Private Victor Octavius Brown

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte V O Brown
244th Supply Company (Mechanical Transport),
Royal Army Service Corps

S4/056827
Died, 2.7.1915
Age, 28

Like his father and seven siblings Victor Octavius Brown was born in Weybridge. As his second name indicates he was the youngest member of the family of which six boys survived. Victor was born on 22 March 1887 and baptised at St. James’ Church on 16 April 1887. His parents had married in the same church on 28 April 1870; Stephen Brown who was twenty-five married nineteen year old Anna Sparrow, a native of Suffolk. Stephen was a plumber at the time but by 1881 he was a builder who employed fifteen men and two boys. His father, Benjamin, had been a grocer and Anna’s father, Robert, a domestic coachman.

The family resided on Monument Hill in 1881 but by 1891 had moved to ‘Pyrcroft Valley’ in Station Road. By 1911 Victor and four of his brothers still lived with their parents in the same ten room house in Station Road where two servants were employed. A former pupil of St James’ School (Baker Street), he had now started to earn his living as a house painter. His favourite pastime was cricket and he put on many fine stands on Weybridge Common. In his younger years he was also a devotee of football playing left-half in many Weybridge teams and for one season he represented Chertsey.

Victor’s 244th Supply Company (MT), was formed in January 1915 by Major Gordon Watney of the South Lodge Motor Factory which was close to Brooklands. Major Watney had been appointed by the War Office to form a Mechanical Transport Supply Column in the Army Service Corps (ASC). He enrolled over 250 men into ‘Watney’s Lot’ and used part of his factory for drilling the recruits. Gordon Watney was a keen motor racer and often entered events at Brooklands. By 1917 his business had been turned over to the war effort as Aeronautical and General Engineers, contractors to HM War Office.

Watney’s Lot were part of the 29th Division; it was originally intended that the 29th would go to France but because of pressure to launch a ground attack in Gallipoli (Turkey) to try to drive the Turks out of the war they were deployed there. Victor and his comrades embarked from Avonmouth between 16–22 March 1915. They travelled via Malta to Alexandria (ASC Supply Base) from where some units set sail on 7 April for Mudros, a deep water port on Imbros (Lemnos) which was to be the forward base for the operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The 29th Division landed on ‘W’ beach at Cape Helles under Turkish machine gun fire on 25 April. Victor was no longer with them; he had succumbed to illness and died on a hospital ship on 2 April.

He is commemorated on the Chatby Memorial in Chatby War Memorial Cemetery in the eastern part of Alexandria, Egypt along with over 900 others whose only grave is the sea. He was the first casualty of Watney’s men. His family continued to live in Weybridge; his father died in 1917 and his mother in 1922.

Sources:

The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – 29th Division, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
Gosling, Betty ‘Henry Robert Stanley’, www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/henry-robert-stanley/
1918, Kelly’s Directory for Surrey, www.ancestry.co.uk
Memorial to the Masters and Old Boys of St James’ School, Weybridge, Who Fell in the Great War 1914-1918, St James’ Church
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1937, www.ancestry.co.uk
Gordon Watney – Motorcar Rebuilder, Coachbuilder and Dealer, (November 20, 2014), www.theoldmotor.com/?p=132967

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