Don Brown

A remarkable unassuming character

Don Lambert Brown lived in a bungalow in Ditmas Avenue on the Hoo estate in Kempston. The bungalow stood (and still stands) unique amongst the two-storey (semi-detatched) buildings on all sides.

Don Brown was a remarkable aviation pioneer. During the 1930’s, he teamed up with the Miles brothers to form the Miles aircraft company, a leading pioneering force during the the early days of aircraft manufacture in Britain. during world war 2, Don took on the often dangerous occupation of a test pilot. Two of the planes he test-piloted were the Hawker Hurricane, and the Avro Lancaster. for both planes, he wrote the original pilot’s instruction handbook. Amongst his friends were Sir Frank Whittle inventor of the jet engine, and Barnes Wallis, inventor of the bouncing bomb used on the famous ‘Dambusters’ raid.
After the war, Don spent many years in Farnborough working on engine development and teaching engine design at the local aviation college. Four of his pupils were the four-man team that was formed to design the jet engines for Concorde.
Once, as a special invited guest on a Hastingsbury school trip to the Battle of Britain museum in Hendon, Don quietly corrected one of the plaques detailing an exhibit. Always modest, he gently pointed out that ‘the Gloucester Gladiator’ had more valves on its engine than the plaque described, and that it would never have got off the ground if the engine was as detailed on the plaque. The Gloucester Gladiator was one of many planes Don had flown on countless occasions. He was probably the only visitor to the RAF’s Battle of Britain museum to point out an inaccuracy in one of their displays!
When questioned about Britain’s two great wartime fighter planes, Don favoured the Hurricane greatly over the Spitfire for its manoeuvrability.

Don was in essence ‘a gentle eccentric English gentleman’, he was awarded the freedom of the City of London and when he died in the early 1980’s, he was afforded an obituary in the Times newspaper.

David Simms