Warehouse & Logistics News is sad to report that Freddy Brown, the creator of the Man Rising VNA truck and the Bendi articulated forklift, passed away on Sunday 16th October. Freddy’s family have told us that he died peacefully in his sleep with his wife Annie at his side, after fighting a brave battle against Alzheimer’s disease.
Born 2nd April 1937 in Hampshire, Fredrick Leslie Brown grew up during the Second World War in the Prince of Wales pub, near a US military base. Freddy left school with a string of sporting achievements but in his words “unable to read or write”.
At a time of conscription, Freddy opted to find an apprenticeship at a local forklift manufacturer called Lansing Bagnall, where he found not only his life passion but also Annie, the love of his life and wife of 53 years.
Despite his earlier academic shortcomings, Freddy achieved a Masters Degree in applied mathematics and chose as his thesis, “Space utilisation within the warehouse,” which many would argue was a project he continued working on throughout his life.
A move to the Midlands in the mid 1960’s brought many changes, not least two children and a new circle of friends based around the water skiing community in Netherton. It was during this period he became British Champion and subsequent years saw him featured every week in the opening titles of World of Sport, which you can find on youtube.
At the same time, Freddy had pioneered a new type of forklift which combined space saving and order picking to create the Man Rising VNA forklift which is now established worldwide as the industry standard. Fast forward a few years, and a new invention to save space saw his trucks featured on BBC’s Tomorrow’s World, which led onto the numerous innovative steps credited to Freddy by the industry.
When he felt he was no longer competitive at waterskiing, Freddy threw himself into his next sporting passion of snow skiing, where he excelled at the highest level of both off and on-piste skiing.
The 1980’s saw him make another sea change in the industry when he pioneered the articulated truck with the Bendi, which was viewed with much derision at its conception. The Bendi has since gone on to be a huge success as it has now sold worldwide in its tens of thousands and created a whole new market sector.
In 2003 Freddy received the Queen’s Award for Innovation, which was presented to him by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
As everyone who knew him will remember, Freddy’s sense of fun never left him and you had to be permanently on your toes for practical jokes and general mischief. A celebration of his life will be held from 1pm on Monday October 31st at Brockencote Hall, Chaddesley Corbett, Nr Kidderminster, DY10 4PY. The dress code is casual and cheerful. Instead of floral tributes Freddy’s family has set up a just giving page to Freddy’s friends to contribute to research into Alzheimer’s Disease: