This mural in Carleton Place, Ont., by artist Stephen Quick, depicts a famous dogfight between Canadian pilot Arthur Roy Brown and Manfred von Richthofen, the infamous German fighter pilot known as the Red Baron. Heritage Carleton Place Photo
When aviation was in its infancy and flying in combat was still new, four men from Carleton Place, Ont., made their way to the Wright School of Aviation in Dayton, Ohio, for pilot training.
Their visit from the small town near Ottawa, along with that of about two dozen other Canadians, was captured under a screaming headline in an Oct. 31, 1915, edition of a local paper, the Sunday News.
“THIRTY WEALTHY CANADIAN MEN TAUGHT AEROPLANE,” the headline read, above an all-capped subhead that said instructors made $1.05 a minute while in the air with their pupils.
After that journey, the four Carleton Place men—Lloyd Breadner, Stearne Edwards, Arthur Roy Brown and Murray Galbraith—went on to distinguished military service in the First World War.
All four became aces, meaning they destroyed five or more enemy aircraft or airships. Breadner went on to become Air Chief Marshal of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Britain’s Royal Air Force gave Brown official credit for killing Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the infamous German fighter pilot known as the Red Baron.
They were remembered as Carleton Place’s vanguard, some of the 17 military pilots the town of just 4,300 produced during the war.
As the late historian W. Brian Costello recounted in a book of the same name, some newspaper editorials referred to Carleton Place as “A nursery of the Air Force.”
“They were all heroes,” said Rob Probert, a former town councillor and president of the Roy Brown Society, an organization dedicated to preserving Brown’s story.
“In terms of the town respecting them, absolutely. Each and every one of them was well thought of, and cheered on.”
Their stories, however, are not well-known. Carleton Place has a park named after Brown and a new local roadway is to be named Roy Brown Boulevard.
There are ongoing efforts to increase awareness of both his story and those of the other airmen, but Costello’s book, published in 1979, is out of print. Like the memories of many men and women who served during the war, those who fought from the skies are in danger of being forgotten.
“I think it’s vital that we understand the stories of these men and their contributions, so that we understand the evils of war and the contributions they had towards keeping a sustainable peace,” said Probert.
“I’m finding that kids today, more and more in the schools, are very interested in this history. They don’t want to see it glossed over; they do want to remember, and I think that’s extremely gratifying and rewarding.”
Lloyd Samuel Breadner was born July 14, 1894, and joined the Royal Naval Aerial Service in late 1915 after obtaining his pilot certificate at the Wright School in Ohio, Costello noted in his book.
His impressive resume included 10 victories during the First World War. He became a major in the Royal Air Force in 1918 and transferred to the Canadian Air Force (which later became the RCAF) in 1922, according to Costello’s account. Breadner retired with the rank of Air Chief Marshal in 1945.
Arthur Roy Brown is credited with killing von Richthofen, though another account gives credit to an Australian gunner. RCAF Photo
“The military career of Lloyd Breadner is one of valour and high command,” wrote Costello. “Of all the native sons, this career (in relation to rank attained) is without parallel.”
Arthur Roy Brown was born Dec. 23, 1893, and is credited with 10 victories during the war, including the official credit for killing von Richthofen on April 21, 1918.
Other accounts credit an Australian gunner for shooting von Richthofen through the chest before his plane crashed into a field. Whatever the case, Brown has an important place in the legend of the Red Baron, who was credited with 80 victories—more than any other ace during the First World War.
Stearne Tighe Edwards was born Feb. 13, 1893, in nearby Franktown and was Brown’s close friend. He was credited with 17 victories, and a lengthy account of his exploits is collected in a biography reprinted in Costello’s book.
Edwards was known to take his Sopwith Pup and “cruise around for the sheer joy of it,” the biography notes. He took the plane up on Nov. 12, 1918, the day after the war ended, flicked over into a spin and crashed, according to the biography. Edwards was taken to hospital and died a few days later.
“He was the best friend I shall ever have and one of the best men that ever was on this earth,” wrote Brown in a letter quoted in Costello’s book.
Daniel Murray Bayne Galbraith was born April 27, 1895, and was known to enjoy a good prank, according to Costello. One night, he and a few other men who later became aviators are said to have taken all the sawdust wagons of a local lumber mill and put them on the roof.
“The teamsters in the morning were not amused, and had the culprits been in the vicinity they no doubt would have started a flying career somewhat earlier in life than was destined,” wrote Costello.
Galbraith was credited with six victories during the war and died in 1921 after his car overturned and he was pinned under it. He was buried in Almonte, Ont.
Other First World War airmen from Carleton Place and its surrounding area included: Lieut Robert Franklyn P. Abbot, Lieut John Horace Brown (brother of Roy Brown), Kenneth Burns Conn (an ace credited with 20 victories), Wilson D. Cram, Harold Leslie Edwards (an ace with 21 victories), Capt David Douglas Findlay, W. Roy Kellough, Thorold McDairmid Kellough, George E. MacKlem, George C. MacCallum, Colin Duncan P. Sinclair, Huntley M. Sinclair and Walter James Sussan.
Arthur Roy Brown’s grave at the Toronto Necropolis Cemetery. He died in nearby Stouffville, Ont., in 1944. John Chalmers Photo
The Roy Brown Society’s intent is to establish as much of a presence for Brown as it can. But the group is also in the process of developing brochures, storyboards and other materials on each of these other pilots, said president Rob Probert.
“If these types of stories are lost, well that’s a chapter of our history that should not be forgotten,” he said.
“We can’t forget that we went to war and why we went to war and how the war was won.”