Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Pilot Eric 'Winkle' Brown's medals bought by Navy museum

Eric 'Winkle' Brown Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Captain Brown was awarded many medals including the Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Force Cross

Medals awarded to the Royal Navy's most decorated pilot, Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown, have been bought by a museum.

The war hero, born in the Leith area of Edinburgh in 1919, died earlier this year at the age of 97.

He was renowned for flying 487 different types of aircraft - a world record that is unlikely to be matched.

The items, including his Distinguished Service Cross and CBE, were bought by The National Museum of the Royal Navy after failing to sell at auction.

They were purchased, for an undisclosed sum, by The Fleet Air Arm Museum - representing the flying arm of the Royal Navy - in Yeovilton, Somerset.

The medals were recently valued at between £150,000 and £200,000.

The collection, which also features Capt Brown's Air Force Cross, awarded in 1947, and the Defence Medal with King's Commendation for Brave Conduct, along with his flying logbooks, which date from 1942, to his final flights for the Fleet Air Arm in 1970, was put up for auction at Bonhams in London by the pilot's family.

The museum stepped in and was able to reach an agreement with the family thanks to the "intervention of a generous donor".

Image copyright Brown family
Image caption Capt Brown, second right, with colleagues on a Spitfire in 1944

During World War Two, Capt Brown flew fighter aircraft and had the most aircraft carrier landings, with 2,407 - including the first in a jet-propelled aircraft. He also achieved the most catapult launches with 2,721 and carried out some of the world's first helicopter tests.

In the course of his aviation career, he survived 11 plane crashes. He also witnessed the liberation of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp and later became good friends with the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong.

A spokesman for the museum said: "We are delighted to announce that we have been able to secure the medals and log books of Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown following the intervention of a generous donor, who wishes to remain anonymous.

"It is fair to say that Capt Brown was by many measures the Fleet Air Arm's most significant pilot of the post-war period and we are thrilled and honoured to be able to class this collection as one of our own.

"We can now preserve the record of innovation which is contained within Capt Brown's log books which includes previously untapped information and display them for the world to see."

John Millensted, Bonhams head of medals and coins, said that Capt Brown's family had decided to sell the extraordinary archive "so that others might appreciate them".

He added: "We are delighted that the medals are going to such an appropriate home where visitors will be able to learn about the achievements of this extraordinary man."


Eric 'Winkle' Brown's landmark life

Image copyright Imperial War Museum
Image caption Capt Brown flew 2,407 aircraft carrier landings
  • Flew 487 different types of aircraft, a world record that is unlikely ever to be matched
  • Piloted 2,407 aircraft carrier landings
  • Appointed MBE, OBE and CBE
  • Survived 11 plane crashes and the sinking of HMS Audacity in 1941
  • Met Churchill and King George VI numerous times
  • Was at the liberation of Bergen Belsen
  • Interrogated some of the leading Nazis after the war, including Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Goering and Belsen's chief guards Josef Kramer and Irma Grese
  • Became good friends with Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon

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