The Brown Family

The 1939 Register shows William Brown and his wife and daughter living at “The Chestnuts”, Station Road, Ruskington. [The house is now a residential Care Home – modern picture, right.]

The family had been long established in business in Ruskington.

William had married Violet Spence Hubbard, from Garrick, Heckington, Lincolnshire, in the March quarter 1916, probably in All Saints’ Church, Ruskington. She was born on 12 February 1896.

By 1939 he had become a successful “Agricultural Merchant“, and he and Violet had three children, Denis Frederick Spence, Philip William Spence and Audrey Spence. Both sons did distinguished military service during World War 2. [see below]

Their sister, Audrey, born on 22 December 1920, married John Hodgson in the June quarter 1948, probably in All Saints’ Church, Ruskington. He was born 25 November 1919 and came from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. They had two sons, not named here for privacy.

John died at Flat 3, Spa Court, Iddesleigh Road, Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, on 15 August 1990, aged 70. Audrey died at the same address on 14 April 1993, aged 72.

Father and both sons had distinguished Military careers, serving in both Wars, as follows:

2nd Lieutenant Frederick WilliamBrown F W BROWN –                    Fred was born on 17 September 1890, at Jinks Cottages, Ruskington. He was the eldest son of William Henry Brown, J.P. (Farmer) and Annie Elizabeth (Lizzie) (née Hutchinson) Brown (1891 Census RG 12/2577). He had six younger siblings, Albert George, Florence Annie, Edith Harriett, Herbert H., Ethel Mary and May Evelyn.

By 1901 (Census RG 13/3048) the family had moved to Chestnut House, Ruskington and in 1911 (Census RG 14/19618) Fred was employed assisting his father in his “Auctioneer and Corn Merchant” business.

William Brown lived in the village until his death in December 1935 and his wife, Annie, Frederick’s mother, until January 1939. They are buried together in Graves 53 and 55, New Plot, West Border, Ruskington Cemetery.

Fred enlisted in the Army Service Corps as a Supervisor in the Nottingham District. ‘The Sleaford Gazette‘ [1 May 1915] gave the day of his enlistment as “this week“, and that he had been a correspondent for the paper for 8 years. Fred was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in June 1915 and took charge as Purchasing Officer for Derbyshire.

The Sleaford Journal” [8 January 1916] reported that he had been “Gazetted” full Lieutenant and had been stationed in Derby for some months where he was “… given the whole of Derbyshire to work for the Forage Department of the A.S.C.”.

After a spell in Retford, Nottinghamshire, as Assistant Purchasing Officer, on 21 April 1917 “The Sleaford Gazette” reported that Fred had been promoted to Principle Purchasing Officer for the “.. important county ..” of Cambridgeshire. On 4 July 1918 Fred was posted to Mesopotamia.

Frederick William died in Woodhall Spa, at ‘Fairways’, Horncastle Road, on 12 November 1965, aged 75. In his Probate Records the two sons are referred to as “Company Directors“. His widow, Violet, died, aged 80, in ‘Fairlawns’ Nursing Home, Broadway Road, Woodhall Spa, on 6 June 1976.

The sons’ Service careers are detailed below:

Captain Denis Frederick Spence BROWN, M.C., MiD.: Denis was born on 24 February 1917, the eldest son of the son of Frederick William and Violet (née Spence) Brown, living at ‘The Chestnuts’, Station Road, Ruskington, in 1939. William was an “Agricultural Merchant”. Denis had an younger brother, Philip William Spence, born 13 April 1918 (see below) and a younger sister, Audrey Spencer, born 22 December 1920.

Denis attended Trent College (Cadet Lance Corporal, O.T.C.) and enlisted in the 60th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, at Lincoln, on 28 April 1939, the same day as his brother, Philip. Both of them were prominent members of Lincoln Rugby Football Club before the war.

He was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant on 24 June 1939. [London Gazette, 23 June 1939, p. 4247]  He was promoted to Major (Temp.) in June 1945. [London Gazette, 28 June 1945, p. 3376]

The Sleaford Gazette” of 3 December 1943, announced Denis’ promotion to Major and that he had been given command of a Battery of Artillery, rather earlier than the London Gazette notice, above, would suggest. It summarised his career so far as:

Major Brown, who is 26 years of age, joined the Royal Artillery (Territorial Army) in the spring of 1939. Within two months he was given a commission, and soon after the outbreak of war proceeded to France, where he remained until Dunkirk.

About three years ago he went out to the Middle East, and was in the campaigns of Syria and Libya. Recently he took part in the landings in Sicily and Italy.

Denis was awarded the Military Cross and Mentioned in Despatches when serving with the Royal Artillery in the Italian Campaign.

On 18 May 1945 “The Sleaford Gazette” reported “Major Denis Brown, R.A., elder son of Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Brown, of Ruskington, has been awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in action in recent operations which led to the defeat of the enemy in Italy.The citation for his award of the M.C. read as follows:

Major Brown has commanded a S.P. Battery in 105 Anti-Tank Regiment since July, 1944, during the battles of Lake Trasimeno, Arezzo, Florence, the crossing of the Arno and the piercing of the Gothic Line. The battery has been continuously in action since that date and has supported in turn no less than five divisions.

In September [1944], north of Borgo San Lorenzo, Major Brown used his troop boldly with the forward infantry in destroying strong points in the Gothic Line covering the pass to Marradi, enabling the infantry to press quickly on with light casualties.

“At all times Major Brown has shown complete disregard for his own safety. His troop positions have been well forward amongst the forward infantry and he has, by visiting the guns, often under direct observation, being sniped and mortared reaching them, set a very fine example and inspiration to his Battery. The infantry he supported knew that they could always count upon immediate support against any attack by enemy armour and assistance against strongpoints, enemy self-propelled guns and observation posts, and on two occasions troops of his Battery have driven off counter-attacks that had reached the gun positions.

Denis married Margaret “Peggy”, Shutler in Hendon, Middlesex on 13 January 1945.  (Letters and aerographs written to her, during the War 1941-1945 are held in The National Archive. (Documents 26778) Their daughter, Rosemary, was born in the March quarter 1950, and a son, Peter, in the June quarter 1951.

The Sleaford Gazette” of 19 January 1945 reported the wedding as follows:

A Wedding of local importance took place place at St. Barnabas’ Church, Golders Green, London, last Saturday, when Major Denis Brown, R.A., elder son of Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Brown, of Ruskington, was married to Miss Margaret Shutler, younger daughter of Mr. and Mrs Shutler, of Temple Fortune Mansions, Golders Green, London.

Major Brown is in command of a battery of artillery in Italy and is home on “Churchill” leave after serving abroad for nearly 4 years. The bride has been working in the West End office of one of the big banks throughout the war. She met the bridegroom in 1939 and their engagement was arranged by cable about 21 months ago.

There was one bridesmaid, Miss Betty Colchester, and the best man was Capt. Derek Moseley, who served for 2 years with the bridegroom’s Regiment in the desert. Following the ceremony a reception was held at the Brent Bridge Hotel, Hendon, where about 50 guests were received and entertained to a wedding breakfast. The happy couple, who have received a large number of presents, are spending their honeymoon at Bournemouth.

In their father’s Probate Records the two sons are referred to as “Company Directors“, so presumably, after the War, Denis and Philip joined the family business.

Denis died at The Close, Dorrington, Lincolnshire, on 5th September 1995 and was cremated a week later. His ashes were buried in St James and St John Churchyard, Dorrington.  His widow, Peggy, was buried with him after her death in 2017 9Grave photo – right]         

 

Bombardier (later Captain) 906166 Philip William Spence BROWN, M.M.: Philip was born on 13 April 1918, the youngest son of the son of Frederick William and Violet (née Spence) Brown, living at ‘The Chestnuts’, Station Road, Ruskington, in 1939. William was an “Agricultural Merchant”. Philip had an elder brother, Denis Frederick, born 24 February 1917 (see above) and a younger sister, Audrey Spencer, born 22 December 1920.

Philip enlisted into the 60th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, at Lincoln, on 28 April 1939, the same day as his brother, Denis. Both of them were prominent members of Lincoln Rugby Football Club before the war and both were in the Territorials.

The Sleaford Gazette‘ of 8 October 1939 reported that he had been promoted to ‘Bombardier’. and was awarded the Military Medal at Houthem, Belgium, whilst serving as a Lance Sergeant in 60th Anti-Tank Field Regiment, Royal Artillery on 27 May 1940 (London Gazette, 28 August 1940).

Shortly after Dunkirk he proceeded abroad again, this time to Egypt, where he took a commission and then fought with the Eighth Army. In 1942 he was transferred to India.

Philip was later commissioned in the Royal Artillery and served as a Lieutenant and Captain in the Support Platoon, 71 Column, of 2nd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, in the Chindits in Burma in 1944.

On 3 November 1944 “The Sleaford Gazette” reported that Philip “.. was a member of the late General Wingate’s Circus in Burma, and has recently been operating with the “Chindits” on the Chinese. Border, has been promoted Captain.” It also published a new photo of him.

Sergeant Brown received a shrapnel wound in the left shoulder early in the action which won him his decoration, and he was evacuated through Dunkirk to a hospital in the Midlands, where he underwent an operation and remained for eight weeks. He returned home for a period of sick leave before rejoining his unit.

He was later commissioned in the Royal Artillery and served as a Lieutenant and Captain in the Support Platoon, 71 Column, of 2nd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, in the Chindits in Burma in 1944.

On 9 January 1945 “The Sleaford Gazette” reported that “Capt. Philip Brown, who left England at the same time [as his brother] in 1941, has served with the Chindits in Burma, and is now in India, due for repatriation, awaiting passage home“. By 9 March 1945, it reported that Philip was home on leave, and added: “Capt. Brown looks none the worse for his hazardous experience and is now enjoying a well-earned leave.

In their father’s Probate Records the two sons are referred to as “Company Directors“, so presumably, after the War, Denis and Philip joined the family business.

He left the Army in 1946 and in the December quarter 1948, Philip married Norma Primrose Wilkinson and they lived at Westcliffe House, Ruskington. They had a son, born the following year. Norma died on 15 June 1966, aged 36, and was buried in Grave E.80, Ruskington Cemetery. The adjoining grave was bought, presumably for Philip, but after his death in Grantham Hospital, aged 80, on 9 April 1999, the option was not taken up.

Sources:

  • “The Sleaford Gazette” – 1 May 1915;  8 January 1916; 21 April 1917; 8 October 1939; 3 December 1943; 3 November 1944; 12 January 1945; 19 January 1945; 9 March 1945; 18 May 1945; 20 July 1945
  • “The Sleaford Journal” – 8 January 1916
  • “The Lincolnshire Chronicle” – 27 November 1915
  • “London Gazette”
  • National Archive