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imageWalter Brown was born in Preston in 1891 to William and Anna Brown (nee Dagger). His parents were married in the parish church of St. John in Preston on the 17 July 1875.

According to information on a later Census William and Anna had seventeen children but of those only seven sons survived infancy; Frederick (1873), William (1877), Charles (1883), Alfred (1886), James (1889), Walter (1891)* and Edward (1894).

In 1901 Walter was living at 67 Victoria Street in Preston with his parents and the rest of his brothers except for Fred who was now serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

On the 21 April, 1909 Walter joined the Territorial Army at Preston aged 17 years and 9 months old and twelve months later he re- enlisted for six years as a Special Reservist He was working as a varnisher at Messrs Irvin and Sellars Peel Hall Works in Preston at the time and Mr. Baldwin a Manager was asked to provide a reference for him. In it he states that Walter had been working at Irvin and Sellars since June 1906 and the reason given for leaving his employment was on account of `short-time`. He also confirmed that Walter was `sober and honest`

At his medical inspection the Medical Officer noted that Walter was 5`4” tall, weighed 102lbs, had blue eyes and sandy coloured hair. The M.O. also commented that Walter was “lightweight but wiry and had good chest expansion”. Walter was passed fit to serve and was allocated the number 1481 and posted to the 3rd Battalion.

In 1911 the Census shows Walter and his younger brother Edward as the only two sons still living at home with their parents at 79 Atkinson Street in Preston. William Brown was a plasterer by trade and now Walter was working with him as a labourer while his brother Edward was labouring in a saw mill. The family also had a nine year old lad called Charlie Rafferty living with them at the time and he is described as a nephew.

On the 7 October, 1911 Walter married Rachel Thornton in All Saints Church in Preston and in January 1912 a daughter Olive was born. The couple had a second daughter in February 1914 and they named her Hilda.

Walter continued to attend his annual training camps and in June 1913 he was appointed Lance Corporal. As a Special Reservist Walter was mobilised at Preston on the 8 August, 1914 four days after war was declared and just three weeks later he was further promoted to Corporal.

He embarked for France on the 5 January, 1915 with a large batch of reinforcements and was afterwards posted to the 1st Battalion.

The Battalion War History notes that on the 5 January, 1915 the 1st Battalion were occupying billets in the Cambrin area at Beauvry when they were ordered up to the trenches at Cuinchy. They remained in the trenches until the 13 January and after being relieved by the Royal Sussex the Battalion withdrew to billets at Annequin. On arrival they found reinforcements of 360 men and 3 Officers had arrived so this is probably when Walter joined them.

Just thirteen days later Walter died of wounds after a shell fell in the middle of an orderly room at Beuvry. Two Officers and thirteen other men also suffered the same fate and many more were wounded.

1st Battalion War Diary: 26th January 1915
At BEUVRY. A quiet night for us but heavy and continuous firing in the direction of GIVENCHY. The Companies were re-allotted to billets in the village on account of the fact that the Germans had shelled it the day before.

At 9.30hrs, orderly room was being held in `D` Companies billets in a paved yard surrounded by buildings. It was a particularly large orderly room on account of yesterday`s being interrupted by our sudden move from BETHUNE.

A high explosive shell falling almost perpendicularly struck the yard in the midst of us and detonated with great violence. The havoc was awful.

2/Lt G.E. Bunderkin was killed. Lieut J.G. Halstead wounded (in legs and arms). 2/Lieut M.E. CALLARD very seriously wounded in both legs.

Sergt. Major T. Hodgson, Sergt. Veacock, Sergt. Haggerty, Coy Sergt.Major Marsh, Coy Sergt.Major Melia and seven other ranks were killed on the spot.

There were eighteen wounded, one of whom Coy Sergt.Major Custis died of wounds the same day.

This is a terrible disaster and a very severe blow to the Battalion. We all regret the death of 2/Lt. Bunderkin who was a most reliable officer and Sergt. Major Hodgeson particularly.

After his wife and family were informed of his death a brief article with photograph appeared in the local paper.

Walter was buried with honour in Beuvry Communal Cemetery. His family would later receive the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals that he was entitled to.

Additional family information
The young lad Charlie Rafferty who was living with the Brown family in the 1911 Census appeared in an article published by the Lancashire Evening Post in the early 1970`s. Charlie was interviewed by the paper after the discovery of an old newspaper clipping about the Brown family`s service in WW1.

The newspaper clipping below is possibly the one that Charlie found;


The article published in the Lancashire Evening Post was entitled: Charlie rediscovers his family`s proud past

“Memories of World War 1 in which one Preston family provided 18 men to do battle have been revived by the discovery of an old newspaper cutting. The family was that of the late Mr. William and Mrs Anna Brown of Atkinson Street, Preston.

They provided seven sons and five grandsons for the war. Three of the sons died of wounds and two were seriously wounded. The seven sons were Corporal Fred of the Loyal Regiment; Sgt Alfred of the Manchester Regiment; Trooper Corporal Charles of the 17th Lancers; Pte James of the Cheshire Regiment; Sgt Walter of the Loyals; Corporal Edward of the Loyals, and Private William of the Lancashire Fusiliers.

Charles, James and Walter were killed in action and Edward and William died of wounds. Five grandsons also fought. It was the surviving grandson, Mr. Charles Rafferty, 71 now of Robinson Court, Layton, Blackpool who recalled the family`s sacrifice after discovering an Evening Post story entitled “Proud fighting family of Preston” published at the time.

Mr Rafferty declared: “All my family ever received for the sacrifice was four bronze plaques” and he contrasted this with how the first Duke of Wellington, for his role in the Peninsular War, received gifts of a farm in Spain, 10,000 acres near Reading, 2,200 acres in Belgium and a large house at Hyde Park Corner. It makes you think added Mr. Rafferty.

A former Preston cabbie who was better known to his colleagues as “Charlie Brown”, Mr Rafferty claims that there cannot have been a better record of service to the Crown.

As a younger member of the Brown “war heroes”, Charlie joined “The Loyals” when he was under 17. He served the last 10 months of WW1 in Ireland during “the troubles”.

In August 1939 he was recalled to the “Loyals” as a sergeant and served until he was discharged with damaged eyesight after surviving German bombing near Canterbury.

Before joining the Army during the first war Charlie sold “Evening Posts” around the Adelphi and town centre streets, and he is fond of recalling a profitable night`s newspaper selling when he shouted as a joke “Big sensation, Kaiser wounded”.

I sold every paper in no time chuckled Charlie”.

Charlie Rafferty passed away in Blackpool in 1975 aged 73 years.

Janet Davis
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One Response to 1481 PTE. W. BROWN. L.N.LAN.R

  1. Stephen Thompson says:

    This is my family my grandfather is Charles rafertty

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