Real life Biggles lands an honour at 89

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Edinburgh, June 25 : Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown's tales of daring read like a Boy's Own adventure.

He was the first man to land a jet plane on an aircraft carrier, and his preferred method for downing enemy fighters was to fly straight at their cockpit. He is also the only living person to have flown every major Second World War combat aircraft and the most decorated pilot of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm.

Now, according to The Scotsman, the 89-year-old's standing as one of the greatest pilots in history has been recognised with the award of an honorary degree from his alma mater.

The former chief naval test pilot had the degree of Honoris Causa, or general honorary degree, conferred upon him at Edinburgh University's McEwan Hall yesterday.

Captain Brown was born in Edinburgh in 1919 and studied modern languages at the university, before graduating in 1947.

It was as a student that he first learned to fly, but his life was about to take a dramatic turn when war broke out while he was on an exchange year in Germany.

Speaking at yesterday's ceremony, Professor William Easson said: "As part of his studies, he was living in a small German inn when a loud knock at the door was followed by the Gestapo arresting him, with the words, 'Our countries are at war'.

"After a three-day interrogation, he was released to the Swiss border with his MG car.

"Little did they realise that they had freed a man who was a volunteer in the RAF reserve and was to play such a major role in the Second World War.

"For those old enough to have read Biggles, Eric 'Winkle' Brown is the real thing. We honour Eric Brown for the part that he played in our history."

Captain Brown trained for the Fleet Air Arm at Donibristle in Fife and was selected to put on a show for Winston Churchill. He performed his speciality roll on take-off, but the engine failed and he had to ditch into the River Forth.

Before becoming a test pilot, Captain Brown had distinguished himself protecting convoys sailing to and from Gibraltar, developing a method of bringing down the almost impregnable Focke-Wolf Kurier bomber by flying straight towards its glass cockpit.

His tour ended with the sinking of his ship by a German U-boat.

Brown yesterday described receiving the degree as the "culmination" of his career.

ANI

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