From towers to trenches, we remember George Reginald Brown
Life for the Browns of Chicheley could not have been easy; Martha was widowed in 1892 when her husband Thomas Charles Brown, known as Charles, died aged about 37. At this time Martha had 6 children including George Reginald who was under two and was either expecting her youngest son Matthew or had just given birth to him.
The 1901 census reveals that the Martha was surviving on “parish relief” supplemented with the wages of the older children. The boys William, Ernest and John were employed as ordinary agricultural labourers and Beatrice aged 13 as a general domestic servant. Daughter Sarah was employed as a live in domestic general servant by 73 year old widow Jane Tarry of 12 St John’s Street, Newport Pagnell.
The 1911 census reveals that there were a total of 8 children born to Martha, one of whom had passed away. Youngest son Matthew completed the census return confirming four of Martha’s sons were single and living at home. William and John were employed as “cowman on Farm” and George and Matthew were agricultural labourers. The family home was very small and had 3 rooms excluding the kitchen.
George was one of the first lads from the village to enlist and did so at Bedford, joining the 1st Battalion of the Bedford Regiment. The war diaries for the Bedford Regiment show that in late July 1916 the regiment was stationed at Pommiers redoubt near Mametz. The diaries show that 22 NCOs and men were killed on the 30th and 31st July and over 200 were injured, George was amongst those that died. It is likely that he fought in some of the infamous battles of the First World War including the “Second Battle of Ypres” where the regiment fought at Hill 60 in 1915 and the Battle of the Somme in 1916 with attacks on High Wood and Longueval during July.
On the 18th August 1916 the Buckingham Standard reported “The Army council have sent a letter of condolence to Mrs. W. Brown (widow of Charles Brown) of Chicheley, following the death in action of her fourth son Private Reginald Brown, of the Bedfordshire Regiment. He was killed on July 31st, and would have been 26 years of age had he lived until last Friday. Private Brown was the first of Chicheley’s band of patriots to volunteer for service when the war broke out, at which time he was employed in the stables at Chicheley Hall. Having been at the front for 17 months he had seen much hard fighting, and his last letter to his mother was written on the eve of his death. He was much respected in his native Village and was formerly a member of the church choir and also a bellringer.”
George’s body has never been recovered and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, the memorial to the Missing of the Somme which bears the names of 72,000 officers and men.
Census records for 1911, 1901, 1891, 1881