Tag Archives: Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire

3 December 1945

Lieutenant Eric M. Brown, MBE, DSC, RNVR. © IWM (A 31015)
Lieutenant Eric M. Brown, M.B.E., D.S.C., Royal Navy. © IWM (A 31015)

3 December 1945: The first landing and takeoff aboard an aircraft carrier by a jet-powered aircraft were made by Lieutenant-Commander Eric Melrose Brown, M.B.E., D.S.C., R.N.V.R., Chief Naval Test Pilot at RAE Farnborough, while flying a de Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire Mk.10, LZ551/G. The ship was the Royal Navy Colossus-class light aircraft carrier, HMS Ocean (R68), under the command of Captain Casper John, R.N.

For his actions in these tests, Lieutenant-Commander Brown was invested an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.), 19 February 1946.

LZ551 was the second of three prototype DH.100 Vampires, which first flew 17 March 1944. The airplane was used for flight testing and then in 1945, was modified for operation for carriers. It was named “Sea Vampire” and reclassified as Mk.10.

The DH.100 was a single-seat, single-engine fighter powered by a turbojet engine. The twin tail boom configuration of the airplane was intended to allow a short exhaust tract for the engine, reducing power loss in the early jet engines available at the time.

LZ551/G was originally powered by a Halford H.1 turbojet which produced 2,300 pounds of thrust (10.231 kilonewtons) at 9,300 r.p.m. This engine was produced by de Havilland and named Goblin.

The Vampire entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1945 and remained a front-line fighter until 1953. 3,268 DH.100s were built. There were two prototype Sea Vampires (including LZ551) followed by 18 production Sea Vampire FB.5 fighter bombers and 73 Sea Vampire T.22 two-place trainers.

LZ551 is in the collection of the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset.

Captain Eric ("Winkle") Brown, RNAS, aboard HMS Ocean, 3 December 1945. (Daily Mail)
Lieutenant-Commander Eric (“Winkle”) Brown, MBE, DSC, RNVR, with the second prototype de Havilland DH.100, LZ551, aboard HMS Ocean, 3 December 1945. (Daily Mail)

HMS Ocean was built at the Alexander Stephen and Sons yard on the Clyde, Glasgow, Scotland. The ship was launched in 1944 and commissioned 8 August 1945. Classed as a light fleet carrier, HMS Ocean was 630 feet (192 meters) long at the water line, with a beam of 80 feet, 1 inch (24.41 meters) and standard draft of 18 feet, 6 inches (5.64 meters) at 13,190 tons displacement; 23 feet, 3 inches (7.09 meters), at full load displacement (18,000 tons). The aircraft carrier’s  flight deck was 695 feet, 6 inches (212.0 meters) long. Ocean was driven by four Parsons geared steam turbines producing 40,000 shaft horsepower, and had a maximum speed of 25 knots (28.8 miles per hour/46.3 kilometers per hour). HMS Ocean had a crew of 1,050 sailors, and could carry 52 aircraft.

HMS Ocean served for twelve years before being placed in reserve. Five years later, she was scrapped at Faslane, Scotland.

Winkle Brown and the DH.100 Sea Vampire fly past HMS Ocean.
Winkle Brown and the DH.100 Sea Vampire fly past HMS Ocean.
A landing signal officer guides Brown to land aboard HMS Ocean.
De Havilland Sea Vampire Mk.10 catches the arresting wire aboard HMS Ocean, 3 December 1945.
De Havilland Sea Vampire Mk.10 LZ551/G catches the arresting wire aboard HMS Ocean, 3 December 1945.
De Havilland Sea Vampire Mk.10 lands aboard HMS Ocean, 3 December 1945. (BAE Systems)
De Havilland Sea Vampire Mk.10 takes off from HMS Ocean, 3 December 1945. (BAE Systems)

Captain Eric Melrose Brown, C.B.E., D.S.C., A.F.C., KCVSA, Ph.D., Hon. F.R.Ae.S., R.N., is one of aviation’s greatest test pilots. He was born at Leith, Scotland, 21 January 1918, the son of Robert John Brown and Euphemia Melrose Brown. His father, a Royal Air Force officer, took him for his first flight at the age of 8. He was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, Scotland; Fettes College; and at the University of Edinburgh. He received a Master of Arts degree from the university in 1947.

This unidentified Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm petty officer appears to be Eric Brown.

Eric Brown volunteered for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, 4 December 1939. Having previously learned to fly at the University Air Squadron, Brown was sent to a Flying Refresher Course at RNAS Sydenham, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Sub-Lieutenant Eric Melrose Brown, Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, circa 1939.

Brown received a commission as a temporary Sub-Lieutenant, Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, 26 November 1940. He briefly served with No. 801 Squadron before being transferred to No. 802 Squadron. He flew the Grumman G-36A Martlet Mk.I (the export version of the U.S. Navy F4F-3 Wildcat fighter) from the escort carrier HMS Audacity (D10) on Gibraltar convoys.

Having shot down several enemy aircraft, including two Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor four-engine patrol bombers, Brown was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. HMS Audacity was sunk by enemy submarines in the Atlantic, 21 December 1941. Brown was one of only 24 to escape from the sinking ship, but only he and one other survived long enough in the frigid water to be rescued.

Ensign Eric M.Brown with a Grumman Martlet Mk.I
Sub-Lieutenant Eric M.Brown, R.N.V.R., Fleet Air Arm, with a Grumman Martlet Mk.I, circa 1941. (Unattributed)

Sub-Lieutenant Brown met Miss Evelyn Jean Margaret Macrory on 7 April 1940. They married in 1942 and would have one son.

Brown was promoted to lieutenant, 1 April 1943. After a number of operational assignments, Lieutenant Brown was assigned to the Naval Test Squadron at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment, Boscombe Down, in December 1943. The following month Brown was named Chief Naval Test Pilot at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough. He held that post until 1949.

In July 1945, Eric Brown was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-commander (temporary), and then, following the war, he was transferred from the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve to the Royal Navy, and appointed a lieutenant with date of rank to 1 April 1943.

Lieutenant Brown was awarded the King’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air in the New Year’s Honours List, 1949. Brown returned to No. 802 Squadron during the Korean War, flying from the aircraft  carriers HMS Vengeance (R71) and HMS Indomitable (92). He was promoted to lieutenant-commander, 1 April 1951. In September 1951, Brown resumed flight testing as an exchange officer at the U.S. Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland.

Commander and Mrs. Brown at RNAS Lossiemouth, circa 1954. (Daily Mail)
Commander and Mrs. Brown at RNAS Lossiemouth, circa 1954. (Daily Mail)

In 1953, Lieutenant-Commander Brown was a ship’s officer aboard HMS Rocket (H92), an anti-submarine frigate. He was promoted to commander, 31 December 1953. After a helicopter refresher course, Brown commanded a Search-and-Rescue (SAR) helicopter flight aboard HMS Illustrious. He next commanded No. 804 Squadron based at RNAS Lossiemouth, then went on to command RNAS Brawdy at Pembrokeshire, Wales.

From 1958 to 1960, Commander Brown was the head of the British Naval Air Mission to Germany. He then held several senior positions in air defense within the Ministry of Defence. He was promoted to captain 31 December 1960.

From 1964 to 1967, Brown was the Naval Attache at Bonn, Germany. He next commanded RNAS Lossiemouth, 1967–1970.

Captain Brown’s final military assignment was as Aide-de-camp to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

Eric M. Brown was invested a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.), 3 July 1945, for landings of a de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito aboard HMS Indefatigable, 2 May 1944. On 1 January 1970, Captain Brown was named a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in the Queen’s New Years Honours List.

Captain Eric Melrose Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC Hob FRAeS, RN
Captain Eric Melrose Brown, C.B.E., D.S.C., A.F.C., K.C.V.S.A., Ph.D., Hon. F.R.Ae.S., Royal Navy

Captain Eric Melrose Brown, C.B.E., D.S.C., A.F.C., K.C.V.S.A., Ph.D. Hon. F.R.Ae.S., R.N., retired from active duty 12 March 1970.

At that time, he had accumulated more than 18,000 flight hours, with over 8,000 hours as a test pilot. Captain Brown had flown 487 different aircraft types (not variants), a record which is unlikely to ever be broken. Brown made more landings on aircraft carriers than any other pilot, with 2407 landings, fixed wing, and 212 landings, helicopter. He made 2,721 catapult launches, both at sea and on land.

In 1982 and 1983, Captain Brown served as president of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Eric “Winkle” Brown died at Redhill, Surrey, England, 21 February 2016, at the age of 97 years.

Captain Brown with the De Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire Mk.10, LZ551, at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton. (Nigel Cheffers-Heard, Fleet Air Arm Museum)
Captain Eric M. Brown with the De Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire Mk.10, LZ551, at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset, England. (Nigel Cheffers-Heard, Fleet Air Arm Museum)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

26 August 1963


“Housewife Diana Barnato Walker, 45, waves as she climbs into her RAF Lightning jet fighter at Middleton St. George, England, Monday, the day she became the world’s fasted woman aviator. Mrs. Walker, who has a 14-year-old son, flew the plane at 1,250 m.p.h., breaking the official record set by France’s Jacqueline Auriol. Mrs. Walker is a trainer-pilot in the Women’s Junior Air Corps. UPI Radiotelephoto” —The Palm Beach Post, 29 August 1963, Page 51

26 August 1963: Mrs. Diana Barnato Walker, a former pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary during World War II, flew an English Electric Lightning T Mk.4, XM996, with Squadron Leader Kenneth Goodwin, from RAF Middleton St. George. Her request to make the flight had been approved by Secretary of State for Air Sir Hugh C. P. J. Fraser, MBE. This was the 27th anniversary of her very first flight, which was made in a de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth.

Barnato Walker took the controls of the Lightning soon after takeoff, and climbed to 56,000 feet, accelerating toward Mach 1.6. The duration of the flight was approximately 40 minutes.

The Daily Herald quoted her as saying, “Of all the aircraft I have ever flown this is a lady’s dream plane. It flies so quietly and smoothly and responds perfectly.”

The Chelsea News reported:


Flies 1,250 mph at 56,000 feet


Mrs. Diana Barnato Walker, of No. 3 Chelsea Embankment, has become the first woman pilot to be a member of the 350-strong Ten Ton Club, all of whose members are pilots who have flown over 1,000 m.p.h. — there are only two other women members in the world. She is the mother of a 14-year-old boy, Barney.

     Mrs. Barnato-Walker made her flight on Monday in a two-seater Lightning T.4 from the R.A.F. station at Middleton St. George, Yorkshire. Her co-pilot was Squadron-Leader Kenneth Goodwin.

     “It was absolutely wonderful,” said Mrs. Barnato-Walker on Wednesday. “It was terribly quiet in the Lightning when we were supersonic because we were going so fast that we left the noise of the plane behind.”

     Immediately after taking off, she took over the control and remained in charge for most of the 40-minute flight.

     The maximum speed was 1,250 mph (mach 1.6).

     The plane belonged to No. 2 Squadron, 226 Operational Conversion Unit, stationed at Middleton St. George.

Mrs. Barnato-Walker was allowed to do the flight because it was thought she would then be better qualified to inspect cadets in the Women’s Junior Air Corps.


     She was officially made a member of the Ten Ton Club when she landed, and was presented with the exclusive club tie.

     She was guest of honor at a party held for her in the mess.

     A few days before the flight, Mrs. Barnato-Walker had to go through the official R.A.F. decompression test because of the high altitude (56,000 ft.) at which the flight was made. She had to wear RAF safety gear during the flight. If she had not passed the decompression test she would not have been allowed to do he “ten ton.”

     Mrs. Barnato-Walker, who was featured in the NEWS on February 8, is corps pilot in the Women’s Junior Air Corps and spends most of her week-ends and spare time giving flights to young cadets of the various units in the British Isles, helping them become air-minded and perhaps take up a career in flying.


     She is the daughter of the late Wolf Barnato, the racing motorist, and the grand-daughter of Barney Barnato, the South African diamond millionaire.

     During the war she piloted nearly every British military bomber and fighter plane then in existence when she was in the ferry service.

     She became a pilot in 1936, at the earliest possible age.

Chelsea News, No. 5,369, Friday, 30 August 1963, Page 1, Columns 4 and 5

Although many sources state that Mrs. Barnato Walker established a world speed record, breaking one set by Jacqueline Auriol in a Mirage III R on 14 June 1963,¹ the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale online data base does not show any official FAI records credited to her. Other sources state that she was the first British woman to break the “sound barrier.” However,  Flight Officer Jean Oakes WRAF, accomplished this 13 September 1962, when along with Flight Lieutenant John Smith, when she also flew a Lightning T.4 from RAF Middleton St. George to Mach 1.6. (Flight Officer Oakes, a recruiting officer, may not have been a qualified pilot.)

Diana Maitland Barnato was born 15 January 1918, at Camden Town, London, England, during a Zeppelin raid. She was the daughter of Joel Woolf (“Babe”) Barnato and Dorothy Matland Falk Barnato; grand-daughter of Barney Barnato [Barnet Isaacs], the owner of the Barnato Diamond Mining Company, Kimberly Mine; Kimberley Central Diamond Mining Company; co-founder with Cecil Rhodes of the De Beers Consolidated Mines; and owner of the New primrose Gold Mining Company and the Johannesburg Estate Company.

She attended Queen’s College, Harley Street, London, until 1936.

As a debutante, Miss Barnato was presented to King Edward VIII at Buckingham Palace.

At the age of 18, she earned pilot license at  Brooklands Flying Club, while flying a de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth.

Nurse Barnato

With the onset of World War II, Miss Barnato joined the Red Cross as a nurse. She served in France until the evacuation of British forces at Dunkirk.

In order to join the Air Transport Auxiliary, an organization of civilian pilots which ferried military aircraft for the Royal Air Force, on 9 March 1941 Miss Barnato took a qualification flight with the ATA’s chief instructor, A.R.O. Macmillan. Having qualified, she was sent to the ATA elementary flying school at White Waltham Airfield, Berkshire, England, in November 1941. On completion of training, she was assigned to the Air Transport Auxiliary Ferry Pool No. 15, RAF Hamble, Hampshire, 9 May 1942.

First Officer Diana Barnato, Air Transport Auxiliary.

In May 1943, she First Officer Barnato was reprimanded for “appearing at Windsor Races wearing trousers and side cap.” She was again reprimanded the following month for “diversion of operational aircraft,” and demoted to 3rd Officer.

During the War, Barnato flew more than 80 aircraft types, and delivered more than 260 Supermarine Spitfires.

Diana Barnato, Air Transport Auxiliary, with a Supermarine Spifire durin World War II. (Ministry of Supply)
Diana Barnato, ATA

On 6 May 1944, Diana Barnato married Wing Commander Derek Ronald Walker, RAF, at St. Jude’s Church, Englefield Green, Runnymead, Surrey, England. A few months later, she and her new husband took a pair of Supermarine Spitfire IXs and flew to Brussels, Belgium. Because this was an unauthorized flight, both newlyweds were fined three months pay.

Wing Commander Walker was killed 14 November 1945, while flying a North American Mustang IV, KM232, in bad weather. His remains were buried at Englefield Green Cemetery.

Mrs. Barnato Walker never remarried. She did have a 30-year relationship with  Air Commodore Whitney Willard Straight, CBE, MC, DFC, FRSA, FRGS. (Some sources state that they had a son, Barney Barnato Walker, while others indicate that he had been adopted.)

Mrs. Barnato Walker received the Jean Lennox Bird Trophy from Lord Brabazon, 1963. (RAeC)

In 1963, she was presented the Jean Lennox Bird Trophy of the British Women Pilots Association, which is awarded to a British woman who has made a noteworthy contribution to aviation, by Lord Brabazon. The trophy is a pale celadon vase and cover, approximately 20 centimeters high.

On 12 June 1965  Mrs. Barnato Walker was made an Ordinary Member of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) “for services to the Air Transport Auxiliary and the Girls Venture Corps.”

She was the Master of Foxhounds of the Old Surrey and Burstow Hounds, and Commodore ATA Association. She worked at sheep farming in Surrey.

She was the author of Spreading My Wings, an autobiography published in 1994.

Miss Diana Barnato with Ernest Ide, circa 1938. (Steven Iceton)

At the age of 88 years, Mrs. barnato Walker flew in a two-plane Supermarine Spitfire. She said “It would be impolite not to.”

Diana Barnato Walker, MBE, died of pneumonia, 28 April 2008, in a hospital in Surrey, at the age of 90 years. Her funeral was held at Horne Church, Surrey, on Thursday, 15 May 2008.

Diana Barnato-Walker flew this English Electric Lightning T.4, XM996, to Mach 1.6 at 30,000 feet, 26 August 1963. (Russ Smith)

The English Electric Lightning T Mk.4 is a two-place, twin-engined, mid-wing monoplane interceptor trainer. A crew of two sit side-by-side in the cockpit. It is 55 feet, 3 inches (16.840 meters) long, with a wing span of 34 feet, 10 inches (10.617 meters) and height of 19 feet, 7 inches (5.969 meters). The wings have an angle of incidence of 2°‚ and 3° anhedral. The leading edges are swept aft 60° and the trailing edges, 51°56′. At the root, the wing’s chord is 18 feet, 6 inches(5.638 meters) tapering to a theoretical 1 foot, 3.72 inches (0.399 meters) at the rounded tip. The variable incidence tail plane has a span of 14 feet, 6 inches (4.420 meters) with a 60° sweep. The Lightning T Mk.4 carries 966 Imperial gallons (4,392 liters or 1,160 U.S. gallons) of fuel in seven tanks throughout the fuselage and wings.

The Lightning is powered by two vertically-mounted axial-flow Rolls-Royce Avon Mk. 22001 afterburning turbojet engines. These are each rated 11,200 pounds (49.820 kilonewtons) static thrust at Sea Level, and 14,400 pounds (64.054 kilonewtons) with afterburner. One engine, No. 2, is mounted above and to the rear of engine No.1. The engines are limited to 100% +/- 0.5% r.p.m., for 15 minutes, and 97.5%, for 30 minutes. Maximum Continuous Power is restricted to 95% r.p.m.

The ventral fuel tank is clearly visible as the English Electric Lightning T Mk.4 rolls away from the camera.

The Lightning T Mk.4 has an empty weight of 24,815 pounds (11,256 kilograms), and all-up weight of 34,914 pounds (15,837 kilograms), with a ventral fuel tank installed. Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 35,000 pounds (15,876 kilograms).

The Lightning’s maximum speed limitation is Mach 1.7. With no missiles carried, it is restricted to 650 knots (748 miles per hour/1,204 kilometers per hour) Indicated Air Speed; with two missiles, 600 knots (690 miles per hour/1,111 kilometers per hour) IAS below 25,000 feet; and 650 knots IAS above 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The trainer’s approach speed is 175–180 knots (201– 207miles per hour/324 –333 kilometers per hour).

The T Mk.4’s maximum load factor is 6 g up to 0.9 Mach, or 5.5 g, above (empty or no ventral tank). The maximum negative acceleration is 3g.

The Lightning T Mk.4 is limited to a maximum altitude of 60,000 feet (18,288 meters).

The interceptor trainer can be armed with two ADEN 30mm guns or two de Havilland Firestreak heat-seeking missiles, and in addition to its primary training function, is fully operational as a fighter.

¹ FAI Record File Number 12392, 2,038.70 kilometers per hour (1,266.79 miles per hour)

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes