Howard Bruce Brown, copy from half-tone print in Parramatta Soldiers, 1920
Although railway clerk Howard Bruce Brown enlisted in Marrickville, Sydney, on 22 September 1914, he was in fact the son of Mr and Mrs. William Brown, of Prospect Street, Rosehill, Granville (later Weston Street, Harris Park) and thus had intimate links with Parramatta. He was 21, and single, when he enlisted and only a year later was invalided back home after losing his leg at Gallipoli. However, Bruce (his preferred name) appears to have been a resourceful and energetic young man eventually becoming Secretary of Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
Later that year, Bruce returned to Sydney and the Cumberland Argus did a follow up story on a talk which Bruce gave to the local Lawn Tennis Club. Entitled, Home Again, the following is a transcript of the article:…Sergeant Bruce Brown, son of Mr. W. Brown, of Weston Street, Parramatta was among the company of invalided soldiers who returned to Sydney in a transport on Saturday morning. They had the pleasure of the company of the Prime Minister on board, and came from England via the Cape, visiting Capetown and Durban en-route, and also staying for a day or so at each of the Australian capitals. Sergeant Brown left the Army Service Corps in December, 1914, and was afterwards attached to the headquarters staff of the 1st Division. On the Peninsula he was dispatch bearer for General Birdwood. It was while acting in this position that a shell with his number came along and blew one of his legs off, below the knee.
On the 4th of December, 1915, he and a comrade were in a dug-out at White Gully, near Lone Pine, when a 4.7 shell penetrated it, blowing his comrade into pieces, while the case of the shell struck Sergeant Brown. A piece of shrapnel also entered the leg. But that was only a scratch,” said the sergeant. “It only penetrated about an inch deep. The shrapnel bullet is now a treasured memento. He was sent to Alexandria on the 9th of December, transferred to hospital in Cairo in January following and from there to England in March. While in hospital at Cairo he was visited by a number of the Parramatta boys— Dinnie Brown, Jim and Alf. Finlayson and Alan Little , and Nick Jowers, of Wentworthville.
On arrival in England he was taken to Wandsworth Hospital, and afterwards, when convalescent, was sent, to Harefield, the splendid residence owned by Mr. Billyard-Leeke, a wealthy Australian, who gave up all to the boys. It was a real home. Mr. Leeke, who once resided in Elizabeth Farm Cottage, Parramatta, was a real father to them all. The big residence, together with buildings erected in the spacious grounds, accommodates 1000 boys. While at Harefield they were taken out for motor drives, and everything that possibly could be done for their comfort was done. They were given a great time. Continuing his interesting conversation, Sergeant Brown said: — “I had the pleasure of meeting Lieutenant Gordon Brown and Brigadier General Cox while on the Peninsula. We landed under shell fire, but though shells dropped to larboard and starboard, and just in front and to stern, and sent the spray on to our decks, our transport luckily escaped being hit. On the boat in which we returned were Prime Minister Hughes, Lieutenant Hart, and John Teddiman, of Parramatta.
The Prime Minister made himself very popular with the boys. One of the boys one day asked him, “What about conscription, Mr. Hughes?” The Prime Minister was not very communicative on the subject, but ventured the reply, “I think so.”
“The girls of England are right in it. They are employed as motor and tram drivers, conductors, and ammunition workers, and are real “swank,” and proud of their badges. They are all doing their bit for the Empire. How do our boys get on with the girls? Well, I’ll tell you. There were 17 marriages in one week at one church. But you must wear the Australian hat to be the thing. The feathers also catch on. The boys tell the girls they are kangaroo feathers. Yes, they tell some funny tales. One boy says he owns a very large prickly pear farm, while another says he has a ranch where he raises “gohanners” for their feathers. Some of the boys have married well.
“The hotels in England are not closed to soldiers, but there is an anti-shouting law, and each man must pay for his own drink. The hotels were closed, to soldiers at Durban. The people at Durban gave us a great time. I was lucky enough to see some of our battleships after the great sea fight off Jutland. I saw the Warspite, which the Germans claimed to have sunk. She bore traces of having been in the scrap, but her fighting power was not impaired. “On the Peninsula the German aeroplanes used to fly over and drop darts — little steel arrows, like pencils. You should have seen the boys scrambling for them.
I saw Keith Tunks in England. He had been sick. I saw a couple of Zeppelin’s as they cruised overhead, but they were very high up, though one could hear the throb of the engines. I come back more than ever satisfied with Australia, it is good enough for me, though it was a great education to see so much of other countries.” “By the way, a chap named Montgomery, who said he used to be at ‘The Argus” Office, returned with our lot. He was at Suvla Bay. Afterwards he went to France, where he was shot in the lung.” Sergeant Brown had a great welcome home, as can be imagined. He was beaming with delight at being home again when we saw him. He looks particularly well, and though he has as yet only been provided with a temporary artificial limb, he walks with just a slight limp, and says he rode a motor cycle in his trip through England, and can do a five-mile walk. (CA 19/08/1916 p.4)
A Bad Accident, Cumberland Argus, 05.02.1916, p.6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.newsarticle86073718Fighters of Parramatta and District, The Roll Call. Lawn Tennis Club Presentation, Cumberland Argus, 6.09.1916, p.2., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86080817Cumberland Argus, 19.08.1916, p.4