Eltham Bryan Brown

Brown, Eltham Bryan, Private, d. 26th October 1917

Eltham Bryan Brown was born in Christchurch, Hampshire on 5th December 1893. He served as Brien Brown, but in census records his name is always spelled Brian. He is Brian on the Wootton Bassett Roll of Honour which would have been approved by his parents, so I suspect that Brian was his preferred spelling, but we will never know for sure.

In 1911 Brian was living with his family in Cold Overton, Leicestershire. He was 17 and working as a motor groom. In October 1914 he married Ethel Marriott, who, it seems, was already pregnant. Ethel’s address, given on Brian’s naval papers, was 11 New Street, Oakham. I believe that their son, Cecil H Brown, was born in January 1915.

Brian enlisted in the Royal Navy on 16th February 1916. He joined the 2nd Royal Marines Battalion of the Royal Marines Light Infantry, (PLY/1413/S). This naval division was a land based service. Shortly after Brian joined up, on 29th April 1916, the division transferred from the authority of the Admiralty to that of the War Office and it was re-designated as the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division on 19th July 1916.

Brian embarked with the Royal Marines Brigade on the 2nd August 1916 and was drafted into the Expeditionary Force in France on the 22nd November 1916. He served with the 2nd Royal Marines Battalion from the 8th to the 27th of December 1916, when he was invalided home suffering with ‘pyrexia of unknown origin’. This refers to a condition in which the patient has an high temperature for which no explanation has been found. He rejoined his Battalion on the 23rd February 1917 and continued to fight with them on the Western Front for another eight months.

In October 1917 Brian went missing in action. It is known that he was wounded, and eventually it was concluded that he had died of wounds on 26th October 1917, the first bloody day of the Second Battle of Passchendaele, age 24. His body was never recovered. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial, Panel 1, 162A. Brian received the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal.

Brian’s death was confirmed eight months after his disappearance. The Grantham Journal of Saturday 15 June 1918 reports:

Oakham Soldier Killed in Action
Mrs Brown of 11 New Street, Oakham, has now received news that her husband, Pte B Brown, of the RMLI, was killed in action on October 26th 1917. He had been previously reported as missing and wounded. Pte Brown joined the RMLI on February 14th 1915 and went to France on November 24th of the same year. Prior to enlistment he was employed on the Royal Mail for the Oakham Post Office.

Many thanks to Rutland Remembers for the use of this photograph from the Grantham Journal and later published in the 1920 book “Rutland and the Great War”. This has been digitally enhanced by Rutland Remembers.

His parents also added him to his little sister’s gravestone in Seagry, which reads: “In loving memory of our dear children, Ella, Hedley, Brian and Alan Brown. 1914-1918.” My thanks to Julia Harle and Seagry Church for identifying and photographing the gravestone.

Grave of Ella Brown at Seagry Church

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