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Brig. Gen. Ernest Edward Chown CB


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I was surprised to see this high ranking officer described as a dangerous lunatic upon his death, aged 58, in RN Lunatic Hospital, Great Yarmouth 24th September 1922.

On the 1911 census, he was a Lt Colonel, Royal Marines.

By 1915, he was granted the temporary rank of Brigadier-General whilst in command of the Royal Naval Division Camp at Blandford. (Dated 30th September, 1915)

As of 1st October 1917, Col. Comdt. Ernest Edward Chown, C.B., is placed on the Retired List on account of medical unfitness, and granted the hon. rank of Maj.-General.

7th November 1917 To RN Hospital Yarmouth, Dangerous Lunatic.

So far, i've been unable to find anything out about this, and I wondered if anyone knew what sequence of events led to the poor man losing his command, and being committed to the RN hospital?

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I am almost certain that the RNH Great Yarmouth's admission and patient records don't survive, and even if they did they wouldn't be released until 2017.

Did he see any active service between Blandford and being medically retired in October 1917?

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Pretty scant pickings from my sources, I'm afraid. He gets a brief entry in the 1918 "Debrett's":

"CHOWN, Maj.-Gen. Ernest Edward, C.B.; b. 1864, entered R.M.L.I. 1883, became Lt.-Col. 1908, and Col. 1914; commanded R.N. Div. Camp, Blandford 1915-17, when he retired as Hon. Maj.-Gen. (C.B.); was Sup. of Gymnasia, Gibraltar 1908-9; cr. C.B. (Mil.) 1917."

And this from the 1921 "Who's Who" (interesting that he's still in it despite his circumstances):

"CHOWN, Col. (temp. Brig.-Gen.) Ernest Edward, C.B., 1917; R.M.L.I.; b. 14 Feb. 1864. Lt. R.M. 1883; Capt. 1893; Major 1900; Lt.-Col. 1908; Col. 1914; Superintendent Gymnasium, Malta 1909-14."

Good luck with your research.

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Answers my question about active service, thanks Jim.

The Times has a promotion notice for him in its issue of 27 Jan 1917, and the award of the C.B. on 4 Jun 1917.

Death notice appears in the Times for Sep. 29 1922 "the dearly loved husband of Isobel Senhouse Chown, after a long illness". There's a small and uninformative obit on the same day which gives his date of birth as February 14 1864, entered RMLI 1883, Lt-Col. 1908 when appointed superintendent of gymnasia at Gibraltar, promoted Colonel 1914 and other information which you know to 1917, after which it says nothing.

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Thanks for the above responses.

It's all a bit of a mystery and of course would have been kept very quiet at the time. I found a snippet in a 1922 newspaper which simply said that he had died after a long illness.

The fact that he went from commanding Blandford to being retired and committed as a dangerous lunatic in such a short space of time must have meant that there had been some serious incidents which his subordinates may have reported to the authorities?

A sad tale, but intriguing all the same.

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If there was a specific incident, maybe the local papers reported it before the matter became sensitive?

Blandford Town Museum's archivists may be able to help you with local papers: http://www.blandfordtownmuseum.org/archives.htm

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A little more background:

Name

CHOWN, Ernest Edward (1864-1922), Major General

Service biography

Superintendant of Gymnasia, Gibraltar 1898; member, West India Committee 1907; Cdr, Royal Marines, HMS INDEFATIGABLE 1907; St Lucia, West Indies 1907; Superintendant of Gymnasia, Malta 1909-1914; World War I 1914-1917; Commander, Royal Marines Div camp, Blandford 1915; retired 1917.

Source: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/lhcma/locreg/CHOWN.shtml.

And a photograph of his grave:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/36928008@N08/4336489937/.

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Interestingly, General Blumberg in his "Britain's Sea Soldiers" states:-

"In 1917 Brig. General CMcN Parsons, CB, relieved Brig General Chown in command [at Blandford], as the latter had been appointed to Commandant at Deal; he had also been appointed CB for his services in training the [RND] Reserves."

Blumberg would have had intimate knowledge of these appointments (and of the real reason for Chown's relief). The fact that Chown's appointment to Deal was cancelled before it could be taken up indicates that there were, originally, no concerns about his move to Deal. This seems to point to a very sudden collapse/breakdown of mental health in the Autumn of 1917.

It happens.

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On Chown's TNA record, I seem to recall reading notes about the Admiralty having to send him a letter/declaration in 1921 of appreciation of his services during WW1. This due to his delusion that the Admiralty thought he had shirked his duties & avoided active service. I also have a nice blandford group photo of him with 100+ officers.

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Thanks for all the above information.

This is interesting. It appears that Parsons had taken over five months before Chown was retired.

THE LONDON GAZETTE, 8 MAY, 1917

Col. 2nd Comdt. Cunliffe McNeile Parsons,

C.B., to be tempy. Brig.-Gen. whilst comdg.

R.N.D. Res., Blandford. 13th Apr. 1917

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