John Charles (aka Domenico CARRAZZO) (Charlie) BROWN

BROWN, John Charles (aka Domenico CARRAZZO)

Service Number: 2156
Enlisted: 9 February 1916, Seymour, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 1st ANZAC Cyclist Battalion
Born: Viggiano, Italy, 1896
Home Town: Essendon, Moonee Valley, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Ironworker (later Plumber/Gas fitter)
Died: Natural causes (lung cancer), Heidelberg Repat Hospital, Victoria, March 1969
Cemetery: Fawkner Memorial Park Cemetery, Victoria
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World War 1 Service

9 Feb 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2156, Seymour, Victoria
9 Mar 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2156, 4th Light Horse Regiment, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
9 Mar 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2156, 4th Light Horse Regiment, HMAT Katuna, Melbourne
9 Dec 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Private, SN 2156, 1st ANZAC Cyclist Battalion

Italian by birth - An Australian digger by choice & deed

John Charles (Charlie) Brown was born Domenico Carrazzo in Viggiano, Basilicata Italy in 1896 (?) and came to Australia aboard the GMS. Seydlitz in May 1909. He travelled with his older sister Maria Giuseppe and her young son Leonardo.
His father Leonardo Antonia Maria Carrazzo arrived in Australia in 1913 applied for and received a Naturalisation Certificate Number 24019 Dated 10th January 1917 His mother Mattia Gargaro and siblings remained in Italy. It is believed Leonardo returned to Italy before the end of WW1, Domenico (John Charles Brown) and his father Leonardo not seeing each other again.

Index to unassisted inward Passenger lists to Victoria 1852-1923 in Government archives record his age on arrival into Australia in 1909 as 8yrs therefore, at the time of enlistment in 1916, his age would have been 15 yrs. old. Later documentation indicates his age was + 3 years (18 yrs.)

He resided at 160 Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy Melbourne.

Details of the circumstances regarding his enlistment and reasons for doing so cannot be corroborated. It is believed he was refused parental consent from his father to enlist in 1915 however, determined to serve his adopted country he left home and travelled to Seymour Recruitment and training army camp where he enlisted with the 4th Light Horse Regiment.

He undertook military training at Seymour and Embarked aboard the HMAT A13 “Katuna” on the 9th March 1916. 15th Reinforcement. His Service Number is 2156 Rank Private

To avoid being found out and returned to his family, he changed his identity including his name, age, residence, religion, N.O.K. , occupation and listed himself as a Nat. Born British Subject.

He arrived in Egypt in April 1916 transferred to the 4th Division Cyclists Formed in Egypt in 04/16, disembarked France in July 1916 where he was transferred, to the 1st ANZAC cyclist Battalion. He remained with this Battalion for the duration of the war.

Little is known of the ANZAC Cyclist Battalions, however for almost 2 years they acted as mounted infantry, but using bicycles instead of horses, they undertook a variety of tasks ranging from acting as guides, traffic control, burial parties, front line reconnaissance and patrolling, trench digging, cable laying, POW guards and often worked in conjunction with their Corps mounted units including the 4th and 13th Light Horse Regiments. They served in France and Belgium from 1916-1918.
“Charlie” was gassed whilst serving on the Western front and suffered the legacy of gas poisoning during his lifetime.

He met my Grandmother Josephine Orphee Grimar, born at Bersillies-l’Abbaye on the 10th December 1896 to parents Adolphe Grimar and Orphilia Dandien. They were married in Beaumont Belgium in April 1919. He returned to Australia via England with his war bride on the “Indarra” on the 27th August 1919. They returned to Fitzroy and in 1923 applied for a land grant under the War Service Homes Act and lived on an allotment of land at what is now Essendon Airport.

He worked on the Great Ocean Road Project. About 3,000 returned First World War servicemen built the road between 1919 and 1932 in honour of fallen comrades, making it the world's biggest war memorial.

They moved to Miller Street Essendon and raised 5 children, their generational legacy continues to live on in new generations. “Charlie” worked for Worboys plumbing in South Melbourne as a plumber for many years. He never reconciled with his Italian heritage and thought himself first and foremost as an Australian and lived as one until his end. He was passionate and patriotic for his adopted homeland and like thousands of young men and women, he defended her with all he had to give and was willing to lay down his life for this great country of ours.

Josephine returned to Belgium in 1950 and visited family before returning to Australia. Like her kindred countrywomen her cooking skills in the kitchen were unsurpassed. There was always fresh roasted and ground coffee on the stove, Jewish cake and apple tarts’ on the kitchen table which was the very heart of the household. Her speciality was spaghetti and meatballs and I imagine this was an acquired skill to satisfy her Australian husband’s traditional Italian palate. She spoke with a strong Belgium accent and would break into her native language often and like many European’s likely in frustration with one thing or another. I remember her as a no nonsense practical strong woman and now have some understanding of the immense upheaval in her life before embarking on a new life in a foreign land. I wonder if she experienced similar feelings of adventure that her young husband did when he embarked on the troopship to Egypt in early 1916.

I would visit after school and stay until Sunday attending Sunday mass with her at St. Teresa’s in Essendon, this being her parish church from early 1920’s. I recall Josephine’s tormented and fearful screams throughout the night, speaking in her native tongue and fighting the ghost of a persecuted past. Only now after extensive research into the atrocities of German occupation can I identify how the vileness of war would have affected her in her young adult formative years. She was a refugee of the Battle of the Frontiers with Charleroi being one of the key battles on the Western Front from 21st-23rd August 1914. Charleroi was a mid-size industrial town crossing the River Sambre, and was a battlefront stretching approximately 40 km west of Namur where the river joins with the Meuse.

John Charles (Charlie) passed away in March 1969 at Repatriation General Hospital Heidelberg after half a lifetime suffering bronchial and lung weakness made worse by gas poisoning on the Western Front, Josephine followed him in 1974, they are laid to rest in the Roman Catholic section of the Fawkner Cemetery with their first born son Leo who died in early childhood.

I wish I had the opportunity to have known him better while growing up, to have had the knowledge of our heritage when I was young and to have told him how proud I am to call myself his Granddaughter. I honour the memory of John Charles Brown, an Italian by birth, an Australian by choice and achievement and a true digger. - Catherine Brown

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