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Obituary Of Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Brown:
Officer Who Won An MC In
Italy After Earlier Withstanding A Fierce Cavalry Charge By Native
Troops In Abyssinia
Europe Intelligence Wire, July 6, 2004
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL WALTER BROWN, who has died aged 90, won an MC in
the Italian campaign, and subsequently held an independent command
covering a huge area of East Africa.
At the end of August 1944, after completing considerable engineering
work on roads and bridges destroyed by the retreating Germans, the
Eighth Army attacked the German positions. This assault carried them
through the Gothic Line, and by early September it was fighting for
Rimini on the Adriatic coast.
On September 21 1944, Brown, then a major commanding D Company
1st/6th Battalion the East Surrey Regiment, was ordered to capture a
strategic feature near Rimini. When they reached the objective, the
two leading platoons found themselves in a very exposed position.
They came under heavy 88 mm and Spandau fire, and were taking
casualties. The only other officer in the company was wounded, and
Brown took command of these two companies and moved them under cover.
He walked over to the tank commander and agreed a plan for dealing
with a house from which the enemy was firing, and then led an attack
which resulted in 20 of the enemy being taken prisoner and several
being killed. After quickly reorganising the company, Brown completed
the capture of the objective and a further 67 prisoners. He was given
an immediate MC.
Walter Brind Ernest Brown was born on November 27 1913 and educated
at Radley. He was commissioned into the Royal Berkshire Regiment and
from 1934 to 1939 served with the 2nd Battalion in Palestine, Cyprus,
Egypt and India.
Keen on sport, he represented his regiment at cricket, rugby, hockey
and tennis, and won the shooting cup several times. Brown also liked
giving parties. He once pawned a gold filling in his tooth to raise
money for one, then was posted to Khartoum at such short notice that
he could not greet his guests.
In 1939, Brown was seconded to the Sudan Defence Force. When Italy
entered the war the following year, the Italian forces captured
outposts on the borders of Kenya and Sudan, and in August 1940 they
occupied British Somaliland.
In January 1941, the 4th and 5th Indian Divisions in the Sudan
invaded Eritrea and Northern Ethiopia, where they met well-organised
Italian resistance. Brown, serving with the SDF, part of 5th Indian
Division, was on the receiving end of a fierce cavalry charge by
The Italians fell back, but it was the end of March before they
yielded the key stronghold of Keren after bitter fighting, and May
before their forces under their commander-in-chief, the Duke of
Aosta, surrendered. Brown subsequently took part in the Eighth Army's
campaign in the Western Desert as brigade major of 1 SDF Brigade.
In 1944, he was posted to the 10th Battalion Royal Berkshires, but
they had suffered such heavy losses at Anzio that they were
disbanded, and he was seconded to 1/6th Battalion The East Surrey
Brown served with this regiment in Italy and Greece as a company
commander and, subsequently, second-in-command, until the end of the
war. After Staff College, Camberley, and a posting as G2 to British
Joint Services Mission in Washington, he served in Cyprus with the
1st Parachute Regiment, again as a company commander and later as
In 1951, he moved to Khartoum as AA & QMG of the Sudan Defence Force
and the following year was given command of the Equatorial Corps. The
Corps was some 1,600 strong and had its own Service Corps, Engineers
and Signals. It covered an area of 250,000 square miles and the
companies on the periphery were over 1,000 miles apart.
When Sudan became independent in 1956, Brown and his 10 officers were
given six weeks' notice to hand over and leave. Southern Sudan was
much less developed than the north and the replacement of the British
by educated northern Sudanese caused dismay among the troops in the
south. Only 10 years earlier the two had been fighting each other and
Brown predicted, correctly, that there would be a rebellion in the
south against the north within 12 months.
He was then given command of the Somaliland Scouts, but both his
parents then died and, in 1958, he retired from the Army in order to
take over the family estate in Berkshire.
Brown farmed for the next 25 years and was a director of two family
companies that ranched cattle in Kenya and Brazil. In retirement, he
continued to enjoy shooting and took a stalwart interest in local
Walter Brown died on May 10. He never married.