Arthur Roy Brown – WWI Flying Ace

Roy Brown
Roy Brown

This article was taken from the website “The Canadian Mason” which can be found here. The original article is located here.

Arthur Roy Brown: A brief biography of a Freemason.

Arthur Roy Brown was born 23rd Dec, 1893 in Carleton Place, Ontario. The middle of five children and son to the local four mill, and power plant owner. Arthur was a typical Canadian boy, with a deep love of Hockey. This was so strong in fact that he was later invited to join the Ottawa Senators of the day. This was discouraged by his father in favour of a strong education as an accountant, to which he would apply himself to in earnest.

While attending school he became an Officer Cadet in the Army Cadet Officer Corps, where he became fascinated by the mechanizations of flight. This would become the love that replaced hockey, and would make a mark for Canada on the world stage.

After completing university Arthur went on to attend the Wright Brother’s school of flight in Dayton, Ohio. This would have been impossible had his family not been as well off as it was, with a cost of $250 for 240 minutes of air time, as well as food and lodging bringing the costs to approx $600; In the early 1900’s was quite the cost. Upon completion and receiving his flight certificate, Arthur went on to join the Royal Naval Air Service.

While on leave in 1915, Arthur would return to his home town of Carleton Place, Ontario to visit his family. On one specific visit he was initiated into Masonry at St. John’s Lodge No 63. This unfortunately, is the only information on his Masonic career.

In April of 1916 his career was almost cut short as while on a training exercise. His aircraft malfunctioned and Arthur had to perform an emergency “landing” a crash that would cause a minor spinal injury. Luckily, his back healed quickly and he was allowed back into the cockpit; and respectively into the fight. A year later while flying a Sopwith Pup biplane with 11 Squadron he recorded his first air combat victory.

His string of victories would continue and earn him the title of “Flying Ace,” and the Distinguished Service Cross after he recorded his 5th confirmed kill on October 13th 1917. This string of victories would continue throughout the war. In February 1918, Arthur was promoted and made flight leader of his squadron, a confidential report stated:

“…a very good flight leader and fearless pilot with good ability to command”

By March of the same year, the situation was looking bleak. Allied losses were rising and Arthur was flying 2 missions a day on average and providing extra training to the new pilots. Exhaustion was beginning to take over, reports say he appeared to age pre-maturely, his eye’s were sunken and blood shot, hair grey before his years and he had lost approx 25 pounds. The situation was made even worse for Arthur when he contracted a case of gastritis from easting some bad rabbit, aggravated even further by the constant breathing of the well known laxative castor oil used to lubricate the rotary engines.

By some twist of fate, an old high school friend of Arthur’s was assigned to his squadron. Fresh from flight training Wilfred “Wop” May had no kills or combat experience, which must have been obvious to the enemy. On April 21st, Arthur’s Squadron came under attack and Wilfred found himself on the run from an enemy flying ace.

Seeing his school chum in trouble Arthur engaged Wilfred’s attacker. The plane of the enemy ace was easily identifiable; it was the notorious Manfred Von Richthofen the “Red Baron.” Von Richthofen was notorious not only as the enemies’ ace, but for disregarding his own flight manual. When a target was in his sight he failed to observe around him, but stayed fixed on his target.

Wilfred “Wop” May would go on to fly another day as Arthur riveted the Red Baron with bullets. Manfred Von Richthofen crashed behind Allied lines, shot though the heart. The Australian regiment that found him, gave him a burial with honours, respect for a worthy enemy. Arthur was then awarded his second Distinguished Service Cross.

After the war Arthur retired and took up accounting for his fathers business for a short time. Accounting had never been what he wanted to do, despite his university major. The blue sky’s called him and he answered; starting his own small airline operating around Ontario and Quebec. He dabbled in politics briefly, taking a run at the Ontario legislature but lost in a landslide and took a job as Advisory Editor to Canadian Aviation Magazine in stead.

The years of war had taken their toll on Arthur, he died of a heart attack at age 50, 9 March 1944.