Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, the Royal Navy’s most decorated pilot and UFO witness, has died at the age of 97.
Captain Brown was the Fleet Air Arm’s most decorated pilot and held the world record for aircraft carrier landings.
He saw extensive action in WW2 and post war joined an elite group of Allied pilots who test-flew captured German aircraft.
And sixty years ago, whilst Commander of the Royal Naval Air Service station at Brawdy, in West Wales, he found himself chasing a UFO.
The drama began at dusk on Monday, 6 February 1956, when the station received a call from a schoolteacher who said she could see ‘a flying saucer’ cruising over the West Wales coastline.
In his memoir Wings on My Sleeve (1961) Brown says his first reaction was to laugh, but on checking with a pilot returning from an exercise he was surprised to be told ‘Yes, and I can damn well see it too.’
When one of the air traffic controllers called down to say he could see the object was visible from Brawdy’s control tower, Brown’s scepticism was sorely tested.
‘I decided it was interesting enough to go and have a look at it and leapt off in a Vampire,’ Brown wrote in his memoirs. He climbed to 35,000 feet in the gathering gloom, all the while keeping an eye on the object which was ‘still above me and unidentifiable in the fading light’.
Although visibility was good Brown eventually gave up the pursuit and returned to Brawdy. Later that night further reports flooded into newspaper offices from puzzled observers across South Wales and the Bristol Channel region.
One phone call received by Brown came from an amateur astronomer who took a photograph of the UFO and was adamant it was not a balloon
In 2011 Captain Brown told me this conversation led to reject the cosmic research balloon theory ‘which was the only tangible thing I thought it might be’.
In his book he wrote that ‘where he once scoffed, I now have an open mind.’ Today Brown remains open minded but is less certain of his conclusion published in Wings on My Sleeve. He said the truth can be found in his flying logbook entry, completed on landing at RNAS Brawdy, which reads:
‘Flying Saucer Chase! Unidentified metallic object in sky, sighted from ground. Scrambled in perplexing chase after some iridescent shape at very high altitude, which was probably a cosmic research balloon. What else?’