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Captain (RN) Eric "Winkle" Brown

Auld-Yin

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Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown CBE, DSC, AFC Royal Navy

Many of you will have heard of Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, one of Britain’s foremost test pilots who started off flying in wooden, flimsy bi-planes through nearly every model of British military and several foreign military aircraft right up to the jet age. He holds numerous records for the work he has done over the years having flown 487 different types of aircraft from many different countries. His Wikipedia entry is eye opening to say the least (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Brown_(pilot) )

A book has recently been published, “Too Close for Comfort” about his exploits but not in the usual fashion. This book is a special limited edition covering fifteen of the many exploits that Winkle was involved in throughout his career. These have been depicted in paintings and sketches by Michael Turner, the famous aviation artist, each has a narrative explaining the event depicted in Winkle Brown’s own inimitable way.

As ever, Winkle Brown is thinking of others and the proceeds of this book are going to the Fly Navy Heritage Trust. I tried, tongue in cheek, for a review copy but at a throwaway price of £150 for the ordinary edition and £350 for the leather bound edition, the publishers thought it bestnot to let me have one! However, this should not pass us by unnoticed as Winkle Brown has been the subject of a few threads on this site, deservedly so, and there is a lot of interest in this remarkable man.

The full press release is as follows:

‘Too Close for Comfort’

Legendary Pilot’s breath-taking story of death defying courage
The world’s greatest test pilot, Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown CBE DSC AFC Royal Navy will be launching his latest book ‘Too Close for Comfort’ on Thursday 2 July at Mead Carney Fine Art Gallery, 45 Dover Street, Mayfair, London W15 4FF at 18.30.

The book, which is a special limited edition, tells the story of fifteen of the most gripping and hair-raising close-calls in Eric’s legendary flying career, each episode dramatically illustrated by a series of stunning paintings and sketches by renowned aviation artist and President of the Guild of Aviation Artists, Michael Turner FGAvA.

Retold in the author’s own inimitable style, the incidents include: narrowly surviving an attack from a Messerschmitt Bf 109 in a Norwegian fjord while flying a Blackburn Skua, developing the tactics of head-on attack on a heavily armed Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Kurier, and being dragged unconscious from the Solent after hitting some floating debris and cartwheeling the prototype SR/A1 jet seaplane.

The danger and drama of each incident is powerfully brought to life by Michael Turner’s paintings and none more so than the closest shave of all - the heart-stopping painting of the sinking of HMS Audacity in the freezing Atlantic in December 1941. “I will never forget that fateful day” said Eric “We were hit by three torpedoes from German U-boat U-751.The ship reared up so steeply that the aircraft plunged down the wildly tilting deck. She sank taking all her aircraft with her. I lost many friends that day and was very lucky to survive.”

The book launch will also include an auction of the fifteen original paintings in the book. Michael Turner has a world-wide reputation as an artist of great technical skill and has exhibited his work in the UK, USA, Europe and Australia. The paintings are fine examples of his work and are expected to attract great interest from art collectors, historians and aviation enthusiasts alike.

Speaking of working with Eric on the book, Michael said “It was deeply emotional – Eric’s account of each incident was so vivid that I could immediately visualise ‘Guy Fawkes night in the cockpit’ or the ‘turquoise green glow of phosphorescence surrounding the U-boat’. Interpreting his experiences and painting each white-knuckle moment was a great privilege. I felt as though I lived through each of them with him!”

With the provenance of these exceptional paintings so intrinsically a part of Eric’s remarkable life, they are coming on the market as a unique and rare collection. They will be on public display in the Mead Carney Gallery from 1st – 2nd July and a preview catalogue is available on request.

Captain Eric Brown has flown more aircraft types (487) than any other pilot in the world and also holds the world record for deck landings at 2407. His life reads like a handbook of beating the odds and today, in his nineties, he remains a living legend, is in great demand as a lecturer and has recently been the subject of a BBC 2 documentary and a castaway on the 3000th edition of Desert Island Discs.

‘Too Close for Comfort’ is available as a signed casebound edition price £150 or a signed Collectors’ leather bound edition price £350. Proceeds from the sales of the book and the auction of the paintings will go to the Fly Navy Heritage Trust.

Sinking of HMS Audacity December 1941
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His original book, Wings on my Sleeve, is well worth a read.
 

Yokel

LE
His original book, Wings on my Sleeve, is well worth a read.

It certainly is - as a spotty sixteen year old student I found a copy of the original edition in the library of the local college - written whilst he was a serving Officer. Years later (2006?) I found an updated edition in the local bookshop. Brilliant stuff.

There are threads relating to the programme last year on both the Royal Navy and Aviation forums.
 
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seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
RIP
 
I noticed that on Her Majesty's recent visit to the Bergen-Belsen site that one of the accompanying entourage was the author. When he was interviewed he appeared very spritely indeed.

As a consequence of this interview I wondered what his connection to Bergen-Belsen might have been and Wiki came up with this;

"During this period, Brown was asked by Brigadier Glyn Hughes, the Medical Officer of the British 2nd Army [16] occupying the newly liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, to help interrogate the former camp commandant and his assistant. Agreeing to do so, he subsequently interviewed Josef Kramer and Irma Grese, Brown remarking; "Two more loathsome creatures it is hard to imagine" and describing the latter as "... the worst human being I have ever met." Kramer and Grese were later tried and hanged for war crimes.[6][17]"
 
iPlayer for his Desert Island Discs appearance. Truly humbling!!
 

HE117

LE
I was lucky enough to meet and have supper with Captain Brown and his wife earlier in the year. An incredibly nice man, whose critical faculties have not diminished with age. He seems to have known and met everyone.. from Irma Grese to Neil Armstrong..

A Naval Aviator to the core! Still enjoys fast cars and retains the ability to pull the birds from the trees even at 96!
 
T

Tinman74

Guest
I was lucky enough to meet and have supper with Captain Brown and his wife earlier in the year. An incredibly nice man, whose critical faculties have not diminished with age. He seems to have known and met everyone.. from Irma Grese to Neil Armstrong..

A Naval Aviator to the core! Still enjoys fast cars and retains the ability to pull the birds from the trees even at 96!

The bloke Ian Flemming wished bond could be.
 

Yokel

LE
A legend in naval circles! AY seemes to have forgotten to mention he is a fellow Scot!
 

HE117

LE
A legend in naval circles! AY seemes to have forgotten to mention he is a fellow Scot!
Aye... an Edinburgh Boy..

Went to the Royal High School! - Viva Schola Reggia!
 
I was lucky enough to meet and have supper with Captain Brown and his wife earlier in the year. An incredibly nice man, whose critical faculties have not diminished with age. He seems to have known and met everyone.. from Irma Grese to Neil Armstrong..

A Naval Aviator to the core! Still enjoys fast cars and retains the ability to pull the birds from the trees even at 96!
I think you mean pilot.
 

Auld-Yin

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Aye... an Edinburgh Boy..

Went to the Royal High School! - Viva Schola Reggia!
In fact he was born in Leith in 1919, which at the time was a Burgh in its own right. The two towns did not merge until 1920 so Winkle was, and is still, a Leither!
 

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