2nd Lt. J. W. Brown


FIRST NAMES: John William

UNIT: 7th Yorkshire Regiment

STATUS: Killed in Action

DATE OF DEATH: 16th October 1917


AGE: 24

John William Brown was born on 19th February 1893 and was baptised in Northallerton on 25th October 1895. His parents were called Laurence and Ada and his father was a shoemaker. Laurence or "Laurie" as he was popularly known, was an ex-bandmaster and he also served with the 4th Yorkshire Regiment during the War. The family lived at North End.

John was also musical and he played the coronet in the Northallerton Temperance Band and was a bellringer at the parish church. Before the outbreak of War he worked as a compositor for the North Riding and Northallerton Times, a local newspaper which no longer exists today.

He joined the local Territorial Battalion (the 4th Yorkshires) in April 1912 and was a Lance Corporal by the time he sailed to France with them in April 1915. He took part in the Battalion's first action at St. Julien, near Ypres, during the Second Battle of Ypres, when their counter-attack prevented the Germans from advancing further and breaking through the British lines at a critical point in the battle. He received a bullet wound in the neck later in the battle, on 2nd May 1915, when the 4th Yorkshires were heavily attacked by Germans using poison gas and 5 local men lost their lives.

On 5th August 1915 he was promoted to Corporal and on 26th September 1915 he received a second wound, this time a bayonet wound to the arm. He continued to rise through the ranks during 1916, becoming a Lance Sergeant on 15th February and a full Sergeant on 2nd March. He also acted for a time as a Company Quartermaster Sergeant. Finally, in February 1917, after a short leave, he was sent for officer training and subsequently commissioned into the 7th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment.

There were, in fact, three 2nd Lt. John William Browns who lost their lives serving with the Yorkshire Regiment and this created a considerable problem for the author in ensuring that these details were related to the right man. It clearly created problems for the Authorities at the time as well because in August 1917 John's parents recieved a telegram from the Military Authorities informing them that their son had been killed in action on 1st August 1917. Imagine their joy, therefore, when they received a postcard from their son, dated 4th August, informing them that he was "still in the pink" and that he had moved "a little nearer the line" to the Brigade Depot. It was another 2nd Lt. John William Brown, serving with the 2nd Battalion, who had been killed.

Tragically, their joy was to be shortlived. John was killed on 16th September 1917, aged 24, while he was searching the battlefield for wounded men from his platoon, during the Battle of Passchendaele. His body must have been lost in the morass of the battlefield as he has no known grave, and his name is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Tyne Cot, near Ypres.