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Remembered Today:

Private Melton Russell Brown, 8462,Norfolks, died 16/6/1916 en route to Baghdad from Kut


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charlie962

This man was part of the Norfolks who were trapped inside Kut and taken prisoner at the fall, 29/4/16.

 

Soldiers Effects has him as died 'en route to Baghdad'. On the Wymondham Roll he is noted as 'drowned at sea', but this would include on the river Tigris. There is no known grave and he is commemorated on the Basra Memorial. Pension cards give no clues. There is no service record.

 

I cannot reconcile what he would be doing 'en route' some 5 weeks after the last of the sick had been sent upriver from Kut to Baghdad. The rest of the Garrison were marched to Shumran a few miles upstream then marched on by mid-May to Baghdad.

 

I've come across another record giving the same date of death but saying he was drowned en-voyage from Azizaeh to Baghdad. It was at Azizaeh that a number of men who had started off on foot from Shumran but were unable to continue where loaded on to one (Julnar) or more? steamers to be ferried up to Baghdad. But that was mid May.

 

There are many accounts of men being abandoned on the march and left for dead. Could he have been one of these, being found a month later? I doubt it. He would not have been left alive so long.

 

Could the date be wrong? Perhaps it should read May not June ?

 

@PRC knows all about the Norfolks. Can you help please? The only newspaper clipping I found for him was a 1909 shooting accident whilst he was in the Territorials.

 

The Norfolks Museum Roll for Kut PoWs has his fate as 'home' - ie didn't know he was dead when the roll was prepared ?

 

Thanks

Charlie

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Hi Charlie,

 

When I researched the names on the Wymondham memorials back in 2008 I was still fairly new to this but found nothing then to imply that he had died other than on the trek from Kut to Anatolia, possibly even as one of those abandoned along the way and so possibly initially with a date range that had been truncated to the 16th June 1916 in order to fit some administrative system. At that time even Medal Index Cards online were still in the future - at least for me:)

 

I see the entry for the Wymondham town memorial page on the Roll of Honour site dates from 2014.

https://www.roll-of-honour.com/Norfolk/Wymondham.html

 

It's the Medal Index Card and presumably the associated Medals Roll records that records him as drowned at sea on the 16th June - but the year stated on the MiC is 1919, not 1916. The CWGC Grave Register shows drowned in the Tigris in 1916.
786919298_MeltonRussellBrownNorfolk8462MiCsourcedAncestry.jpg.6e8b6dd4834e0028e5086c1bf0cb16b6.jpg

(Image courtesy Ancestry)

 

A clerical error doesn't fundamentally invalidate the basic information - he drowned, he died on the 16th June - but does open it up to the need for additional scrutiny.

 

May be worth contacting the Roll of Honour site to see if they can put you on contact with Chris Clarke, the page owner, to see if he came across anything more.

 

Meanwhile I've tried looking for a probate entry, (no soldiers will), but drew a blank. His entry on the Army Register of Soldiers Effects might help confirmed he drowned and when.

The ICRC cards for Brown's who served with the Norfolk Regiment in that Theatre of War are filed under "Marines (Brown)", but there is nothing for him there. That is never conclusive but for me another small piece of circumstantial evidence that he died before he entered any kind of formal prisoner of war system.

 

My items from local newspapers are still piecemeal - I originally was looking for details on men buried in Norfolk and just took copies of other articles in case they might turn out to be useful as the sources weren't online. I'd barely started filling in the gaps before Covid hit us. Going through what I have the only mention I found was him on a list of men believed to have been captured at Kut. (Eastern Evening News Thursday 22nd June 1916).

 

So the only other additional information I currently have for him is that he was an 18 year old Out of Work Solicitors Clerk on the 1911 Census of England & Wales when it was taken on the 2nd April 1911. A few months later he would enlist with the Norfolk Regiment, (8452 enlisted on the 10th July 1911, 8469 on the 22nd August 1911). He was with the 2nd Battalion when it moved from Belgaum, entering a Theatre of War on the 15th November 1914.

 

So question for you as you have a much better feel for the geography of the area concerned. As I've been reading while looking into this, the Tigris north of Mosul mainly goes through an arid sandy area and is the main source of fresh water as it comes down from the mountains in Armenia and Syria. And the planned route for the last section of the Berlin-Baghdad railway involved following the river valley. So if you had a large body of men to move who needed water for drinking and feeding and you didn't want to go to the bother of porting it, would it make sense that they would be kept close to the river? Particularly if that was the route to the area where you wanted them to work.

 

Sadly I've come too many instances of war deaths actually being men who drowned while carrying out their ablutions in open water or going for a swim.

And without wishing to denigrate the memory of this young lad, there have been stories that one or two prisoners of the Japanese in WW2 who were at the end of their tether took that route as a way to escape their torment.

 

Peter

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charlie962
9 minutes ago, PRC said:

So question for you as you have a much better feel for the geography of the area concerned. As I've been reading while looking into this, the Tigris north of Mosul mainly goes through an arid sandy area and is the main source of fresh water as it comes down from the mountains in Armenia and Syria. And the planned route for the last section of the Berlin-Baghdad railway involved following the river valley. So if you had a large body of men to move who needed water for drinking and feeding and you didn't want to go to the bother of porting it, would it make sense that they would be kept close to the river? Particularly if that was the route to the area where you wanted them to work.

Thanks for your thoughts.

 

My own reading of the records is that he almost definitely never got beyond Baghdad, if he even got that far. When the fitter less sick had been marched north from Baghdad to Mosul and then Anatolia in May 1916, he was presumably too ill to be moved on.

 

His date of death is specific, rather than presumed or on or after . However I would not be suprised if in fact he died May rather than June, and a clerical transcription error, in an environment where no records were allowed to be kept by prisoners thus handwritten scraps were the norm, was perpetuated.

 

I think we can be sure he drowned in the Tigris downriver from Baghdad.

 

Charlie

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