ACA Woking News by Paul Holden, PRO

10 September 2002


Woking ACA Entertainment Officer Alec Dunbar (left)
helps Captain Brown (right) set up the slide projector
Captain Brown and Alec Dunbar

Members of the local branch of the Aircrew Association gave their rapt attention to a fascinating talk on aircraft carriers and their aircraft by Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown, CBE, OBE, DSC, AFC, RN, appearing by popular demand for the second time in their busy monthly programme of speakers on aviation topics.

Captain Brown was on the first "Escort Carrier", converted from a captured enemy ship, with a flight deck only 420 feet long. At that time it was equipped with six Wildcat aircraft, supplied under lease lend. Later, he flew Hellcats, which he regarded as the best fighter of its time, and which had a 90% success rate in combat with the enemy, and Seafires, which he regarded as lovely aircraft but not really designed to take the heavy landings which tend to be part and parcel of carrier operations.

He subsequently became one of Britain's most experienced and respected test pilots, and was himself concerned with designing such things as arrester gear on naval aircraft, right through to being involved (in 1964) in a completely new concept of aircraft carrier with the "Island" in the centre of the ship. Aircraft would land, fold wings, and taxi round the island to refuel and rearm, before going straight off again. Sadly, this project was cancelled in 1966.

One of his more unusual assignments concerned de Havilland Mosquitos, modified to carry atom bombs off aircraft carriers - but of course these were never used following the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which resulted in the conclusion of hostilities in the Far East. Members could have listened to him for hours, but time inevitably cut short the number of stories he was able to recount.

Back to top of page