Thomas Brown, paternal relative: Battle of the Aisne September 1914

Thomas Brown was born in the King's Mead area of Derby in 1886 and died during the Battle of Aisne, September 1914. World War One offically started on 4th August 1914, so this was one of the first battles.

Thomas was related to me on the Hyde side of my family. The actual lineage is as follows:

  • Thomas Brown(1886-1914) - first cousin of second wife of paternal grandfather
  • Charles Brown (1853-1905) - father of Thomas Brown
  • Timothy Brown (1826-1881) - father of Charles Brown
  • Alice Jane Brown (1851-1909) - daughter of Timothy Brown
  • Florence May Bassford (1883-) - daughter of Alice Jane Brown
  • Ephraim William Hyde (1887-1964) - husband of Florence May Bassford - my paternal grandfather
  • Gilbert Wilfred Hyde (1916-2006) - son of Ephraim William Hyde - my father
  • William G Hyde - me

His Family

Thomas's father was Charles Brown (1853 - 1905), born in West Bromwich, Staffordshire and died in Wednesbury, Staffordshire, England. He was an engineering fitter. Charles married Sarah Ann Manley in October 1877 in Derby, Derbyshire. Sarah was born in Hemyock, Devon.

HMS Northampton 1876Charles & Sarah set up home at Litchurch, Derbyshire however Charles is shown to in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Northampton and was an Engine Room Articifer.

HMS Northampton was a Nelson-class armoured cruiser. Built by Robert Napier & Sons, Govan, Scotland and launched in 1876. The Nelson class were "essentially second-class ironclads". She was launched in 1876 but not commissioned until 1881. HMS Northampton was flagship of the North America and West Indies Station until she was placed in reserve in 1886. She was hulked as a boys' training ship in 1894 and used in home waters. In November 1901 she had a refit at Chatham Dockyard. She was sold for breaking up in 1905 to Ward, of Morecambe.

In between serving the crown aboad a Navy ship, Charles & Sarah had 15 children:

  • Sarah Ann Brown - (1878-1918)
  • Alice Brown (1880-)
  • William Brown (1880-)
  • Charley Brown (1882–)
  • Alfred Brown (1883–1938)
  • Nelly Brown (1884–)
  • Thomas Brown (1886–1914)
  • Mary Ann Brown (1888-)
  • Alice E L Brown (1889-1978)
  • John Henry Brown (1890-)
  • Thomas Henry Brown (1890-)
  • Samuel Brown (1892-)
  • Harry Brown (1893-)
  • Matilda May Brown (1895-)
  • Violet Brown (1895-)

His Regiment

Thomas chose the British Army as a career, joining the 1st Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps as a Rifleman (Regimental number 7303). He enlisted in 1906 in Derby and no doubt did his training at the Regiments HQ in Winchester, Hampshire.

The King's Royal Rifle Corps was an infantry regiment, originally raised in North America as the Royal Americans, and recruited from North American colonists. Later ranked as the 60th Regiment of Foot, the regiment served for more than 200 years throughout the British Empire. In 1966 the regiment amalgamated and became the 2nd Battalion The Royal Green Jackets.

By the outbreak of war in August 1914, the 1st Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps were garrisoned in Aldershot and it was from there they went to France under  command of 6th Brigade in 2nd Division. The battalion landed 13 August 1914 at Rouen.

On 13 December 1915 they were transferred to 99th Brigade in the same Division.

Battle of the Aisne

The first day of the Battle of the Aisne.

Following the Allied victory at the Battle of the Marne in mid-September 1914, the German forces retreated to the high ground of the Chemin des Dames ridge on the north bank of the River Aisne. As they moved northward, the Germans were closely pursued by units of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and their French allies. The first British troops crossed the Aisne at Venizel on the evening of 12 September, and Allied units crossed at different points along the river over the course of the next day. The Royal Scots and Royal Irish regiments made their way over the remains of the bridge at Vailly-sur-Aisne, under steady shellfire, on the afternoon of the 13th. By the early hours of the following morning British and French troops had formed bridgeheads at several points on the north bank of the river and were preparing to attack. The Allied intention was to advance north toward Laon, capture the heights, and force the German armies to continue their retreat. Allied commanders were unaware of the real strength of the enemy forces on the Chemin des Dames ridge, but it soon became clear that the German units had dug trenches, were supported by heavy artillery, and intended to stand and fight.

In heavy rain and dense mist, brigades of the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the BEF began advancing toward the German lines between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on the morning of 14 September. They had hoped to seize as much enemy ground as possible before day break, but despite some early successes German resistance was determined and by 7 a.m. British troops were coming under heavy rifle, machine-gun and artillery fire. Thick fog, combined with the sheer number of units deployed and the unexpected strength of the German forces, caused much confusion on the battlefield. The British battle plan was also frustrated by the unexpectedly accurate fire of German howitzers on the heights. As the day wore on, the battle descended into a series of attacks and counter-attacks and both sides suffered heavy casualties.

By nightfall on 14 September, British units on the north bank of the river had been ordered to dig trenches and reinforce their positions, which now spanned a twenty-mile front. Although the Battle of the Aisne continued for another ten days, neither side could claim a decisive victory; the German forces failing to drive the Allies back across the river, and the Allies unable to push the Germans from the ridge. This ‘stabilization’ of the front marked the beginning of trench warfare – a gruelling stalemate that would last for almost four years.

Thomas Brown was Killed in action during the Battle of the Aisne on the 14th of September 1914.

thomas-brown-VaillyCemetery

Vailly British Cemetery is at Vailly-sur-Aisne,a small town within the Department of the Aisne, on the north bank of the Aisne River. It is 13 kilometres east of Soissons and 18 kilometres south of Laon, France.

The village of Vailly-sur-Aisne was the point at which the 3rd Division crossed the river Aisne on 13 and 14 September 1914 during the Allied advance from the Marne. It fell to the German forces in 1915, was retaken by the French during the Chemin des Dames Offensive in April 1917, lost again to the Germans in June 1918 and finally captured by the French on 15 September 1918. Vailly British Cemetery was established after the Armistice when the remains of Commonwealth soldiers were brought here from other burial grounds and battlefields throughout the region. Most of those buried here were killed during the Battle of the Aisne in September 1914, but the cemetery is also the final resting place of over sixty Commonwealth soldiers who were killed or mortally wounded in the summer of 1918. The cemetery now contains over 670 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War.

Thomas Brown has a marked grave.