Arthur Whitten Brown

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Sir Arthur Whitten Brown
Arthur Whitten Brown.jpg
Born(1886-07-23)23 July 1886
Glasgow, Scotland
Died 4 October 1948(1948-10-04) (aged 62)
Swansea, Wales
BuriedSt Margaret Churchyard, Tylers Green, Buckinghamshire, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army, Royal Air Force
Years of service 191419, 193943
Rank Lieutenant-Colonel
Unit University and Public Schools Brigade
Manchester Regiment
2 Squadron Royal Flying Corps

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, KBE (23 July 1886 – 4 October 1948) was the navigator of the first successful non-stop transatlantic flight. [1] [2]

Lieutenant colonel, is a rank in the British Army and Royal Marines which is also used in many Commonwealth countries. The rank is superior to major, and subordinate to colonel. The comparable Royal Navy rank is commander, and the comparable rank in the Royal Air Force and many Commonwealth air forces is wing commander.



Arthur Whitten Brown was born in Glasgow to American parents; his father had been sent to Scotland to evaluate the feasibility of siting a Westinghouse factory in Clydeside. The factory was eventually sited in Trafford Park in Stretford, Lancashire, and the family subsequently relocated there.

Trafford Park area of the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, Greater Manchester, England

Trafford Park is an area of the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, Greater Manchester, England, opposite Salford Quays on the southern side of the Manchester Ship Canal, 3.4 miles (5.5 km) southwest of Manchester city centre and 1.3 miles (2.1 km) north of Stretford. Until the late 19th century, it was the ancestral home of the Trafford family, who sold it to financier Ernest Terah Hooley in 1896. Occupying an area of 4.7 square miles (12 km2), it was the first planned industrial estate in the world, and remains the largest in Europe.

Stretford town in Trafford, Greater Manchester

Stretford is a town in Trafford, Greater Manchester, England, on flat ground between the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal, 3.8 miles (6.1 km) southwest of Manchester city centre, 3.0 miles (4.8 km) south of Salford and 4.2 miles (6.8 km) northeast of Altrincham. Stretford borders Chorlton-cum-Hardy to the east, Urmston to the west, Salford to the north, and Sale to the south. The Bridgewater Canal bisects the town.

Lancashire County of England

Lancashire is a ceremonial county in North West England. The administrative centre is Preston. The county has a population of 1,449,300 and an area of 1,189 square miles (3,080 km2). People from Lancashire are known as Lancastrians.

Brown began his career in engineering before the outbreak of World War I and undertook an apprenticeship with British Westinghouse in Manchester. In 1914, he enlisted in the ranks of the University and Public Schools Brigade (UPS) for which he had to take out British citizenship. The ranks of the UPS were full of potential officers and Brown was one of those who sought a commission to become a Second Lieutenant in the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. After service in France, Brown was seconded to 2 Squadron Royal Flying Corps as an observer.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

British Westinghouse Electrical and Manufacturing Company was a subsidiary of the Pittsburgh, USA based Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. British Westinghouse would become a subsidiary of Metropolitan-Vickers in 1919; and after Metropolitan-Vickers merged with British Thomson-Houston in 1929, it became part of Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) in 1959. Further consolidation saw AEI taken over by GEC in 1967.

Public Schools Battalions

The Public Schools Battalions were Pals battalions of the British Army during the First World War. They were raised as part of Kitchener's Army, originally made up exclusively of former public schoolboys. When the battalions were taken over by the British Army they became variously the 16th (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment and 18th (Service) Battalion , 19th (Service) Battalion , 20th (Service) Battalion and 21st (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers.

Brown's aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft fire over Vendin-le-Vieil in France while on artillery observation duties. He was sent back to England to recuperate but returned only to be shot down again, this time with a punctured fuel tank, near Bapaume in B.E.2c (number 2673) on a reconnaissance flight on 10 November 1915. Brown and his pilot, 2nd Lt. H. W. Medlicott, were captured by the Germans. (In June 1918 Medlicott was shot by the Germans while attempting to escape for the fourteenth time). Later interned in Switzerland, Brown was repatriated in September 1917.

Vendin-le-Vieil Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Vendin-le-Vieil is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Hauts-de-France region of France.

Bapaume Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

BapaumeFrench pronunciation: [](listen) is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France.

Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 family of British single-engine tractor two-seat biplanes

The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 was a British single-engine tractor two-seat biplane designed and developed at the Royal Aircraft Factory. Most production aircraft were constructed under contract by various private companies, both established aircraft manufacturers and firms that had not previously built aircraft. Around 3,500 were manufactured in all.

After a period of leave he went to work with Major Kennedy RAF in the Ministry of Munitions. This led Brown to meet Kennedy's daughters, one of whom he later married. After the war Brown sought various appointments that would give him the security to allow him to marry. One of the firms he approached was Vickers, a consequence of which was that he was asked if he would be the navigator for the proposed transatlantic flight, partnering John Alcock, who had already been chosen as pilot.

Vickers was a famous name in British engineering that existed through many companies from 1828 until 1999.

A transatlantic flight is the flight of an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, Africa, or the Middle East to North America, Central America, or South America, or vice versa. Such flights have been made by fixed-wing aircraft, airships, balloons, and other aircraft.

Transatlantic flight

Brown (left) with John Alcock in 1919 Arthur Whitten Brown and John Alcock in 1919.jpg
Brown (left) with John Alcock in 1919

The flight from St. John's, Newfoundland to Clifden, Connemara, Ireland took place on 14 June 1919. They departed St John's at 1.45 pm local time, and landed in Derrygimla bog 16 hours and 12 minutes later after flying 1,980 miles (3,168 km). The flight was made in a modified Vickers Vimy bomber, and won a £10,000 prize offered by London's Daily Mail newspaper for the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. [3] [4] A few days after the flight both Brown and Alcock were honoured with a reception at Windsor Castle during which King George V knighted them and invested them with their insignia as Knight Commanders of the Order of the British Empire. [5] [6]

St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial capital city in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

St. John's is the capital and largest city of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is on the eastern tip of the Avalon Peninsula on the large Canadian island, Newfoundland. The city spans 446.04 square kilometres (172.22 sq mi) and is North America's easternmost city.

Clifden Town in Connacht, Ireland

Clifden is a coastal town in County Galway, Ireland, in the region of Connemara, located on the Owenglin River where it flows into Clifden Bay. As the largest town in the region, it is often referred to as "the Capital of Connemara". Frequented by tourists, Clifden is linked to Galway city by the N59.

Connemara cultural region in County Galway, Ireland

Connemara is a cultural region in County Galway, Ireland. The area has a strong association with traditional Irish culture and contains a major part of the Connacht Irish-speaking Gaeltacht, which is a key part of the identity of the region and is the largest Gaeltacht in the country.

Post flight career

Later he worked for Metropolitan-Vickers (MetroVick), the company that had once been British Westinghouse. In 1923 he was appointed chief representative for Metropolitan-Vickers in the Swansea area.

During World War II Brown served in the Home Guard as a Lieutenant-Colonel before resigning his commission in July 1941, rejoining the RAF and working in RAF Training Command as a pilot officer dealing with navigation. His health deteriorated and by mid-1943 he had to resign from the RAFVR [7] and give up his Air Training Corps commitments on medical advice.

Brown's only son, Arthur (known as Buster), was killed on the night of 5/6 June 1944, aged 22, while serving with the RAF as a Flight Lieutenant. His aircraft, a de Havilland Mosquito VI NT122, of 605 Squadron, crashed in the Netherlands. Buster was buried at the general cemetery in Hoorn, the town closest to the crash. The death of his only son affected Brown badly.

By 1948 Brown’s health had again deteriorated, although he was allowed to undertake restricted duties as general manager for Metropolitan-Vickers at the Wind Street offices.

Brown died in his sleep on 4 October 1948 from an accidental overdose of Veronal, aged 62. Probate was granted on 16 December 1948 to his widow, listed as Marguerite Kathleen Whitten Brown, for effects totalling £5,002 0s 3d.

Brown's widow died on 1 May 1952, aged 56, at Brunswick Nursing Home, Fyfnone, Swansea. Probate was dated 9 June 1952 and left effects of £4,342 6s 11d to an Eileen Howard Kennedy, spinster.

Brown and his wife's ashes are interred at St Margaret Churchyard, Tylers Green, Buckinghamshire, England. [8]


See also

Related Research Articles

The year 1919 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

Transatlantic flight of Alcock and Brown duo

British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight in June 1919. They flew a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. The Secretary of State for Air, Winston Churchill, presented them with the Daily Mail prize for the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by aeroplane in "less than 72 consecutive hours". A small amount of mail was carried on the flight, making it the first transatlantic airmail flight. The two aviators were awarded the honour of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) a week later by King George V at Windsor Castle.

Curtiss NC-4

The NC-4 was a Curtiss NC flying boat that was the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, albeit not non-stop. The NC designation was derived from the collaborative efforts of the Navy (N) and Curtiss (C). The NC series flying boats were designed to meet wartime needs, and after the end of WWI they were sent overseas to validate the design concept.

Vickers Vimy bomber aircraft

The Vickers Vimy was a British heavy bomber aircraft developed and manufactured by Vickers Limited. Developed during the latter stages of the First World War to equip the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), the Vimy was designed by Reginald Kirshaw "Rex" Pierson, Vickers' chief designer.

John Alcock (RAF officer) captain in the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force

Captain Sir John William "Jack" Alcock was a Royal Navy and later Royal Air Force officer who, with navigator Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown, piloted the first non-stop transatlantic flight from St. John's, Newfoundland to Clifden, Connemara, Ireland. He died in a flying accident in France in 1919.

Handley Page V/1500 British night-flying heavy bomber

The Handley Page V/1500 was a British night-flying heavy bomber built by Handley Page towards the end of the First World War. It was a large four-engined biplane, which resembled a larger version of Handley Page's earlier O/100 and O/400 bombers, intended to bomb Berlin from East Anglian airfields. The end of the war stopped the V/1500 being used against Germany, but a single aircraft was used to carry out the first flight from England to India, and later carried out a bombing raid on Kabul during the Third Anglo-Afghan War. It was colloquially known within the fledgling Royal Air Force as the "Super Handley". The V/1500 which was shipped to Canada to attempt a transatlantic flight was flown in the USA beyond its flight to New York. In 1919 it crash-landed in a field at Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania. Photos appeared in the 20 February 1969 issue of the Bradford Journal newspaper.

No. 7 Squadron RAF

No. 7 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Boeing Chinook HC.6 from RAF Odiham, Hampshire.

Vickers Valentia

The Vickers Valentia was a 1920s British flying boat designed during the First World War.

No. 56 Squadron RAF

Number 56 Squadron, nicknamed 'the Firebirds' for their ability to always reappear intact regardless of the odds, is one of the oldest and most successful squadrons of the Royal Air Force, with battle honours from many of the significant air campaigns of both World War I and World War II.

Felixstowe F.3 flying boat

The Felixstowe F.3 was a British First World War flying boat, successor to the Felixstowe F.2 designed by Lieutenant Commander John Cyril Porte RN at the naval air station, Felixstowe.

Jeffrey Kindersley Quill, was a British test pilot who served on secondment with the Royal Air Force and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War. He was also the second man to fly the Supermarine Spitfire after Vickers Aviation's chief test pilot, Joseph "Mutt" Summers. After succeeding Summers as Vickers' chief test pilot, Quill test-flew every mark of Spitfire. Quill's work on the aircraft aided its development from a promising but untried prototype to become, with the Hawker Hurricane, an instrument of the Royal Air Force's victory in the Battle of Britain. The Spitfire later played a leading role in gaining Allied air superiority over Europe. Quill later wrote two books about the Spitfire.

Geoffrey Page British military aviator

Alan Geoffrey Page,, known as Geoffrey Page, was an officer in the Royal Air Force who served during the Second World War. He participated in the Battle of Britain, and was shot down. He was badly burned when his aircraft was destroyed, and was lucky to survive. He underwent many surgeries on his way to recovery, and was a founding member of the Guinea Pig Club. He eventually passed a medical exam and returned to active service, becoming one of England's most successful fighter pilots.

Peter Malam Brothers British flying ace

Air Commodore Peter Malam "Pete" Brothers, was a Royal Air Force fighter pilot and flying ace of the Second World War. Brothers was credited with 16 aerial victories, 10 of which he achieved during the Battle of Britain.

Captain Joseph "Mutt" Summers,, was chief test pilot at Vickers-Armstrongs and Supermarine.

Sopwith Atlantic

The Sopwith Atlantic was an experimental British long-range aircraft of 1919. It was a single-engined biplane that was designed and built to be the first aeroplane to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop. It took off on an attempt to cross the Atlantic from Newfoundland on 18 May 1919, but ditched during the attempt owing to an overheating engine.

Reginald Kirshaw "Rex" Pierson CBE was an English aircraft designer and chief designer at Vickers Limited later Vickers-Armstrongs Aircraft Ltd. He was responsible for the Vickers Vimy, a heavy bomber designed during World War 1 and the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic non-stop. He was the chief designer of the Vickers Wellington bomber of World War 2.

Squadron Leader William Arthur Waterton, AFC & Bar, GM was a Canadian and British test pilot and correspondent for the Daily Express. He was awarded the George Medal for saving the flight data when he landed at great risk the prototype Gloster Javelin after it lost its controls during a test flight.

George E. A. Hallett British-American aviator

Colonel George Eustace Amyot Hallett was a pioneer aviator. He and John Cyril Porte planned to make the first transatlantic flight. They were going to use a flying boat commissioned by Rodman Wanamaker, but were prevented by the start of World War I. In 1919 the transatlantic flight of Alcock and Brown set the record that they hoped to achieve.

The Daily Mail Trans-Atlantic Air Race was a race between London, UK and New York City, USA to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the first trans-atlantic crossing by John Alcock and Arthur Brown.


  1. Ralph S. Cooper, D.V.M. "Arthur Whitten Brown". Retrieved 3 December 2010.
  2. "Sir Arthur Whitten Brown (British aviator) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 3 December 2010.
  3. "Alcock and Brown – Great Britain". Archived from the original on 13 December 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
  4. "Introduction John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown were two British fliers". Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
  5. "No. 31422". The London Gazette . 27 June 1919. p. 8087.
  6. "Captain Jack Alcock (1892–1919)" (PDF). Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester, England. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  7. "No. 36054". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 1943. p. 2735.
  8. "Arthur Whitten Brown (1886–1948) – Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 3 December 2010.

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