Bridge of Weir

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63070 Private Walter Ian Brown

3rd Battalion, Canadian Infantry

killed in action 9th September 1915

aged 22

Ploegsteert Wood Military Cemetery
St Machar's Church Memorial, Bridge of Weir

Son of Robert Fulton Brown and Ann McIntyre
Tigh-na-Fleurs, Bridge of Weir

His Life

Walter Ian Brown was born on 21st July 1893 at Pekin, Illinois, USA, the third of a family of six (five surviving in 1911) born to Robert Fulton Brown, from Ardrossan, Ayrshire and Elizabeth Ann McIntyre, from Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire, who had married in Sunnylaw, Bridge of Allan on 10th June 1887. Robert was living in Shandon, Rhu, at the time of his marriage. Walter Brown was a first cousin of John Gardner Brown, sharing paternal grandparents, Robert Brown and Helen Wallace Arnot who had married in Saltcoats in 1854. Both families were to follow an unusually peripatetic life for the time.

After the birth of daughter Grace in Bridge of Allan, the family relocated to the USA where their first son Robert was born. But soon after, they returned to Scotland and in April 1891 Robert (28), Elizabeth Ann (29) and their two children were living in 13 Cockburn Street, Falkirk. Between then and the birth of Walter in 1893, the family had crossed the Atlantic again to Pekin, Illinois, where Edith and Mary were also born.

In November 1898 the Brown family returned yet again to Scotland via Liverpool on the SS New England and by 1901 were living in North Street, Houston, Renfrewshire. Robert was now a jobbing gardener, and had five children, including Walter Ian (7), in the family home.

In 1911, Bessie (head of household, but married rather than widowed) and three of the family were living in Tigh-na-Fleurs, a 4-roomed house in Mill of Gryffe Road, Bridge of Weir. Walter I (17) was a grocer shop assistant. They had taken in a boarder, Robert Millar (21), a jobbing gardener from Applegarth, Dumfries.

On 20th May 1911, after 12 years or so in Scotland, Bessie and the family sailed on the SS Ionian from Glasgow to Quebec, Canada, probably to re-join their father Robert, his wanderlust unresolved, once he had settled into a new position in Quebec. Once in Canada, Walter continued his career as a grocer.

Walter volunteered for active service on 10th November 1914 (next of kin declared as his father, Robert) and was enlisted in the 23rd Reserve Battalion. He was to have only one more trans-Atlantic voyage and sailed for England on the SS Missanabie on 2nd February 1915. The 23rd provided reinforcements for fighting units and Walter was transferred to 3rd Battalion, Canadian Infantry, which had been in active service in France since February 1915, as part of the 1st Canadian Brigade, 1st Canadian Division. They fought with distinction in the Second Battle of Ypres in April/ May 1915 but lost over 6,000 men, after which reinforcements would certainly have been required. A draft of 357 men and 5 officers arrived from Shorncliffe, the new Canadian basecamp near Folkestone, on 5th May 1915. If Walter was part of that draft which seems likely, he would have seen action in the Battle of Givenchy in June 1915. From 21st July 1915 the 1st Brigade was holding the front line trenches near Ploegsteert Wood, about 8km north-east of Armentieres in Belgium.

Walter was killed on 9th September 1915. His Battalion had just returned to the front line after a rain-sodden week in the reserve trenches. There was no particular engagement with the enemy recorded in the War Diaries for that day, but his death is included in the Return of Casualties, perhaps a victim of the routine hazards of bullet and shrapnel.

He was buried initially in the Somerset Light Infantry Cemetery, later consolidated into the Ploegsteert Wood Military Cemetery.


1891 Census 1901 Census 1911 Census Birthplace
Name Age Name Age Name Age
Grace2 Grace T M I12 Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire
Robert W1 Robert W11 USA
Walter Ian7Walter I17 Pekin, Illinois, USA
Edith A5Edith A15 USA
Mary3Mary13 USA


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