Dedicated to the memory of all the men and women of the Bridgnorth area who died during the two World Wars.
Walter Brown was the son of Mary Jane Brown. He was brought up by his grandparents, John (a cabinet maker) and Ann. They lived on St Leonard’s Steps moving to the Almshouses in Church Street after John died. Before joining up, Walter worked as a jobbing labourer.
Walter enlisted in about July 1915, joining the 1/4th Battalion Kings Shropshire Light Infantry. He was killed in action on 31st October, 1917 during the Second Battle of Passchendaele.
[The 1/4th KSLI had returned from garrison duties in the Far East at the end of July 1917 and had been sent straight to France - still in tropical kit. After a period of training the men were sent to Ypres where they spent several days preparing for their first taste of action. The conditions were not favourable - the battalion war diary for 28th October reads: 'Canal rose by nearly 2 feet in night. Most of Battln after salving as much equipment as possible spent night on top of Canal Bank wet through in a sharp frost. Lot of gear lost and spoilt.']
THE SECOND BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE
At 1.30 p.m. on the following day [30th] orders were received to send two companies to attack Source Trench, and thus fill a gap in the line near Varlet Farm, and also to place another company at the disposal of the Canadian Brigade on the right at Kronprinz Farm.
The two companies (A and D) for the attack on Source Trench under Major Lin moved off at 2 p.m. via Kronprinz Farm, where a Canadian officer was allotted to them as a guide. The attack lost direction slightly in the appalling mud, but though all the original objectives were not gained the gap between Source Farm and Varlet Farm was closed.
The general behaviour and steadiness of the men must have set at rest any uneasiness that may have existed in the minds of the higher authorities concerning the reliability of a Territorial battalion, straight from the East, under fire for the first time in France under trying circumstances.
When the order to advance in attack formation was given, N.C.O.'s could be heard checking intervals and dressing despite the fire, and the lines moved forward as accurately as on parade.
The third company (B) had in the meantime been ordered to Kronprinz Farm and was thence directed by the O.C. 5th Cape Mounted Rifles to take up a position near Source Farm in support of one of his companies, which had suffered heavily. B Company lost severely in doing so, but after dark got into touch with A and D Companies on the left and from that time onwards acted in concert with them, all being placed under the command of the Canadian Brigadier.
During the night a line of posts was established connecting the right of the Canadians with the left of the remainder of the 160th Brigade, and in this position the battalion remained until relieved by the Nelson Battalion after dark on October 31st.
The total casualties in this their first action in France were: Officers killed I (Lieut. C. S. Coakley, 1st Battalion K.S.L.I., attached 4th), wounded 8; other ranks killed 21, wounded 106, missing 1. [Wood: The History of the KSLI in the Great War, pp 107-8.]
Corp Brown, 18476, was awarded the Victory and British Medals. Sadly, his medal record card is marked ‘died intestate’ and ‘O[fficer] i/c KSLI Rec[ord]s requests auth for disposal of medals’. Nobody appears to have claimed his back pay or his war gratuity.
This memorial has mostly been compiled from official sources. It would be good to be able to expand it with more personal material - memories, stories, photos, etc. If you have any suitable material or any corrections please contact Greg. For news of updates follow @BridgnorthHeros on Twitter.