Pte. Donald Brown – 1/8 Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

This piece of research was carried out for a friend who is related to Private Brown.

Donald Brown

Early life: On the small Scottish Island of Islay lived Donald Brown (Senior) – who was a Woodman by trade – and his wife Agnes. The Brown family was a large one and by 1910, the family consisted of Mum, Dad; daughters Mary, Margaret, Jane, Lizzie, Agnes (her mother’s namesake) and Katie and sons; Hugh (his grandfather’s namesake), Donald (His father’s namesake) and John. They lived in Kilmeny, Ballygrant.

The third child – Donald Jnr – was born around 1894 in the parish of Killarrow. By 1901, Donald (Jnr) was now living with his Grandfather, Hugh who was a mason, and his uncles at Shaws Croft, Kilmeny. Donald is registered as a Scholar, aged 7.
Pre War: As Donald crossed into Adulthood he had become a Farm Servant and lived onsite, we assume, at Woodend Farm, Ballygrant which was run by his employer Mr Simpson. It was at this time that Donald chose to make a decision that would alter the course of his life; he joined the T.F (Territorial Force, which was later changed to the Territorial Army after WW1). On New Year’s Day, 1913, Donald took an oath in Ballygrant, under the supervision of Captain W. Cameron to enlist into the 1/8th Battalion (Argyllshire) Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of the British T.F. when he was given the service number 1489.

From analysing the attestation papers and medical examination, both of which Donald signed, it becomes clear that he lied about his age, giving it as 18 years 2 months on enlistment. On the 3rd of March 1913, 3 months later, his age is recorded at 18 years 1 month, suggesting Donald was in fact 17 when he enlisted on January 1st 1913. The newly turned 18 year old had good eyesight and was in a pretty good physical condition at 5’9” he was passed fit for service.

Signing up to the T.F would have meant that Donald was required to attend a certain amount of events (training, drill, exercises ect..) per year but it is important to note that joining the Territorial Force DID NOT mean that he would have to serve overseas in the event of a war like we would see in 1914. The men of the T.F had to defend British soil from invaders but could not be forced to serve overseas and had to express permission to do so or they could not serve abroad, although nearly all agreed to serve overseas when it became necessary to do so.

When war was declared on August 4th 1914, Brown’s territorial battalion 1/8th A&SH were based at Dunoon. On the following day, 5th August, Private Brown was recalled to join the battalion. The battalion now had to prepare for war and moved to Bedford, England and Brown went with them. At this stage, Donald or his fellow territorial comrades could not be forced to serve abroad. On the 9th of September, however, he signed a declaration, agreeing to serve outside the United Kingdom in the case of a national emergency which, of course, they were now in.

Into the fray: On the 1st of May, 1915, Donald and his battalion of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders set sail from Folkstone, England, and arrived in France some time later.
After serving in France with his battalion for just over 1 month, Private Brown contracted influenza. Influenza is extremely contagious and for this reason Brown was removed from his unit to avoid spreading the disease which would have put the whole battalion out of action. He was admitted to hospital in Lillers to recover. On the 14th of June, Brown returned to his unit. Just 4 days later, Donald’s division (51st Highland) was ordered to renew an attack as part of the battle of Festubert. These attacks were to take place after a short and intense artillery bombardment at 3.00 am. Just half an hour before the attack was due to start, the offensive was postponed and a day later on the night of the 18/19th June, the 51st Division was relieved by the 7th. Some time on the 18th of June, it appears but it is not certain that, Donald was wounded by shrapnel to the head. It was probably the result of intense German shell fire that Brown was injured and he was rushed to the CCS (Casualty Clearing Station) at the town of Lillers. Lillers was used for Billets, treating wounded and Headquarters at this time and was behind the British lines. Donald had been there just 4 days before, recovering from flu and now he found himself back, once again. It is highly like that his battalion was in fact billeted there when they were out of the line. The wounds suffered were too severe to treat and 3 days after being wounded, Private Donald Brown 1489 1/8th (Argyllshire) Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders succumbed to his wounds and was pronounced dead on 21st June 1915, Lillers, France. Men who could not be saved would, inevitably, die and be buried near the site of the CCS. This is where Donald was buried and he now lies in peace at Lillers Communal Cemetery and Extension in plot number II. A. 14. The Brown family were duly noted of Donald’s death.

After the war, many families tried to clasp onto anything that reminded them of their loved ones. One of these things was the posthumous awarding of campaign medals which the next of kin was entitled to claim (The 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal). Donald Brown (Senior) took advantage of this and tried to claim Donald’s medals by writing to the record office, in Perth, on the 15th of May 1921. Unfortunately, Donald’s attempt was rebuffed and he received a letter back saying that the necessary authority had not been received to send the medals but that as soon as it was he would do so.

A few months later, on the 8th of August, Donald once again tried to claim the medals by writing to the records office as he had seen that some of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders’ medals had been received but his son’s had not. Again, the records office said the authority had still not been passed although this time they requested the authority from the War Office which they hoped would arrive quickly, I’m sure. It is not clear if the medals were ever sent to the family because the MIC (Medal Index Card) does not mention that they were. It is likely they were received by the family after all of the correspondence, however because the War Office and other bodies did their best to ensure everything ran smoothly which was not always easy, owing to the huge administrative effort.


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