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New Battle of Britain pilot discovered - flew from Gravesend

PUBLISHED: 14:33 04 April 2019

Battle of Britain pilots rest before the next scramble

Battle of Britain pilots rest before the next scramble

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A new name has been added to Churchill's The Few after extensive research discovered his connection to a squadron based for a while at Gravesend.

Less than 3,000 airmen have been awarded the Battle of Britain Clasp following the crucial battle for supremacy in the air in the summer and early autumn of 1940, but new claims continue to be heard.

Among those is the case of 563089 Sergeant Donald Brown, who flew Blenheims with No 604 Squadron during the Battle.

That squadron was based at Gravesend between July 3 and 27 in 1940.

To qualify for the Clasp, airmen had to fly at least one sortie with one of 71 squadrons and other recognised units between 10 July and 31 October, 1940, the dates officially recognised for what was one of the most important battles fought by this country in the whole of the 20th century.

Because squadron operations record books were not always kept up to date or as accurately as they might have been, it is unlikely that there will ever be a final, definitive list of the aircrew who served, although the number is not expected to change much from the current best estimate of around 2,940.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust was asked to reconsider adding Sgt Brown, who did not feature on the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall or in Men of the Battle of Britain – published by the Trust and universally recognised as the definitive biography of those who took part in the Battle of Britain over the skies of Kent.

As it did so, the Trust recognised that there were indications that Sgt Brown, who later became a Flight Lieutenant, had flown operational sorties that would qualify him for the Clasp.

As a result, the Trust consulted two historians of the Battle and referred the matter to Sebastian Cox, Head of the RAF’s Air Historical Branch, as the final authority. After a lengthy investigation, Mr Cox has concluded that the evidence is strong enough for Flt Lt Brown to be added to the list of aircrew who participated in the Battle.

RAF records show Donald Brown was born on October 25 1912, while further research suggests that he was born at Glascoed, Monmouthshire, and died at Horning, Norfolk on December 31 1993 at the age of 81.

The trust said his final job before retirement was as a clerk working for a sail makers and upholsterers business. In 1954, in the London area, he married Kathleen D Newland, with whom he went on to have two daughters.

Now Flt Lt Brown will be included in the updated Men of the Battle of Britain entries on its website and will include him if a fourth edition of the book.

If possible the name will be added in due course to the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall at Capel-le-Ferne.

It will also be included in the electronic version of Men of the Battle of Britain available to visitors to The Wing, the visitor centre run by the Trust at the National Memorial to the Few at Capel-le-Ferne just outside Folkestone.

Trust chairman Richard Hunting said: “It is a privilege to be able to add another name to the list of those remarkable men who kept this country safe from invasion in 1940.

“It is not clear why he has been disregarded until now, apart from the lack of firm information in the squadron records. The Trust is delighted to be able to put the record straight.

“We would be very interested to hear from any relatives of Flt Lt Brown who may be able to add more detail to the story. Please get in touch with the Trust by emailing trustsecretary@battleofbritainmemorial.org”

RAF Gravesend was a civil airfield at first before the RAF moved in and became the first station to operate the famed P-51 Mustang III aircraft.

Today, it’s the Riverview Park housing estate.

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