BROWN, Charles

No. 22031, Sergeant, Charles BROWN
Aged 23

12th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
Killed in Action on Wednesday, 10th April 1918

Charles Brown was born on 27th August 1894 in Burwell (Newmarket Q3-1894 3B:436) baptised in Burwell on 16th November 1894, son of John and Eliza Ann BROWN (née BAILEY).

1901 census...Aged 6, he was at The Laurels, 1 The Causeway, Burwell with his father John BROWN [44] building surveyor and inspector of nuisances, born Nottingham; his mother Eliza A [44] born Lowestoft; aunt Mary A BROWN [41] born Nottingham, sister Alice M [16] born Brixton, London and brothers Edward B [18] a solicitor's clerk, born Brixton, John H [14] born East Grinstead, Thomas H [13] office boy, born Putney, London and George [8] born Burwell.

1911 census...Aged 16,an insurance clerk, he was at The Laurels, The Causeway, Burwell with his parents, brothers Thomas Henry, clerk in guardians office and George, an apprentice scientific instrument maker, and a cousin Charles Allerton [26](son of aunt Mary Maria ALLERTON (née BAILEY)) a school teacher born Lowestoft.

His mother was later at The Laurels, Burwell. From the Cambridge Independent Press in April 1918, he was educated at the County School, Cambridge and was latterly a clerk at Barclay's Bank

photo of the family, courtesy of Christopher Wells (Great-nephew) who identifies them as
:-Jack (John Henry ~14), Eliza Ann (mother ~43), Tom (Thomas Henry ~13), Ally (Alice Mary ~16), George (~8), Charlie (shown circled, ~6) and anon.
=center The only missing child was Edward Bailey (~18); probably either he or their father John (~44) took the picture

He enlisted in Uppingham.
The German Spring offensive which began on 21st March 1918 was still raging and the 12th Suffolk were in billets in Fleurbaix. According to Lt Col Murphy "History of the Suffolk Regiment":-
On April 9th at 4:15 am the enemy attacked, a very heavy bombardment being accompanied by gas in exceptional quantities. Within three hours the battalion had manned the Fleurbaix defences, was hotly engaged, inflicting sever losses on the Germans moving across its front from left to right. They held on until 4:30 pm putting up a magnificent defence, then withdrawing, fighting a rear guard action, to the railway east of Fort Rompu, where they dug themselves in for the night between the 16th Royal Scots on the right and the 11th Suffolks on the left.. They were now amalgamated with the 16th Royal Scots, under 101st Brigade. Casualties had been very heavy,. At nightfall battalion HQ was established at Fort Rompu.
On the afternoon of the 10th they were ordered to retire across the Lys and then, having rejoined 121st Brigade, to make their way to Nieppe and dig in. After a series of attacks and counter-attacks the battalion was withdrawn on the 13th to Strazeele.

The 12th Suffolk have 7 recorded killed on the 10th, but exact dates can often be difficult in such circumstances.

The Cambridge Daily News of 16th May 1918 recorded:-

Mrs. Brown, of Burwell, widow of Mr. John Brown, for many years Inspector to the Newmarket Urban Counci, has received official information of the death in action of her youngest son, Sergt. Charles Brown, of the Bantam Battalion of the Suffolks. Sergt Brown was 24 (sic) years of age last August. He was for18 months in the office of the Ocean Company in Cambridge, when he joined Barclay's Bank and served with the utmost satisfaction at their Oundle, Leicester and Uppingham branches of that bank. When the war broke out he volunteered but was rejected as being under the standard height. When he learned that his friend, the late Lieut. Tom Blackwell, had joined the Bantam Battalion of the Suffolks, he immediately applied and was accepted. They came home on leave together,both sergeants. TomBlackwell went to France, but Brown was given home billets, until he told the authorities that he was tired of "cushy" jobs and wanted real soldiering. So he was sent out ot France. He was in the big German attack on March 21st of this year, and wrote home: "It will be a huge relief to you to know that I have escaped without a scratch." He was in the midst of the German attack on April 8th, and in this he was shot through the head and killed instantly. At any rate, such is the information furnished by the O.C. of his company, but in the carnage and confusion there may be an error of identification. Mrs. Brown has had letters of condolence from the directors and officials of the Leicester and Uppingham banks; and form the Rev. C.J.N. Child (headmaster of the Cambridge County School) all speaking in high terms of praise of her son.

and on the family monument in St Mary's Churchyard, Burwell

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Charles Brown is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium panel 3

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details