Flight Lieutenant Orlan Roderick Brown
On 16th February 1943, an afternoon fighter sweep turned into a disaster for Kenley’s Canadian wing with F/O Connacher of 403 squadron and P/O Orlan Brown of 402 squadron killed, and F/O H. Williamson, flying Spitfire IX BR633, also of 402 squadron, taken Prisoner of War….
FLIGHT LIEUTENANT ORLAN RODERICK BROWN was born in Palmer, Saskatchewan, Canada, on 13th December, 1915. His parents, Harvey Sylvester Brown (a farmer) and Nora Mary Farmer, were both English. He had five brothers and one sister. Orlan had been training to become a teacher for two years when he enlisted in the RCAF, in October, 1940. His younger brother John Arthur Brown also joined the RCAF the following month.
During training at 15 EFTS in Regina, he was considered to be the ‘slow, plodding type’, inclined to be slightly clumsy, but a hard worker with an above average sense of responsibility.
He received his wings on 25th June, 1941, was sent overseas to England and completed his training at No.55 Operational Training Unit. By this time, W/C Gough judged him to be a good leader and a ‘keen, responsible and efficient pilot’.
Orlan Brown joined 402 squadron towards the end of 1941, and was with them until his death on 16th February, 1943, flying Spitfire BS440.
No-one in the squadron saw Brown and Williamson disappear so it isn’t clear whether they were lost due to oxygen failure or a collision. Interestingly, several of the other pilots reported severe icing of their coup tops at 32,000ft prior to the formation ‘breaking’ when they thought they were under attack, so poor visibility may have been a factor.
F/L Orlan Roderick Brown is remembered on panel 172 of the Runnymede Memorial. He was 27 years old when he died, less than three months after his 22 year old brother, Sgt. Pilot John Arthur Brown, had been killed while serving with 74 squadron RAF on 30th November, 1941. John was buried in Llanbedr Methodist chapelyard, Merionethshire.
Long after his death, in 1952, Orlan’s Mother, Mary, wrote to the RCAF, thanking them for letting her know that her son would be commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. She wrote:
“We realise our heartaches are as nothing to the body aches some of our brave boys are still suffering.”
Rest in peace Sir, and thank you for your service.