It’s taken a while, but the town of Carleton Place will finally honour World War I flying ace Roy Brown. A dedication ceremony, complete with speeches and entertainment, will take place at the site of a new mural located at 220 Bridge Street on November 13th.
Captain (Arthur) Roy Brown is credited with shooting down the infamous “Red Baron” (Manfred von Richthofen) during World War I (an act that is said to have shortened the conflict.) He was born at Carleton Place, Ontario, on December 23 1893.
During the early days of WW I flight, Brown was one of eighteen young Carleton Place men to learn to fly and serve in the British Air Force. Four of the eighteen went on to become aces and have been referred to as the “Nursery of the Airforce.” (A book by the same name was written by the late Carleton Place mayor and historian W. Brian Costello.) It was Brown who made the incredible journey from this small Ottawa Valley town (population in 1893 approx 4,300) to the skies of Europe and who engaged in one of the most famous, romanticized and historic battles in military history.
The town of Carleton Place has never fully honoured or celebrated this historic event or its world-famous son. This is about to change. With the establishment of the Roy Brown Society in 2009, a group of dedicated local individuals (which includes town councillors Rob Probert and Jerry Flynn) have commissioned the mural and the soon-to-be-opened Roy Brown Museum. However, it is more then the recognition of a local hero and historic event that is being celebrated here. It’s the man himself.
And just who was Roy Brown? His home, the time in which he lived, his family, his friends, the love of his life? Currently I am putting together a piece on just these things. Going through several of his letters and walking through his childhood haunts, a picture of Roy Brown is becoming clearer. He was a man who suffered from constant physical ailments. He was extremely loyal and dedicated to his family and friends, and was a shy man who was deeply affected by each kill he made.
This is what he wrote to his parents after the “Baron” incident.
“…the sight of Richthofen as I walked closer gave me a start. He appeared so small to me, so delicate. he looked so friendly. Blond, silk-soft hair, like that of a child, fell from the broad, high forehead. His face, particularly peaceful, had an expression of gentleness and goodness, of refinement. Suddenly I felt miserable, desperately unhappy, as if I had committed an injustice. I gnashed my teeth, I cursed the war, I felt sick.”