Lieutenant Cecil Arthur BROWN


Regiment/Service:
Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)
Unit:
6th Battalion
Service Number:
n/a
Date of Death:
23 April 1917 - Killed in Action    
Age:
23
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Number:
IX. G. 3.
Awards:
Military Cross


Personal History:

Cecil was was born on the 29th October 1893, the son of Major Abraham
Brown (Solicitor) and Lucie (née Lowe) Brown, later of 20 Hardwick Street,
Buxton, Derbyshire.
In 1901 the family were living at Lightwood House, Lightwood Road, Buxton. (Census RG 13/3270) and Cecil had two
older sisters, Constance and Elsie Mary, and an older brother William Leonard. [See Footnote below]

In 1911 the family were at the same address (1911 Census RG 14/21236), along with two domestic servants. Cecil was
registered as being still at 'School'. He was educated at Holmleigh (Buxton) and Shrewsbury Schools. He became an
engineer with the firm of Vickers Ltd., Sheffield.

The picture (right) was taken at the Empire Hotel In Buxton whilst the 2/6th Battalion was based there.

On 5th May 1917 the 'Buxton Advertiser' published more details of his civilian life, in that his mother had died in July 1915.
Also, that he was a good all-round sportsman and played for Buxton Cricket Club on several occasions.
He " ... was greatly esteemed by everyone with whom he came into contact .. he was of a most amiable and kind disposition."

In confirming Cecil's death on 17th July 1917 the 'Buxton Advertiser' made special note of the great
losses suffered by his father since the beginning of the War. "To Major Brown the hand of genuine
sympathy is extended Buxton hearts go out to him in this awful additional loss. Would that the great
sorrow that rests upon him be shared by the sympathisers his grief would be lessened. No man has
been more sorely stricken, and quietly will many pray that God will help him in his loneliness, will
give him strength to pull through the great sacrifices that he has been called upon to bear."
Military History:
Cecil's Medal Index Card shows that originally he enlisted as a Private in the Royal Fusiliers before gaining a Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant 2/6th Battalion The Sherwood Foresters on 5th October 1914, later being promoted to Lieutenant 22nd March 1915 (London Gazette 12th June 1917). He entered France on 11th July 1915 and joined 1/6th Battalion at Sanctuary Wood on 7th-8th August 1915.

He was wounded 9th August 1915 by shrapnel in the shoulder and was Killed in Action 21st April 1917 leading his platoon during an attack on Lens. During these latter operations the 6th Battalion were at Fosse 3 near Lievin, Lt Brown and twenty other ranks were killed with five Officers and 71 NCO's and men wounded with three missing. Originally Cecil was buried where he fell and was later re-buried at La Chaudière.

On 5th May 1917 the 'Buxton Advertiser' published a letter from his Commanding Officer, Lt. Col C. B. Johnson to Cecil's father, Major Abraham Brown, Lt. Col. Johnson who wrote:

"24th April 1917 - My dear Major, I am most awfully sorry to tell you that Cecil is both wounded and missing.  'C' Company made an attack and Cecil and his platoon were hung up by a wall with wire entanglement behind it. Cecil, with the utmost pluck and gallantry, began to climb the wall but was hit and fell down behind it. A few of his men got over but the rest had to withdraw. We sent out search parties after dark but we did not find him; and we were relieved the same night. I asked the Company who relieved me to make every effort to bring Cecil in, but it is possible he had been made a prisoner as our attack had failed. I haven't had any news of him so far this all happened on the early morning of the 23rd.

I am hoping myself that he is fairly all right and will be brought in, but we're all very anxious for news.

Everyone is devoted to Cecil; he is one of the best fellows I've ever met in my life, and the men will do anything for him. I will send you any more news as soon as I can."

A few weeks later, on 17th July 1917 the 'Buxton Advertiser' officially confirmed Cecil's death, killed in action on 23rd April. He was recommended for the Military Cross for gallant and distinguished service in the field.

A Battalion War Diary entry recounted Cecil's actions which led to the receipt of his MC:

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion in the attack on FOSSE 3 DE LIEVIN on 23rd April. Previous to ZERO hour this Officer's platoon came under heavy hostile artillery fire in spite of which Lt. BROWN continued to go around his sections, encouraging the men and so imbued them with his own splendid spirit of cheerfulness that when the attack commenced they crossed one road heavily enfiladed by the enemy M.G. fire, followed him through a gap in the enemy wire and in spite of losing half their effectives, scaled a high wall under heavy M.G. fire from the FOSSE and were only stopped by hidden wire, the existence of which had not previously been known. Lt. BROWN was himself badly wounded in scaling the wall but though unable to speak on account of his wounds, he continued to wave his men on.

Lt BROWN is still MISSING as it was impossible to get to him by day, and search parties sent out at night have so far been unable to find him. He is believed killed."


                                     


Footnote: Cecil's older brother 2/Lt William Leonard Brown was
                Killed in Action on 25 September 1915

Sources:
· De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, Volume 3, page 38
· I am grateful to Brian Mycock for the Book "Men of the High Peak"
· I am also grateful to Richard [Derbyshire War Memorials]
   for the photo from St John's Church, Buxton
· The Buxton Advertiser, 5 May, 14 July and 1 December 1917


Background:

Lt. C A BROWN (From: 'Men of the High Peak - A History of the 1/6th Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters 1914-1918" (pps 81 - 83)  (3rd October 1918)

On the 23rd April further operations were carried out by the 139th Brigade, the object of these being the capture of Hill 65 and Fosse 3, in conjunction with an attack by the 5th Division on the Central Electric Generating Station. It was believed - on wholly insufficient grounds as the result proved - that both Hill 65 and Fosse 3 were held by the enemy in but moderate strength, and that a comparatively small attacking force would be sufficient to assault and capture both; it was no doubt for this reason that only the 8th and 6th Battalions The Sherwood Foresters of the four Battalions forming the 139th Brigade, were employed in the attack. The genera] line to be attacked by the 139th Brigade was Fosse 3 -Admirals Trench - Hill 65 - Advanced Trench; the Sixth was to assault Fosse 3 with one company in front and one in support, the objectives of the Battalion being the line N.25.C.0.4. - N.25.a.00.15 - Almanac Trench -Admiral Trench; while the Eight had for its objectives the line Advance Trench - certain portions designated by map numbers. Both Battalions were ordered to arrange for clearing parties to work south and north along the trench which was believed to be only very weakly held by the enemy.

In the 6th Battalion "C" Company under Captain Johnson was to attack with "D" Company (Captain Jackson) in support, and "A" (Captain Robinson) in reserve, and directly the companies advanced the enemy put down a very accurate barrage, which began at the east end of the group of houses and moved gradually up to and remained concentrated on the west end. The number of guns used for the purpose of this barrage was not especially great, but on the other hand, machine guns commanded and fired down all approaches to the enemy position.

In the advance of "C" Company No. 9 Platoon was heavily fired on by machine guns and found itself unable to get forward. No. 10 Platoon went through a gap in the wire and advanced along the road towards the west end of Fosse 3, being fired on accurately by machine guns from some buildings at each end of the road situated some twenty to thirty feet above the road level. The Platoon then came to a wall some five feet in height and Lieut. Cecil Brown was killed as he climbed over it, while those men who followed him and reached the other side, came upon a belt of uncut wire, and being unable to proceed further, lay in shell holes until dark; the remainder of the platoon was forced to fall back to some old enemy gun pits, where they also remained while daylight lasted. A man of the 266th German Infantry Regiment was killed when trying to escape after setting fire to a house on our infantry advancing, and the flames from this showed up our men very plainly. It was thought that the man must have been hidden in the house since the previous evening, the enemy probably having re-occupied those buildings before zero hour.

No. 11 Platoon found the wire in and near the trench at M.30. -b. 10.50 uncut, but two sections got round through shell holes and pushed on to the trench junction close by; the two rear sections were held up by heavy machine gun fire from Fosse 3, while the two front sections were forced to retire by a strong German bombing party from the north.

No. 12 Platoon came at the outset under very heavy machine gun fire and was also sniped from some of the houses occupied by the enemy; the men composing the platoon took cover in some gun pits and from here, bringing a Lewis gun into action, succeeded in knocking out the German machine gun firing from some buildings. About 5 a.m., on the 24th, Captain E.B. Johnson was wounded by shrapnel, and an hour later 2nd Lieut. Armitage, now the only surviving officer, was also hit.

All the platoons of "D" Company except one, quickly gained their objectives, this one being checked by "C" Company's inability to make good progress, and the platoon then took cover in a house. "D" Company sustained over forty casualties, chiefly from shrapnel and machine gun fire, in gaining its objective.

It was now abundantly clear that further progress was impossible and all took what cover they could and remained stationary until dark, when the Battalion was relieved by the 5th Battalion The Sherwood Foresters and went back into Divisional reserve.

The casualties suffered by the Sixth in these operations totalled just over one hundred, that is approximately one man out of four in the Battalion - Lieut. C.A. Brown and twenty other ranks were killed, Captain C.B. Johnson, 2nd Lieuts. V.H. Armitage, B.N. Parker, W. Archer, K.H. Bond and 71 non-commissioned officers and men were wounded, and three men were missing.

In his report the Brigade Commander wrote:- "I consider that all ranks of the attacking companies did all in their power to reach their objectives, and that it was no fault of the leading of the Officers and non-commissioned Officers, or of the spirit of the men, that the attack failed."

Link to CWGC Record
Lt Cecil Brown's grave
Lt Cecil Arthur BROWN
Lt Brown during training at Empire Hotel Buxton
 
The Memorial to the Brown brothers in St John's Church, Buxton
Buxton Advertiser 14 July 1917
poppy
about the Sherwood Foresters Action below