BROWN, Harry

No. 17313, Private, Harry BROWN
Aged 19

Suffolk Regiment, 1st Battalion
Killed in Action on Monday 24th May 1915

Born Exning, registered Newmarket Q2-1896 [4A:521].

1901 census...Aged 5, Harry was living at 8 Ruston's Cottages, Exning with his father- John BROWN [40] a general labourer, born Lakenheath; his mother Ellen (née PETTITT)[40] born Exning; his brother- John W. [16] labourer born Lakenheath; brother- Charles [14] labourer in sewage, born Exning; brother - Thomas Arthur [10] born Exning; brother- James William.[7] born Exning; brother- James [2] born Exning and grandfather John Pettitt [82] born Godmanchester.

1911 census...Aged 16, farm labourer, he was living at 10 Acres, Freckenham with his father, mother, brothers Charles, {Thomas}Arthur, {James}William and James plus a new sister, Hilda [9] born Exning. Grandfather John Pettitt [89] was still with them albeit he seems to have aged only 7 years. One sibling, brother Earl, had died aged 3 in 1892

On the strength of this family history Harry might just as easily have been entered on the Exning War Memorial.

Five brothers - top L-John; top R-Arthur; centre-Harry; low L-Charles; low R-William

The Bury Free Press of 3rd February 1917 published the above photo and recorded:-

A very creditable record of family patriotism can be claimed by the household of Mr. and Mrs.John Brown, of Back Street, Lakenheath, which has given no less than five sons to help fight the country's battle for freedom and justice. The photographs of these five stalwart brothers in reproduced herewith. The eldest of the bunch, Corpl.J.Brown is seen at the top left hand corner. He is at present serving with his regiment in France. Prvt A.Brown, who is the third son, is in the Military Police and is seen next to him at the top.The centre figure is Prvt H.Brown, the youngest member of the group. We regret to say that he has been missing from his regiment since May 25th,1915. Should this notice meet the eye of any comrade able to to give any information concerning the fate of this heroic young soldier the anxious parents would be grateful if they would kindly communicate with them. The two bottom figures are Prvt C.Brown, second son and Prvt W Brown, fourth son. The former has been invalided home, while the latter having been twice wounded at Salonika is now on active service again in France.

Many months later it appears hope had not been lost as the Bury Free Press reported

One of the mysteries concerning the fate of local soldiers is that connected with Prvt Harry Brown, No.17313, Suffolk Regiment, fifth son of Mr. and Mrs. John Brown, Back Street, Lakenheath. They were officially notified that he was missing on May 25th, 1915, when he was in battle with the 1st Battalion after being in the trenches three days. The parents after waiting without result for further news, wrote to the British Red Cross Society enquiring whether that organisation could give any information. A reply was received stating that the solider was a prisoner of war in Germany. This news came form Geneva and gave his address.A letter was posted to him, but no reply has been received, neither was the letter returned. Prvt Brown enlisted on Boxing Day 1914, and his parents have been notified that he is believed to have died on the date he was reported missing. The parents would be grateful for news from any comrade, nurse or chaplain who knows anything of him.

This communication is recorded in International Red Cross records with the comment "nothing known"

Harry enlisted in Brandon suggesting a move to Lakenheath area after 1911.
The 1st Suffolks were in Herzeele in Reserve, but early on 24th May a gas attack and heavy shelling reached the Reserve area and the Brigade were called upon to recover some lost trenches. The 1st Suffolks, reduced to around 400 men, fell in and moved towards Ypres. The main bridge over the canal into Ypres was being heavily shelled so the battalion made their way over a small pontoon bridge and skirting Zillebeke, reached Witte Poort Farm around 5 pm. They had sustained a few casualties en route from enemy shelling. In front of the farm was a sunken road with a deep ditch on the far side, beyond which the Germans held a position 200 yards away. As the 1st Suffolks trickled across the road, the Germans held their fire until the battalion were ordered to fix bayonets and to charge. The Germans then opened fire, a deadly fire which thinned the line so much that the order was given to retire and reform. The Brigadier then ordered Bellewaarde Farm to be taken at all costs so at midnight the battalion moved up again to Witte Poort Farm. The result was once again a failure.
The 1st Suffolks are recorded by CWGC as having 2 killed on 24th, but 41 on 25th and none have a known grave.

© Commonwealth War Graves Commission

No Known Grave
Harry BROWN is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium, panel 21

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