WING COMMANDER MARK (HILLY) BROWN was born in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Wing Commander Mark Henry Brown DFC, nicknamed Hilly, was the first Canadian pilot to become a fighter ace during World War 2 whilst serving with the Royal Air Force during the Battle of France and also the Battle of Britain; he was killed in action in November 1941 over Sicily.
He was the son of Mr & Mrs S Brown of Glenboro, Manitoba. Whilst working for the Bank of Montreal, he learned to fly at the Brandon Flying Club and after passing the required medical test, left Canada to join the RAF in May 1936.
After completing his RAF training, Pilot Officer Brown joined No 1 Squadron in February 1937. He was promoted to Flying Officer in December 1938.
At the beginning of September 1939, Brown’s squadron was deployed to France as part of the RAF Advance Air Strike Force. On November 23, 1939 he was credited with half a kill of a Dornier 17 whilst flying a Hawker Hurricane.
During the Battle of France in early 1940, Brown was involved in heavy fighting and on 20 April 1940 he claimed his first kill, a Messerschmidt 109. He became the first Canadian pilot to reach “ace” status with five confirmed kills by May 1940.
Brown also was the first allied pilot to capture a German aircraft and fly it back to Britain for evaluation.
With the French surrender to the Germans, Brown came back to Britain and was shot down over Harwick on 15 August 1940 and was able to bail out without injury.
On 3 September Brown was promoted again and in October 1941 he was posted to the Middle East conflict.
On 12 November 1941, along with Wing Commander Alex Rabagliati, whilst operating from a base in Malta, led a flight on a strafing attack on an Italian airfield at Gela in Sicily. During the attack his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft gunfire and his plane crashed in flames.
A short time later officials were notified that Brown and Rabagliati were buried with full Military Honours.