Bio / Text:
Cyril Bob Brown was born on 17th January 1921 and educated at Southend Grammar School. He joined the RAFVR in May 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot and did his elementary flying at 34 E&RFTS Rochford.
Called up at the outbreak of war, Brown completed his training at 11 FTS Shawbury and RAF College FTS Cranwell, converted to Hurricanes at 5 OTU and then joined 245 Squadron at Aldergrove on 4th October 1940.
Based in the Orkneys, his squadron flew patrols in protection of the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow.
Brown was posted to 253 at Kenley in late November 1940. He was commissioned in October 1941 and in early 1942 he joined 616 Squadron at Kingscliffe.
On 25th May 1942 Brown attacked a Do17 over Leicester. Return fire shattered his hood and a splinter of perspex entered his right eye. He managed to land at North Luffenham.
Despite his wounds he staggered to the control tower to report to his station commander, Gp Capt. Basil Embry, before collapsing. Brown was then placed on a stretcher but, as the party descended the stairs, he fell off and tumbled to the bottom. He later claimed that this was the most frightening aspect of the whole event.
The eye was removed, although he was fitted with a false eye he preferred a black eye patch which attracted the nickname 'Cyclops'. Brown went back to 616 to continue his tour. He was checked in a dual trainer and then soloed in a Spitfire. He stayed on operations due to the intercession of Basil Embry.
Brown was later posted to 532 Turbinlite Havoc Squadron at Wittering. In 1943 he became a test pilot at the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down.
Since using the gun sights of fighters required binocular vision, he specialised in flying and testing the Typhoon and Tempest aircraft in the ground attack role. He commanded the Fixed Gun Firing Flight and became an expert in rocket-firing.
On one occasion Brown almost shot himself down when a rocket struck the ground, and the subsequent ricochet hit his Typhoon.
After three years of test flying he was awarded the AFC (gazetted 1st January 1946).
In late 1946 he went on a course at the Empire Test Pilots School at Cranfield, after which he returned to Boscombe Down.
In 1948 he was appointed as a tutor at the Empire Test Pilots School.
On one occasion he gathered together a one-armed colleague and another with a broken leg, and, with Brown sporting his eye patch at a jaunty angle, the trio hobbled arm-in-arm into the officers mess bar to announce to the new students that they were the staff running the test pilots course.
In 1958 Brown took command of D (Helicopter) Squadron at Boscombe Down. In August 1960 the new twin-rotor Bristol 192 helicopter, later known as the Belvedere, was due to fly to Idris in Libya for hot weather trials. He decided to use the transit flight to establish a long-distance helicopter record.
Setting off from Gatwick in the early hours of the morning, Brown and his crew arrived on Malta just over 12 hours later, after stopping twice to refuel en-route. The record still stands.
Promoted to Group Captain, Brown took command of the V-bomber airfield at Waddington near Lincoln in 1963. The three Vulcan squadrons he commanded formed part of Britain's strategic nuclear deterrent and were frequently tested to respond to no-notice dispersal and scramble exercises. He regularly flew the four-engine bomber, and his piloting skills were readily apparent but as one colleague recalled Brown was never able to learn how to park his staff car without colliding with something.
He was responsible for preserving the last airworthy Lancaster which now is based with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Brown retired on 17th January 1972 as an Air Commodore.
He became the managing director of Leigh Instruments, specialising in the development and manufacture of flight data recorders; Brown's expertise as a test pilot and his knowledge of flight safety were invaluable.
He was a dedicated and skilful yachtsman and was appointed Commodore of the RAF Yacht Club in 1972 and Admiral of the Club in 1992.
He was made CBE in 1966.
Brown died on 1st November 2003.