Obituary: Norman Brown, Spitfire hero, 94

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Tributes have been paid to a Spitfire pilot who fought in the Battle of Britain, following his death aged 94.

Norman Brown, originally from Edinburgh, was the last known surviving member of 41 Squadron based at Hornchurch, Essex, who heroically defended Britain’s skies in 1940 – losing 16 pilots in action during the three-month campaign and claiming more than 100 “kills” of enemy planes.

He was never shot down, despite almost-daily dogfights against the Luftwaffe, and survived several forced landings, including flying into the metal cable of a barrage balloon floated over London to defend against low-lying enemy aircraft.

Born on July 27, 1919, he went to South Morningside Primary before George Heriot’s School.

Mr Brown passed away peacefully at Borders General Hospital, near Melrose, on Tuesday, December 17.

A memorial service was held on Saturday, December 21 in the Old Parish Church in Peebles, where he had lived in retirement.

His wife, Sheila (née Cunningham), died in 2003. He is survived by their children, Ian, Peter and Elizabeth, six grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

In a tribute, his family said: “He was a gentleman in the true sense of the word and never let personal setbacks diminish his wit and sense of honour.”

Mr Brown joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in August 1939 as an airman/pilot and was called up the following month.

He initially served in Hastings before being transferred to Derby in April 1940. Eventually after converting to Spitfires, he moved to 41 Squadron on October 12, 1940.

He was one of a flight of Spitfires that overshot Hornchurch in poor visibility on November 1 and went into the London Barrage Balloon area. Mr Brown struck a cable, seriously damaging his aircraft. He made a forced landing on a small piece of open ground in the built-up area of Dagenham.

In an article for the Scottish Saltire Branch of the Aircrew Association some years later, he wrote: “The weather was still quite thick . . . my starboard wing struck a cable – not a pleasant discovery. As it was, I struggled hard with the controls and literally ‘flew down’ the cable with the airspeed falling dramatically.

“On trying to pull out, the Spit turned over on its back at about 1000ft and I thought all was over and I momentarily experienced the most unusual sense of complete tranquility.”

Mr Brown eventually crash-landed and was hauled from the wreckage by passing workmen.

He left the squadron in late February 1941 and left the RAF in April of that year. He spent the remainder of the war working in the timber industry. His entire working career was spent in forestry and he rose to District Commissioner for the West of Scotland with the Forestry Commission.