I wasn’t going to write about Roy Brown, I really wasn’t–but when I started going through online newspapers today I found something interesting.Two years ago in a National Post article about Roy Brown a comment was made that the Vancouver Police were called to collect a number of guns from a woman claiming to be Brown’s daughter-in-law some years ago. Among the items seized were a Vickers aircraft machine gun and a couple of German aircraft Spandau (or similar) guns. Someone wondered if there were still battle weapons around– would they find a new life in a museum? The sad fact is historically invaluable weapons are long gone into the belly of smelter. I then began to search newspaper archives but could not find mention of the guns.
Captain Brown, a private and humble man, never actually claimed the victory over Richthofen, popularly known as the Red Baron. In fact, according to a PBS study he was quoted that when he saw Richthofen’s body, “There was a lump in my throat. If he had been my dearest friend, I could not have felt greater sorrow.”
Did the fatal shot come from the Australian troops on the ground in a muddy battlefield In Somme? Rob Probert president of the Carleton Place-based Roy Brown Society said is was definitely Roy Brown not the Australians that shot Richthofen
“That’s our story and we’re sticking to it,” he said.
According to many articles the Germans wanted to hide the fact that their 80 aerial victory war hero was killed in an aerial combat. That would would have been a greater blow to morale so, they had a vested interest in continuing the myth that ground fire killed Richthofen.
If the verdict ever went to the ground forces nobody would have been happier than Roy Brown. In 1997, brother, Howard Morton Brown, said that the flying ace was never comfortable carrying the title of the man who killed Richthofen. Any time he was asked, Roy was a reluctant warrior and his reply was always the same:
“God, I hope not.”
In 1920 Roy Brown was asked to unveil a plaque in St. James Anglican Church in Carleton Place. Howard said Roy removed the cover, but said nothing. “He cried.” Had Roy Brown been an American they would have honored him with a postage stamp or a school named after him, but he didn’t even have a marker on his grave after it was moved.
Brown had been badly hurt in the war and died of a heart attack in 1944 at his home in Stouffville, Ontario at the age of 50. Local Stouffville native 11-year-old Nadine Carter set out to piece together why there was no recognition for him in her hometown. He and his wife’s body had been relocated from Stouffville to the Necropolis Cemetery in Toronto, but there was no tombstone, and the exact location was unknown.
Now thanks to Nadine the plaque is in the making, the grave is being located, and will be proudly marked with a headstone. One of Brown’s descendants, granddaughter Dianne Sample, also invited Carter to a ceremony for her grandfather in Toronto in June, when he’ll be finally enshrined into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame.
In reality he shouldn’t have been in the war, his nerves and health weren’t rugged enough to take it. But he forced himself every single day, despite deteriorating health, because he knew others needed his expertise to stay alive. That’s what makes a hero, whether he shot down Richthofen or not.
There is that old saying that if we forget history we are doomed to repeat it.
Remembering is an important part of how we choose to live in the present, which is the last step we get to make before we become part of the future. If we don’t remember, we don’t know why we are.
Roy Brown Day June 6th, 2015, Carleton Place Ontario
Did Roy Brown Die Before He Killed the Red Baron?
I wrote this earlier today and when I got the paper Jeff McGuire had also written his thoughts on Roy Brown. Good read.