yeovil at War
Walter Henry Brown
Died in Mesopotamia
Walter Henry Brown was born in Yeovil in 1895, however his parents are not known. Certainly by the time of his death his only living relative was his aunt, Mrs Dora Mary Carter.
Walter enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry, probably as soon as he turned 18. His Service Number 9581 indicates that he enlisted in February 1913. Although we cannot be sure which battalion he served with, it was most likely the 1st Battalion which was in England between 1913 and 1914. The battalion, as part of the British Expeditionary Force, fought on the Western Front from August 1914 as part of 11th Brigade of the 4th Division. (The 2nd Battalion was in India during the same period and remained in the country until 1917).
Walter, however was to transfer to the 7th (Service) Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. His new Service Number 25864 indicating that he transferred during November or December 1915. It appears there was a group transfer of men from the Somersets to the Gloucesters as fellow Yeovilian Frederick Harrison also transferred at the same time, receiving the new Service Number 25867 - just three away from Walter's.
The 7th Battalion had been fighting in Gallipoli but moved to Egypt in January 1916. The 7th Battalion landed at Basra (in what is now southern Iraq) on 4th March 1916, after leaving Gallipoli for Egypt in January. In April, 7th Battalion took part in the costly and doomed effort for the relief of the besieged garrison at Kut al Amara, where Major-General Townshend's Division was encircled by a Turkish besieging army.
One officer of the 7th wrote home to his sister on 24 April 1916, describing the Battalion's attack at Kut on the 21st ".... I never saw such a bombardment, it looked as if no Turk could live in such a hail of shot and shell - they did though, and when the time came for our fellows (the Worcesters) to advance, they were met with a terrific machine gun fire, which not only prevented out men getting forward, but decimated C. Coy. of the Glosters who were coming up to reinforce the Worcester firing line."
The war against the Turks was matched by the war against disease. Smallpox, typhus and malaria were in constant attendance of the army, despite the efforts of the men and medical staff to keep them at bay.
Walter Brown died on 10 August 1916 while on active service in Mesopotamia. He was aged 21. Walter is commemorated on the Basra Memorial, Iraq, however his name is not recorded on the War Memorial in the Borough.
British troops on the banks of the River Tigris during the siege of Kut, early 1916.
British soldiers at Kut al-Amara, 1916.
A British supply depot at Kut al-Amara, 1916.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Walter Brown.
The Basra War Memorial was destroyed during the Iraq war and, once the current climate of political instability improves, will be rebuilt by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The Basra Memorial commemorates more than 40,500 members of the Commonwealth forces who died in the operations in Mesopotamia from the Autumn of 1914 to the end of August 1921 and whose graves are not known. The memorial was designed by Edward Warren and unveiled by Sir Gilbert Clayton on the 27th March 1929.
Whilst the current climate of political instability persists it is not possible for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to manage or maintain its cemeteries and memorials located within Iraq. Alternative arrangements for commemoration have therefore been implemented and a two volume Roll of Honour listing all casualties buried and commemorated in Iraq has been produced. These volumes are on display at the Commission's Head Office in Maidenhead and are available for the public to view.