Arthur Roy Brown (1893-1944), the Canadian flying ace officially credited with shooting down Manfred von Richthofen, "the Red Baron," was born in Carleton Place, Ontario. He enlisted as an Officer Cadet and joined the Royal Naval Air Service for pilot training in 1915. As a sub-lieutenant, Brown broke a vertebra in a training accident in 1916 and was hospitalised for two months. By early 1917 he was flying combat patrols and had earned the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) by October 1917, while flying a Sopwith Camel with the No. 9 Naval Squadron. Brown was a talented leader, and by early 1918 he was the flight commander in charge of a squadron in combat over France.
On April 1, 1918, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged into the Royal Air Force, and Brown's No. 9 Squadron became No. 209 RAF. On April 21 his squadron engaged in combat with a German squadron commanded by Manfred von Richthofen, “the Red Baron,” the most famous, feared and deadly German pilot. When Brown saw the Red Baron attacking one of his men, he set off after the flying ace. Von Richthofen was killed in the ensuing battle, though it has never been conclusively determined whether he was brought down by fire from Brown’s machine gun or by an Australian anti-aircraft battery on the ground. Nonetheless, Brown was officially credited with the hit by the RAF, receiving a bar to his DSO.
Brown left the RAF in 1919 after a bout of influenza and nervous exhaustion, followed by another bad crash and five months spent in hospital. He returned to Canada and took up work as an accountant. He later founded a small airline and worked as the editor of the journal Canadian Aviation. He died of a heart attack on March 9, 1944, in Stouffville, Ontario. He was 50 years old.
Service Record Details
Date of Birth: August 4, 1896 (Other sources list his date of birth as December 23, 1893.)
Date of Attestation: March 15, 1817 (Toronto)
Age at Enlistment: 20 years, 7 months
Height: 5 feet, 7 1/2 inches
Weight: 162 pounds
Description: Fresh complexion, blue-grey eyes, dark brown hair. Presbyterian. Scar on right leg. Right eye D. 200, without glasses. D. 40, with glasses. Left eye D. 20. Hearing good. Nose and throat O.K.
Home Address: Eden Grove, Ontario
Details of Family: Father, John Brown, and mother, Maggie Brown, living in Eden Grove, Ontario.
Next of Kin: Mother (Maggie Brown)
Branch of Service: Canadian Forestry Corps (later joined the Royal Flying Corps)
Theatre of War: England, France
Interesting Details from the Service Record
- May 1, 1917 – Brown sails from Halifax to Liverpool on the SS Metagama. (Page 14)
- June 7, 1919 – He sails back to Canada from Liverpool on the SS Royal George. (Page 15)
- June 18, 1919 – His discharge papers list his occupation as farmer. (Page 28)
The London Gazette
The London Gazette—Supplement 30756, Page 7304, June 18, 1918
“Lieut. (Hon. Capt.) Arthur Roy Brown, D.S.C., R.A.F. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On the 21st April, 1918, while leading a patrol of 6 scouts he attacked a formation of 20 hostile scouts. He personally engaged two Fokker triplanes, which he drove off; then, seeing that one of our machines was being attacked and apparently hard pressed, he dived on the hostile scout, firing the while. This scout, a Fokker triplane, nose dived and crashed to the ground. Since the award of the Distinguished Service Cross he has destroyed several other enemy aircraft and has shown great dash and enterprise in attacking enemy troops from low altitudes despite heavy anti-aircraft fire.”
Military Medals, Honours and Awards
- Distinguished Service Order
In 1906, Arthur R. Brown is seven years old and living in Carleton Place, Ontario, with his father Morton (37), a mill owner, and mother Mary E. (37). He has two older sisters, Margaret (13) and Bessie (11), and a younger brother, John H. (4). The family is Presbyterian.