Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Commodore Sir Vernon Brown

Sir Vernon BrownVernon Sydney            b: 10 Jan 1889                  resigned: 30 Nov 1937                 d: 26 Aug 1986

Kt - 5 Jun 1952, CB - 8 Jun 1944, OBE - 11 May 1937, C de G (F): 9 Dec 1916, MA, FRAeS.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army):- 2 Lt: 3 Jul 1915, Lt: 1 Dec 1915, (T) Capt: 6 Sep 1916.

(RAF):- Capt: 1 Apr 1918, (T) Maj: 1 Apr 1918, Sqn Ldr: 1 Aug 1919 [1 Apr 1918], Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1926, (H) Gp Capt: xx xxx xxxx, (H) A/Cdre: 2 Jun 1942, A/Cdre: Retained:

Sir Vernon Brown

by Elliott & Fry
bromide print, 7 August 1952
NPG x86520

National Portrait Gallery, London

xx xxx 1907:          Attended Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University.

21 Aug 1915:           U/T Pilot, RFC

xx xxx 1915:            Pilot, Experimental Flight, Central Flying School.

 6 Sep 1916:           Flight Commander, Experimental Station, Orfordness.

 1 Apr 1918:           Attached to the Ministry of Munitions.

xx xxx 1918:            Section Director, X.4 - Trials, Controller of Technical Development

xx Aug 1919:           Junior Assistant, Department of Director-General of Supply and Research.

20 Sep 1920:            Squadron Commander, Instrument Design Establishment.

 6 May 1922:           Officer Commanding, No 84 Sqn.

 1 Apr 1924:            Staff, Aircraft Depot, Egypt.

 7 Oct 1925:            Staff, RAF Depot, Middle East

19 May 1926:          CFI, Central Flying School.

 6 Sep 1926:            Officer Commanding, RAF Upavon.

xx xxx 1928:            CFI, Cambridge University Air Sqn.

19 Jan 1931:            Engineering Instructor?, Home Aircraft Depot.

 3 Apr 1934:            Air Staff, Directorate of Training.

30 Nov 1937:          Resigned his commission

 1 Dec 1937:           Chief Inspector of Accidents.

Sir Vernon Brown is largely responsible for the increased safety of air transport as a result of his efforts in the development of air crash investigation.  Educated at Eastbourne College, he later graduated as an engineer from Jesus College, Cambridge he worked in Gas Engineering until he joined the RFC Special Reserve in 1915.   Learning to fly on the Vickers Gunbus at Joyce Green he then when to the Central Flying School where after only 15 hours solo he was appointed an Assistant Instructor.  Later being posted to the Experimental Station at Orfordness, he was involved  in tests with machine guns and fighter tactics as well as conducting tests into 'blacking out' and flying BE2 aircraft used in parachute dropping experiments.  In 1919 he was seconded to the Ministry of Munitions staying in that post after the department had been absorbed into the Air Ministry.

On retiring at his own request, he joined the Civil Service as Chief Inspector of Accidents, where he was to make his mark in the years to come.  With the outbreak of WW2, he was granted the honorary rank of Group Captain in the RAFVR and was  later promoted to Honorary Air Commodore.  One of the major problems he solved during WW2 was why many Stirling aircraft were lost after they had entered dives.  He discovered that the pilot's harness was so uncomfortable that most pilot's released it after take off, only fastening it again prior to landing.  However, if the aircraft then went into a dive, the pilot would fall forwards over the control column, forcing it into an even steeper dive from which the pilot would be unable to recover.  He continued to head the Accidents Investigation Branch until his final retirement in 1952 and during his tenure he laid the foundations of an effective organisation using techniques which would eventually be more concerned with preventing future accidents as opposed to simply determining the causes.

This page was last updated on 15/10/22

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