The medals and flying log books of the legendary test pilot and war hero Eric Brown better known by his nickname 'Winkle' are to be offered at Bonhams' Medals, Bonds, Banknotes and Coins Sale in the Knightsbridge saleroom on 23 November. They are estimated at £150,000-200,000.
'Winkle' Brown (so-called due to his small stature) died earlier this year at the age of 97. He is regarded as the greatest-ever British aviator and one of the leading test pilot in the world. In a career that spanned 30 years, he flew 487 different aircraft. No other test pilot has ever come close to matching this record and it will never be beaten. He also held the world records for carrier deck landings (2407) and catapult launches (2721). At great personal risk, he made test flights in jet-powered and rocket-powered aircraft and carried out some of the world's first helicopter tests. Well into his nineties, Winkle Brown a man whose experience and knowledge ranged from bi-planes to space rockets was still being regularly asked for his advice.
The medals to be sold include the Distinguished Service Cross, dated 1942, the Air Force Cross, dated 1947and the CBE awarded in 1970. The lot also includes Winkle Brown's flying log books from 1942 to his final flights for the Fleet Air Arm in 1970. There are also log books covering his work on flying boats and his civilian flying career.
During his long and active live, Brown faced danger many times. As a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War his aircraft carrier, HMS Audacity, was sunk he drifted for several days at sea. After the war when, as Commander of the Enemy Aircraft Flight group of elite flyers, he piloted every one of the Nazi experimental aircraft, including the lethal Messerschmitt Me163 Komet, powered by rocket fuel so volatile it would explode on landing if there was any left in the tank. IN 1946, he also led the crash investigation into the mid-air disintegration of a De Havilland DH108 jet as it attempted to break the sound barrier. The accident shocked the aviation community to such an extent that some people questioned the future of jet power. Winkle Brown recreated the fatal flight, coming within seconds of death. In the process, however, he discovered the cause of the accident and his work is credited with securing the development of a form of aviation which became such a major feature of modern life.
Bonhams Head of Medals and Coins, John Millensted, said, "Eric 'Winkle' Brown was an extraordinary man. The Royal Navy's most decorated flyer, he established records far beyond the reach of pilots today. He was regarded with awe by aviators of all kinds the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong was an admirer and friend and until his final years he was in great demand, not out of nostalgic respect, but because his vast experience never ceased to be of practical use."