William James Lamington BROWN


BROWN, William James Lamington

Service Number: 3369
Enlisted: 14 October 1916, Toowoomba, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 49th Infantry Battalion
Born: Warwick, Queensland, Australia, 27 December 1896
Home Town: Toowoomba, Toowoomba, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Blacksmith
Died: Wounds, 61st Casualty Clearing Station in Vignacourt, France, 15 June 1918, aged 21 years
Cemetery: Vignacourt British Cemetery
Plot 111, Row D, Grave 1, Vignacourt British Cemetery, Vignacourt, Picardie, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Toowoomba Roll of Honour WW1, Toowoomba St Stephen's Church WWI Memorial Tablet, Toowoomba St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church Roll of Honour, Toowoomba War Memorial (Mothers' Memorial)
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World War 1 Service

14 Oct 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Toowoomba, Queensland
24 Jan 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3369, 49th Infantry Battalion
24 Jan 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 3369, 49th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ayrshire, Sydney
26 Sep 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 3369, 49th Infantry Battalion, Polygon Wood, GSW right knee
13 Jun 1918: Wounded Private, SN 3369, 49th Infantry Battalion, Shrapnel wound head

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From François Berthout

Pte 3369 William James Lamington Brown
49th Australian Infantry Battalion,
13th Brigade, 4th Australian Division
The Somme, on the red fields of poppies, in silence, walk like ghosts, thousands of young men who during one of the most terrible battles in history, fought and fell in the trenches, in the mud and the barbed wire, caught in the fury and chaos that tons of shells and hail of lead spat on them, caught too early in the flower of their age, in their youth that they gave in the hell that was their war but who, with the greatest bravery, with devotion and loyalty, with pride served alongside their comrades for their country and gave their young lives, their today in the name of peace and freedom on the soils of northern France where today stand solemnly in the light of remembrance, row after row their white graves that tell us the stories of these young boys who did not have the chance to return home but who here will always be honored with respect and loved forever like our sons that I will always watch over with gratitude to bring them back to life, so that their courage and their sacrifices, their deeds will never be forgotten, so that their names will live forever.

Today, it is with the utmost respect and infinite gratitude that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men, one of my boys of the Somme who gave his today for our tomorrow.I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Private number 3369 William James Lamington Brown who fought in the 49th Australian Infantry Battalion, 13th Brigade, 4th Australian Division, and who died of his wounds 104 years ago, on June 15, 1918 at the age of 21 on the Somme front.

William James Lamington Brown was born on December 27, 1896 in Warwick, Queensland, and was the son of William Arthur Lowder Brown and Martha Ann Brown, of Neil And Herries Street, Toowoomba, Queensland and before the outbreak of the war, he worked as blacksmith.

William enlisted on October 14, 1916 in Toowoomba, in the 49th Australian Infantry Battalion, 9th Reinforcement, battalion whose nickname was "The Stanley Regiment" and whose motto was "Semper Fidelis" (Always Faithful). After a training period of a little over two months, William embarked with his unit from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A33 Ayrshire on January 24, 1917 and sailed for England.
On March 16, 1917, during his sea voyage, William fell ill and was admitted to the ship's hospital, was discharged to duty on March 19 and arrived in England on April 12, 1917 where he was disembarked in Devonport, joined the 13th Training Battalion the next day in Codford then embarked from Folkestone on August 6 and proceeded overseas for France.

Later in the day on August 6, 1917, after a quick trip up the English Channel, William arrived in France and was disembarked at Le Havre where he joined the 4th Australian Divisional Base Depot, marched out to unit on August 22 and was taken on strength in the 49th Australian Infantry Battalion on August 25 at "Red Lodge", Dranoutre, Belgium where they were billeted until the end of the month.

A month later, on September 26, 1917, William fought his first major battle with the 49th Battalion at Polygon Wood.

Polygon Wood was the second of three battles between 20 September and 4 October 1917 in which "step by step" or "bite and hold" tactics were used to batter down the formidable German defensive positions. After an opening bombardment the infantry would advance for a prescribed distance behind a "creeping" barrage of shells. This barrage would keep the Germans in their pillboxes until British soldiers were almost upon them. The enemy positions would then be captured consolidated and protected from counter-attack by artillery. Artillery would be brought forward and the next "bite" attempted. In this way the British aimed to work their way from their start lines near Ypres to the heights of the ridge ten kilometres away at Passchendaele village.

At Menin Road on 20 September 1917, in the first use of the "bite and hold", the Australians sustained 5,000 killed and wounded but the tactics had been proven and, combined with the allied superiority in artillery, showed that, with fine weather, the allies were now in a superior position. Both the British and the Germans suffered similar casualties, but while the British were elated at the results, the Germans were crushed by the defeat.

The next battle was Polygon Wood and Charles Bean, the Australian Official Historian described the opening barrage on 26 September as the most perfect that ever protected Australian troops and that it rolled ahead of the troops roaring "like a Gippsland bushfire".

The name Polygon Wood derived from a plantation forest that lay along the axis of the Australian advance. Shelling had reduced the wood to little more than stumps and broken timber. Seven divisions, five British and two Australian, advanced behind the screen of shells the "creeping barrage" as it was known and seized most of their objectives. The Germans launched several counter-attacks but these were thwarted by the heavy defensive artillery barrages used to protect the infantry consolidating their objectives. However, despite the success, 5,770 Australian were killed or wounded.

Unfortunately, it was during the battle of Polygon Wood, on his first day on the front line that William was wounded by a gunshot wound to his right knee, was evacuated and admitted to the 32nd Casualty Clearing Station, transferred the next day at the 18th General Hospital in Camiers (Pas-De-Calais) then after recovering, was admitted on October 4 to the 6th Convalescent Depot, transferred on October 6 to the 11th Convalescent Depot in Buchy, was discharged to duty on November 6 and sent the same day at the 4th Australian Divisional Base Depot in Le Havre.

On November 12, 1917, William joined his unit at Rechlinghem (Pas-De-Calais) and a few days later on November 16 "whilst on active service, absenting himself without leave after being warned for guard duty".After this small incident, he joined his comrades on November 27 in Aigneville, in the Somme where they alternated between training and sports exercises including a rugby football competition with the men of the 51st Australian Infantry Battalion and remained there until December 6.

On December 6, 1917, William and the 49th Battalion left Aigneville and marched through Peronne, Etricourt, arrived at Templeux-La-Fosse on December 10 and were billeted here until December 18, marched to Moislains on December 20 where they followed a new training period including exercises of attacks in brigades and the handling of grenades followed by a period of rest which ended on January 10, 1918.

On January 11, 1918, the 49th Battalion marched into Billets for Strazeele (Hauts-De-France) and less than a week later, on January 16, moved back to the Ypres Salient and fought in an area called "Spoil Bank". and "Larch Wood" until February 8, when they were relieved by the 51st Australian Infantry Battalion and marched to Ridge Wood Camp where the men alternated between rest, training and working parties then on February 28, moved to "Birr Barracks" before joining Locre on March 1.

Almost three weeks later, on March 21, 1918, in a last desperate attempt by the Germans to break through the Allied lines, General Erich Ludendorff launched the German Spring Offensive, also called "Operation Michael" between Arras and St Quentin, in the Somme and at first, put the 3rd and 5th British armies in a very critical situation and threatened the vital and strategic railway junction of the city of Amiens and to stop them, the five Australian divisions, which had been grouped together as part of the Australian Corps, were transferred to the Somme to help blunt the attack.
On March 27, 1918, William and the 49th Battalion arrived in the Somme, at Forceville, took up position at Dernancourt, along the Ancre River, where on April 5, played a significant part in repelling a German attack there during the Second Battle of Dernancourt, and faced the strongest mounted attack against Australians during the war. For their part, the 49th Battalion, supported by part of the 45th, put in a vital counter-attack late in the afternoon amidst heavy rain, which saved the situation for the Australians, whose line had been penetrated by a German counterattack across a railway bridge west of the town; in doing so they suffered heavily, though, losing 14 officers and 207 other ranks. Later in the month, they took part in the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, launching an Anzac Day attack that successfully recaptured the town, which had been lost the previous day following an attack by four German divisions.

On May 1, 1918, after the Australian victory at Villers-Bretonneux, the 49th Battalion moved to Blangy-Tronville where they fought until May 20, then marched to Querrieu for training and then on June 5, joined the front line at Sailly-Le-Sec where they were continuously bombarded by German artillery, partly by gas shells. Unfortunately, it was during one of these bombardments at Sailly-Le-Sec that William met his fate on June 15, 1918 and was seriously injured by a shrapnel wound to his head and was immediately evacuated to the 61st Casualty Clearing Station in Vignacourt where he died shortly after being admitted, he was 21 years old.

Today, William James Lamington Brown rests in peace with his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Vignacourt British Cemetery, Somme.
William, Proud and brave, it is with ardor and conviction that you answered the call of duty in the flower of your life to do what was right, to serve your country with loyalty and courage alongside your comrades who, confident and determined left behind the hopes of a life full of promise to wear the colors with pride but who, with heavy hearts, said their farewells to their mothers and their loved ones in a last embrace and embarked on the battlefields , towards dark days but which, coming from the other side of the world, carried on their young shoulders the hopes of all peoples in love with freedom and walked side by side, in long columns alongside their friends who had in their hearts and in their smiles the desire to fight and who, guided by the ardor of their youth, walked singing behind the bagpipes and the bugles which resounded through the fields of poppies of the north of France,a country they did not know but which they adopted and loved and for which, in mud and blood, they did and gave so much.Under the sky shattered by thunder they reached the trenches blackened with mud and blood and were greeted in the darkness by the fire of the artillery, by the mournful symphony of the shells which crushed the lines under tons of shells which did not ceased to fall all around them bringing death and destruction to young men who thought they would live the greatest adventure of their lives, a short war that would be over before Christmas but through their children's eyes, through their innocence, they found only death and saw their friends, their brothers being pulverized under storms of steel and were soon covered in blood in these slaughterhouses which were the reddened fields of the Somme whose poppies grew between the khaki uniforms , between the bodies of these young men who were taken under the murderous fire of the machine guns and who collapsed one after the other in the barbed wire from which it was impossible to escape but to through which so many men charged wave after wave into the fury and madness of a world at war.Through the bullets, through the poison gas, through the flames, it was with extreme courage that they held the line but found in unity, in camaraderie and brotherhood the strength to stand and together, at the sound of whistles, watching over each other, climbed the wooden ladders and charged bayonets forward across the fields of Amiens, Pozieres and Villers-Bretonneux where so many fell for freedom and peace in which we live thanks to them who paid the supreme sacrifices and who in the silence after the storm, saw their brothers, their best mates who lay lifeless in the shroud of poppies and who gave their today until their last breath of life in thinking of their mothers, their fathers who would never see them again but who fell with in their hearts, the comfort and the pride of having done what was right, of having fought for this war to end all wars and thanks to whom we are privileged to live in a world at peace and over whom I am proud to watch today, among whom I feel proud and honored to stand when I walk in silence in front of their white graves and for whom I would always give my heart , my today and my life to honor their memory and share their stories so that their sacrifices are never forgotten, so that their names live forever.Thank you so much William,for everything. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him,we will remember them. 



49 Battalion

Rank - Private

27 September 1917 Wounded in action gunshot wound to right knee

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

Son of William Arthur Lowder Brown and Martha Ann Brown, of Neil and Herries Sts., Toowoomba, Queensland