Wilson Brown was born 22 December 1896 in Wooler, Northumberland. He was the son of Thomas Purvis Brown, then a furniture joiner, and Isabel, both Northumbrians, born in Woodhorn and Bedlington respectively. This marriage was Thomas Brown’s second; a half-brother, William James Brown, having been born in 1890. The two brothers are both remembered on their father’s gravestone.
As a young child, Wilson Brown had spent some time in Wales, where his father was a foreman joiner at the Royal Show Yard in Llandaff, but by 1903, he and his mother had returned to Wooler where his sister, Rosalind, was born. By 1911, Mrs Brown was looking after her two children alone at Ingleside, Wooler.When he was aged 19, Wilson Brown joined Bede College as a trainee teacher, attending from 1915 to 1917. On leaving the College, he enlisted in the Army at Alnwick. First he joined the Northumberland Fusiliers, before then transferring to the 1/4th Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment where he attained the rank of sergeant.
Little can be found about Wilson Brown’s service. At some stage he was awarded the Military Medal. This decoration was awarded for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire so we can be confident that he saw action in the field. His short obituary in The Bede magazine (Vol. XV, no. 1, December 1918, p.2) notes that “he had been serving for a considerable time at the front”.
He survived until well into the Hundred Days Offensive, the final period of the war. The Allies launched a series of actions on the Western Front between August and November 1918, which forced the retreating German Army beyond the Hindenberg line and was eventually followed by an armistice on 11 November. Sergeant Brown met his end on 15 October and it is likely he was taking part in one of the battles in this final offensive when he received his wounds. His battalion was fighting north of Rieux-en-Cambrésis in the days leading up to 15 October.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that he died of wounds and was interred at Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux, having initially been buried as an unknown sergeant. His mother arranged a headstone with the inscription “In loving memory of a dearly loved son. Faithful unto death.”
Sergeant Brown’s sacrifice is remembered on the Bede College Cross, Plaque, and Roll of Honour. In Wooler, his name appears on the Memorial Cross, and on the reredos at St Mary’s church, together with the Wooler Church School 1914-1918 plaque which is now housed in the church. In Alnwick the Grammar School plaque records a “Brown, W.” (no rank or medals are specified): it is possible Brown attended this school.