Flying Officer Richard Cyril Joseph Brown, J 20148, 414 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)

Flying Officer (F/O) Richard Cyril Joseph Brown, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on the 12th of February 1921. He volunteered for service with the RCAF and commenced training on the 28th of April 1942. "On completion of his training, he was posted to 414 Fighter Reconnaissance (Recce) Squadron (Sqn) (unofficially known as the “Black Knight Sqn” or the “Sarnia Imperials”) at RAF Croydon on the 3rd August 1943." On the 28th June 1943, the Sqn was re-designated as a Fighter Reconnaissance (Recce) Sqn to reflect its role.

In 1944, the Sqn became part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF) and in June 1944 was serving with No. 39 (Recce) Wing, operating from RAF Odiham in Hampshire and undertook sorties on behalf of the army over the front lines. The Sqn was very active from January to June 1944, flying missions into France to photograph various enemy positions and airfields in preparation for D-Day (6th June 1944); and training to provide the army and navy with data on the terrain and on enemy positions. This was a key part of D-Day preparation. As quoted from the article (May 14, 2019) D-Day: The RCAF and Second Tactical Air Force by Major (retired) William March, “ … Mustangs from 414 and 430 Squadrons provided low-level reconnaissance and naval gunfire support. The Mustang pilots helped place naval gunfire where it was most needed—in most cases against German coastal defenses and inland targets in the invasion area. They would locate a target, contact their associated ship and proceed to correct the fire until the target was destroyed. The pattern was repeated numerous times throughout the day, with the pilots commenting on the turbulence caused by the passing naval shells as they sped towards the target.”

On D-Day, F/O R.C.J. Brown with F/O G. Garry as his #2 carried out a recce mission in the Malon-Alençon area. During this mission, they spotted tanks at Epinal. As F/O R.C.J. Brown records it in his Flight Log, he “destroyed (an) armored car when he opened fire on me.” On this historic day, both pilots returned to base from their sorties unscathed.

On a sortie a few days later, on 14th June 1944, to photograph a road starting a mile or so on the German side of the battlefront, F/O Brown’s Mustang AP205 was hit by flak. As he recounts in his journal, “I took my photographs and was just reaching down to turn off the camera when the whole instrument panel seemed to explode in my face. The cockpit at once seemed to be full of flames and it became unbearably hot. … The aircraft was out of control; it must have been a direct hit. There was nothing to do but bailout …”. As recorded in the last entry of his flight log on the 14th June 1944, by Sqn.Ldr. Charles H. “Smokey” Stover, DFC, his Commanding Officer, “F/O Brown’s a/c hit and he was seen to bail out near Villes Bocage, by F/O Garry”.

Villes Bocage was behind enemy lines. While he survived the crash, F/O Brown was not out of harm’s way. Over a three day period, he dodged the enemy filled roads by traveling stealthily at night and surviving through the generosity of farmers. But within 1 km of the front lines, his luck ran out and he was captured. On the 17th of June 1944, he began his time as a PoW. From the place of his capture, he was marched or transported by truck or boxcar with other PoWs through France, Belgium, Germany and finally to Stalag Luft 3 Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. He remained at this camp from the 17th of August 1944 until the 7th of February 1945. As the Allied forces were advancing, the Germans fell into retreat with the Stalag Luft 3 PoW’s being relocated to Stalag 13d at Nürnberg and then to Stalag 7a Moosburg in Bavaria. It was on the 29th of April 1945 when an American tank rolled into Stalag 7a Moosburg to announce that the PoWs were free at last. F/O Brown was transported by train and by air, finally returning to RAF Dunsfold on the 12th of May 1945, almost one year after he was shot down.

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Puff of Smoke. Was this written by you?

Stephen

Stephen M. Fochuk
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