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Belfast woman who won heart of greatest pilot in British history Eric 'Winkle' Brown

Captain Brown with his wife Lynn Macrory in Lossiemouth in 1954
Captain Brown with his wife Lynn Macrory in Lossiemouth in 1954
Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown was a formidable aviator

By Rebecca Black

He was the Scottish war hero admired by astronaut Tim Peake and feted as having made James Bond look like a slacker - and it was a Belfast woman who stole his heart.

Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown, who died at the age of 97 at the weekend, was one of the world's greatest aviators.

The Royal Navy's most decorated pilot, he held the record for the highest number of aircraft types flown (487) and the most aircraft carrier landings (2,407). He was also the first man to land a twin-engined aircraft on a carrier, and the first to land a jet on a carrier.

It was while on a posting to Belfast that he met Evelyn (Lynn) Macrory, and the pair married in 1942. Far from being overshadowed by her hero husband, the fine singer once performed during the war with Glenn Miller and his orchestra.

Brown was born in Edinburgh in 1919 and got his first taste of flying aged eight, when he was taken up in a Gloster Gauntlet by his father, who had been in the Royal Flying Corps during the Great War.

He saw the earliest incarnation of the Luftwaffe in 1936 when he went to the Berlin Olympics with his dad, where he also witnessed Adolf Hitler shaking the hand of the star of the Games, black US athlete Jesse Owens.

Brown studied modern languages at the University of Edinburgh in the late 1930s, where he majored in German, and helped fund his studies by riding a 250cc motorbike on a circus Wall of Death, sometimes with a tamed lion in his sidecar.

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He joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a Fleet Air Arm pilot in 1939 and was posted to 802 Squadron, serving on the escort carrier HMS Audacity and flying the Grumman Martlet.

While on Audacity he shot down two Focke-Wulf Condor maritime patrol aircraft. Audacity was torpedoed and sunk by the Germans in December 1941.

Brown was one of only two survivors from the squadron, having been saved by his life-jacket.

The next year became one of the most important in his remarkable life, when a visit to Belfast saw him meet his true love.

Lynn Macrory was secretary to the boss of a Belfast firm that Brown visited on flying business.

It is uncertain how the business mission went, but what is known for sure is the pair fell in love and married later that year, and had a son, Glen.

But the 1942 honeymoon can only have been brief, with Brown needed back for the war effort.

He helped liberate Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of the war and, due to his German language skills, was asked to translate during Allied interrogations of enemy prisoners. His language skills were called upon at the Nuremburg trials, where top Nazis were held to account for their actions.

He also flew many captured Luftwaffe aircraft to assess their capabilities.

Brown later served in the Korean War before finishing his career as commander of Royal Naval Air Station Lossiemouth, being made a CBE and finally retiring in 1970.

He then worked for British and European civilian helicopter associations, and wrote his autobiography, Wings On My Sleeve, in 2006.

Astronaut Peake paid tribute to him as "the greatest test pilot who has ever lived".

Lynn predeceased her husband, dying in 1998.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph