July 1945. During his incredible career he also interviewed Hermann Göring (the deputy leader of the Nazi Party) and was an interpreter at the field courts marshal of German/Hungarian guards at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

A proud member of the Boys’ Brigade and a promising rugby player who played for Scotland under-16s, Winkle Brown retained his links to Galashiels, including a visit to inspect the Boys’ Brigade when he was Captain of HMS Fulmar, the Royal Naval Air Station at Lossiemouth.He died in Surrey in 2016 aged 97 and on 3 July 2018, a statue was unveiled at Edinburgh Airport in his honour.

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