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The Airmen's Stories - P/O B W Brown


Bernard Walter Brown was born at Stratford, New Zealand on 6th December 1917 and educated at Stratford Technical High School. He subsequently worked for the Post Office.

He applied for a short service commission in February 1938, was accepted and left for England on 22nd September in the RMS Rangitane.

Brown began his training at 5 E&RFTS Hanworth on 31st October 1938. In late January 1939 he was posted to 5 FTS Sealand. At the end of August, with his training completed, he went to No. 1 School of Army Co-Operation at Old Sarum for a course on Lysanders, and then joined 613 Squadron at Odiham on 6th October 1939 (below).


Above image courtesy of Bay of Plenty Times, New Zealand.


In May 1940 the squadron was made operational and moved to Hawkinge. On the 26th Brown was flying one of six Hectors detailed to dive-bomb gun emplacements near Calais. En route, he test-fired his forward gun but the omission of a split pin caused the muzzle attachment to fly off, penetrate the fuselage and hole the main fuel tank. Brown jettisoned his two bombs and turned back, making a forced-landing on Herne Bay golf course.

He volunteered for Fighter Command in August 1940 and went to 7 OTU Hawarden on the 22nd. After converting to Spitfires he joined 610 Squadron at Acklington on 3rd September 1940. Brown moved to 72 Squadron at Biggin Hill on the 20th.

Three days later he was shot down by a Me109 over Gravesend. Wounded, with no control over the aircraft, Brown baled out and landed on marshy ground near Eastchurch, wounded in one leg and an elbow by cannon shell splinters.

He was admitted to Minster Hospital and later transferred to Maidstone. Brown was posted from 72 Squadron to RAF Biggin Hill, as non-effective sick.

After recovering he went to 8 FTS Montrose on 29th November 1940 for an instructors course, after which he was posted to Rhodesia, subsequently instructing at Cumalo near Bulawayo.



Brown returned to England in early 1943 and did a Transport Command course at Bramcote. He became a ferry pilot, flying between the United Kingdom and the Middle East.

On 1st January 1944 he transferred to the RNZAF and at the end of the year was flying Halifaxes on ferrying duties. He was released in 1945 to be a first officer on Dakotas with BOAC.

Brown later joined BEA and flew with the airline until his retirement in 1972. He then returned to New Zealand to live.

Brown died on 23rd January 2017 aged 99.

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