Monday, 25 April 2011

Military Monday: Two Bristolian ANZACs

Today is ANZAC Day, the day Australians and New Zealanders all around the world remember their fallen service men.  Why today?  It is the anniversary of the start of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign which marked the first major involvement in a military campaign for these two young countries.  Paul Reed has a great post on his blog Out of Battle which explains the Gallipoli campaign and its significance for ANZAC day

ANZAC Day acquired a significance for me a couple of years ago.  I had always known that several of my grandfather's brothers had fallen during WW1, but try as I might I could only ever find any reference to one of them.  It wasn't until I found my cousins in Canada that it dawned on me that I had only ever searched UK military records.  A quick reccy of the Commonwealth War Graves site searching Australian forces led me to find Reginald and Ernest Brown, two of my great-uncles.  Today's post is all about them.

Reginald Brown

Reginald was the fifth child and fourth son of Henry and Ellen Brown.  He was born in Cardiff - the family spent a few years there - around June 1889.  The family moved back to Bristol and my great-grandfather set up a business in Stapleton Road.  Reginald attended St Gabriel's School at Easton.  After leaving school he became a carter and decided to follow two of his elder brothers in emigrating.  He chose to leave for Australia around 1909.  He settled in Surrey Hills, Sydney, where his mother's brother, Joseph Warren, lived.  He carried on as a carter until 23 May 1915 when he joined the 1st Battalion (7th Reinforcements) Australian Imperial Force at Liverpool, New South Wales.

Pte Brown 2336 was first sent to Gallipoli where he landed on 4 November 1915.  His service at Gallipoli didn't last long - by 28 December he was shipping out to Alexandria where he stayed until March 1916.  He was then sent to the Western Front, disembarking at Marseilles on 28 March 1916. 

Reginald was killed at Pozieres on the Somme between 22 and 25 July 1916 and his body buried in the vicinity - unfortunately his body was not recovered and he has no known grave - he is commemorated on the Villiers-Brettoneaux Memorial.  It saddens me that no one can give a precise date of death, but it gives an indication of the intensity of the fighting. 

I don't have a photograph of Reginald - or rather I do, I have a family portrait, but I don't know which face is his - I have four unidentified brothers.  His army records give a clue though - he was 5 feet 6 inches tall with fair hair and blue eyes.and no scars.  His chest measurement was 32/36 inches.  You could say that Reginald was small but perfectly formed.

Ernest Brown

Ernest was the seventh child and sixth son of Henry and Ellen.  He was born in Bristol around 1892.  Like Reginald he attended St Gabriel's School.  In 1911 he was still in Bristol working in a glass warehouse, but when he emigrated to Australia around 1912 he joined Reginald as a carter.  He beat Reginald to join up; he took the King's shilling on 5 March 1915 and was assigned to the 17th Battalion.

Like Reginald, Ernest went to Gallipoli, leaving Australia for the last time on 12 May 1915 and arriving on 16 August 1915.  He left two months later, suffering from diarrohea, and was sent to the Brook War Hospital at Woolwich, arriving in early November.  By February 1916 he was fit again and proceeded to join his unit.  He rejoined his battalion in April and like Reginald went to the Western Front.  Ernest was killed in action shortly after his brother - first reports gave his death as occuring between 26 July and 7 August, but this was amended to 2 August 1916.  Ernest's fiancee, a Miss A Wiseman of Westbourne Street, Sydney, wrote to the army asking for a more precise date for Ernest's death after learning of it from the papers.  I am glad she got an exact date.

 Henry and Ellen lost two of their boys within a fortnight - dark days in Bristol.  (Sidney Brown died from wounds the following February - Harold, Edwin and my grandfather Philip all made it home.)  Again, although Ernest was buried, his body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the same memorial as his brother.

Ernest was even more petite than Reginald - a shade under 5 feet 5 inches, only 127 pounds and a chest of under 35 inches even at maximum expansion.  His hair was fair and his eyes blue.  He had a mole on his right shoulder.  Again - good things come in small packages (Miss Wiseman would have agreed).

Reginald and Ernest were not forgotten.  Their uncle Joseph and his family placed In Memoriam notices in the Sydney papers on the anniversary of Reg and Ern's deaths, as did a couple of friends.  In finding the records of their army service I was able to trace the family of their eldest brother Joseph who emigrated to Perth.  They too remember Reginald and Ernest on ANZAC Day - I am privileged to be able to join them this year.

Lest we forget.


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