Statue honours ‘a Scottish hero who can inspire us all’

Eric Brown in 1939 - at the start of an incredible wartime career.
Eric Brown in 1939 - at the start of an incredible wartime career.

A statue to honour Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown - one of the world’s greatest ever pilots - has been unveiled at Edinburgh Airport.

Brown, who passed away in 2016, was born in Leith in 1919 and went on to become a British Royal Navy officer after training at RAF Turnhouse, now Edinburgh Airport, in the late 1930s.

The late Captain Eric Brown, photographed in 2015.

The late Captain Eric Brown, photographed in 2015.

His records include -

Flying more types of aircraft than any other pilot in history, from biplanes and helicopters to supersonic jets.

The world record for landings on aircraft carriers (2,407).

The world record for take-offs on aircraft carriers (2,721).

One of his most astonishing exploits involved being sent on a mission to test-pilot a new Nazi jet bomber - which was based at a Luftwaffe airfield in Denmark presumed to have surrendered.

In fact the base was still under enemy control when Brown arrived, but luckily he was able to persuade its commander - and 2,000 enemy personnel - to surrender.

By the end of the war he had flown dozens of different types of Luftwaffe aircraft.

His distinguished war record included service on HMS Audacity, an escort carrier, from which he shot down two Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf patrol aircraft - before he became one of just 24 survivors of Audacity when she was sunk by a U-Boat.

Quite apart from his role as an ace pilot he was to be given the task of interrogating some of the Nazi regime’s most evil mass murderers when the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. - they were later hanged.

Sir John Elvidge, chairman of Edinburgh Airport said: “Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown is someone who is synonymous with RAF Turnhouse, and in turn a key figure in the history of what is now Edinburgh Airport.

“His achievements speak for themselves and the fact his remarkable career is still held in such high regard after all these years is testament to the man himself”.

Former pilots from the Edinburgh University Air Squadron raised the funds for the life-sized bronze statue, unveiled recently by Prince Andrew.

The Squadron’s chairman, Dr Hamish Macleod, said: “Winkle was not only a man who loved to fly, but also inspired a generation of pilots with his modest good humour, and outstanding courage.

“The statue of him outside Edinburgh Airport will give the many thousands of passengers the opportunity to reflect on this Scottish hero who can inspire us all.

“Winkle’s legacy can also bring a life changing experience to today’s youngsters assisting them to learn to fly, or simply experiencing the thrill of flying in small aircraft.”