Lewis George BROWN

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BROWN, Lewis George

Service Number: 2167
Enlisted: 30 September 1915, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Wilmington, South Australia, 8 October 1887
Home Town: Wilmington, Mount Remarkable, South Australia
Schooling: Wilmington Public School
Occupation: Postman
Died: Killed in Action, France, 19 July 1916, aged 28 years
Cemetery: Rue-Petillon Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix, Bethune, Nord Pas de Calais, France
Plot I, Row L, Grave No. 51
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Adelaide Postmaster General's Department WWI Honour Board , Adelaide St Mary Magdalene Church Honour Roll, Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Bruce WW1 & WW2 Roll of Honor
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World War 1 Service

30 Sep 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2167, Adelaide, South Australia
7 Feb 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2167, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
7 Feb 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2167, 32nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Miltiades, Adelaide
19 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2167, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)

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Biography contributed by N. Campbell

Lewis George BROWN was born 8th October 1887 in WILMINGTON to Charles and Elizabeth Brown who were early settlers to the area. Lewis had an elder brother, Albion, who resided in Jamestown. He also left four sisters, Mrs. J. G. Fraser (at WILMINGTON), Mrs. J.H. Abbott (Bruce), Mrs. M. White (Yongala), and another who lived in Broken Hill.

Lewis enlisted on 30 September 1915, aged 24 years & listed Postal employee as his employment.  He was described as a single man, 5’7 ½“tall, weighed 138 pounds and had a 36” chest. He had dark hair, a medium complexion and hazel eyes.

Lewis completed camp training and embarked from Adelaide with the 32nd Battalion Australian Infantry Force, ( A.I.F) for the Suez on 7 February 1916 on HMAT "Miltiades" (A28). Disembarking at Suez on 11 March 1916.Lewis proceeded to join 32nd Bn. on 1st April 1916 at Duntroon Plateau. The 32nd embarked from Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force, 17 June 1916; disembarking at Marseilles in France, on 23 June 1916.

The 32nd Battalion was committed to the front for the first time on 16 July 1916. On the 19th July 1916 only three days after taking up position in the trenches the 32nd took part in the fighting around Fromelles during which it suffered 718 casualties—which equalled roughly 90 percent of its effective strength !— a third of the battalion's total casualties for the entire war. The Battalion was withdrawn from action to be rebuilt.   On that one terrible, senseless day over 5,500 Australians became casualties at Fromelles. Almost 2,000 of them were killed in action or died of wounds and some 400 were captured. This is believed to be the greatest loss by a single division in 24 hours during the entire First World War. Some consider Fromelles the most tragic event in Australia’s history.

Lewis was killed on the first day of this devastating attack dying with so many of his mates.  Red Cross reports gathered from other troops stated...   (1269 Pte L. GLASSETT, D Company, 32nd Bn, patient, No 2 General Hospital, taken 14 December 1916): 'At Fromelles about 6 p.m. I saw Brown hit by a shell behind our parapet. He was badly wounded in the face and neck. Pioneer Sgt. Banning 32nd battn. (sic) who buried all the dead will probably be able to give information as to whether he was buried.'

(416 Sergeant P.A. OKLESTRONG, 32nd Bn, patient, 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, England, taken 23 January 1917): 'Informant states that Pte Brown was buried in a cemetery near Fleurbaix.'

(301 Corporal H.J. STONE, 32nd Bn, patient, War hospital, Bath, England, taken 6 March 1917): 'Brown was killed by a shell. He had his bottom jaw blown off and a hole in his chest, also the fingers of his right hand were blown off. I helped to bury him at Rue David Cemetery, Fleur Baix (sic). A cross was erected. Captain Ward was chaplain who buried [him].'

Lewis was first officially buried at Eaton Hall Cemetery by Reverend F. G. Ford on 20 July 1916 and later reinterred in the RUE-PETILLON MILITARY CEMETERY, FLEURBAIX, BETHUNE, FRANCE when the graves were organised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. BROWN was fortunate not to be in a mass or unknown grave like so many of his Cobbers. (There are 1,335 still listed as “missing in action” after this battle.)

The BROWN family and local community were devastated and Charles later received Lewis’ British War Medal, Victory Medal, Memorial Scroll and Plaque along with a copy of the ‘Kings Message’. 

Lewis is commemorated on the Australian War Memorial on the Roll of Honour, the South Australian Railways Memorial, and Lewis is also commemorated on the Honour Roll at The WILMINGTON Soldiers Memorial Hall.

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