2nd Lieutenant in The Gloucestershire Regiment, 1st/6th Battalion - Regt. No. 75409
James Ferguson Brown (known to his family as Fergie) was born in Maidstone in March 1889 to William Brown, born 1849 in Tyrone, Ireland, and Margaret Anne (née Larke) born 1854 in Ireland. William Brown enlisted in 1862 at the age of 14 in the 97th Foot Soldiers (later the Royal West Kent Regiment) and served in Jamaica, Bermuda, Ireland, Canada and South Africa. William and Margaret married in Dublin in 1873 and had 13 children, two sadly dying in infancy; Margaret accompanied her husband to wherever his regiment was garrisoned. Their first child, Elizabeth Anne, was born in 1873 in Jamaica and died in 1874, then Charles Henry was born in Bermuda in 1876. William’s regiment then moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada where a daughter Frances Emily was born in 1877, followed by Isobel (Mabel) Margaret in 1879. Moving back to Ireland, Robert Andrew William was born in Mullinger in 1881 and Kathleen in 1884. The regiment was then garrisoned at Chatham where two more children arrived, George Jonathan in 1886 and Albert Malcolm (Buster) in 1886.
By 1889 they had moved to the Maidstone Barracks and James Ferguson was born, followed by Anita Eleanor Larke in 1890. The 1891 Census lists the family at the Sandling Road Barracks in Maidstone. That same year, William Brown retired from the army and moved to Horton Kirby, where he is next listed in the 1891 Kelly’s Directory as a Relieving Officer and Collector as well as a School Attendance and Inquiry Officer for Dartford No. 3 District, Deputy Registrar of Births and Deaths and Vaccination Officer. The same year, Kathleen sadly died at the age of just 7. In 1893 another daughter was born, Barbara, but she died the following year. Edward Cecil was born in 1894, then Gladys May (Kitty) in 1896.
The 1901 Census lists William as a Retired Sergeant Major, the family living at the White House in Horton Kirby, James Ferguson Brown is listed as being a patient at the hospital in Bow Arrow Lane, Dartford.
James Ferguson Brown attended The Gravesend Municipal School (now Gravesend Grammar School) from 1902. The School had been originally opened in 1893 as a school of science and art, located in Darnley Street close to Gravesend Railway Station. (With the move of Gravesend Grammar School in 1938 to its present site in Milton Road, the original school building is now the Victoria Centre for Adult Education). By the time that James attended the School, the 1902 Education Act had been passed and the school had become a recognised Secondary School. Although still a fee-paying school, there were scholarships available, but it is unknown as to whether he was a scholarship pupil. The Headmaster at the time was H F A Wigley, BA, FCS.
In 1904, James Ferguson moved to Dartford Grammar School. His older brothers, George and Albert, had been students there, Albert from 1898 to 1901. Younger brother, Edward, would join him at Dartford Grammar from 1907 to 1910. James Ferguson was appointed a Prefect in 1905, becoming School Captain in 1907, the same year he won the Sir Guilford Molesworth’s special “character prize” – this was voted for by the whole school. He also captained the school football team. Their mother, Margaret, had died suddenly in early December 1905, whilst crossing Horton Bridge. Sister Frances postponed her marriage to Rupert Mitchell until later that month. Their father married for a second time in 1910 to Harriet Apps who was his junior by 20 years. Sister Isobel married Edwin Webster in February 1911. The 1911 Census lists William and Harriet Brown living in Elizabeth Villas, New Road, South Darenth together with the eldest son, Charles, and the three youngest children; Anita, Edward and Gladys.
In 1907, James Ferguson Brown had left Dartford Grammar School and had become an assistant master at Ashbourne Grammar School in Derbyshire. He then joined older brother Albert in Canada. Albert had emigrated there in 1908, the Canadian Census of 1910 lists James Ferguson living with Albert in Vancouver, British Columbia. James was working as a real estate agent moving between British Columbia and California.
James Ferguson Brown enlisted in the 29th Canadian Infantry in March 1915 as a Lance Corporal. On returning to England, he gained a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant and transferred to the 14th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment (known as the Gloucestershire Bantams) later that year, his Regiment No. was 75409. Four of his brothers had already enlisted, a letter in the Dartford Chronicle on 17th December 1915 praised William Brown for having five sons serving their country.
James Ferguson Brown’s Battalion arrived in France in April 1916, digging in to hold the line around Le Touret and Festubert, and moving the following month to Neuve Chapelle. In June James Ferguson was wounded during a trench raid. He returned to his Battalion in March 1917, having been recommended for the Distinguished Service Order medal.
On the 24th April 1917, James Ferguson Brown was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme. His Battalion had been attacking The Knoll, high ground between St Emelie and Lempire, near Peronne. His body was never recovered. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial in the Somme – Pier and Face 5A and 5B.
Five brothers serving – there were actually six – the five other brothers:
Charles Henry Brown married Rosa Piercy in 1914, setting up home in Horton Kirby. He enlisted in December 1915 at the age of 40, being called up for service the following October. He was discharged due to a disability of his left foot in January 1917, an injury he sustained at Woolwich Arsenal in 1901. He died in Dartford in 1934.
Robert Andrew William Brown had joined the Royal West Kent Regiment before the outbreak of World War One (1911 Census). He married Bessie Hilton in Dover in 1910. Rising to the rank of Major, he was injured at Passchendaele in October 1917. He died in Dartford in 1977.
George Jonathan Brown is listed in the 1911 Census as an Assistant Workhouse Master in Bradford. He married Mabel Proud in 1913 in Morecombe, Lancashire. He enlisted in the Royal West Kent Regiment, rising to Captain and served on the Western Front in the 10th Regiment. After the war he returned to Bradford and is listed in the 1939 Census as Steward of St Luke’s Hospital in Bradford. He died in 1957 in Morecombe.
Albert Buster Brown married Edith Wootton in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1911, having emigrated there in 1908. He first served in the 48th Highlanders in Canada and in 1915 he transferred to the 11th Irish Rifles, serving as a Lieutenant. He was accidently injured whilst training in England in August 1916 and was seconded to the Canadian Record Office in 1917. Joining the 54th Canadian Infantry on 20th February 1918 as a Major, he fought at Vimy Ridge and was wounded in the Battle of Amiens on 8th August that year. He later retired from the army as a Colonel, founding Odlum Brown in 1923, an Investment Company in Vancouver, with General Victor Odlum. Albert Malcolm Buster Brown died in Vancouver in March 1980. The Company was later run by his son Colonel Tom Brown, after his father’s retirement in 1985. Tom Brown died in 2005. Odlum Brown is now one of the largest Financial Companies in Canada.
Edward Cecil Brown (known as Teddy) enlisted in the Royal Engineers in 1914. He then became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Army Service Corps, based in Salonika from October 1915 to July 1916, when he was sent home with malaria. In July 1917 he transferred again, this time to Royal Flying Corps (Royal West Kent Regiment) as a Lieutenant in the 85 Squadron. The Royal Flying Corps became the Royal Air Force in April 1918. He was killed in action on 18th October 1918 and is buried at the Busigney Communal Cemetery Extension in Nord-de-pas-de-Calais, France, Plot IV, Row B, Grave 22.
Link to Canadian Attestation Papers
Link to Horton Kirby War Memorial Site: https://www.roll-of-honour.com/Kent/HortonKirby.html