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Brown, Arnold (1894–1960)

by J. B. Hopley

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Arnold Brown (1894-1960), by Keith B. Davis

Arnold Brown (1894-1960), by Keith B. Davis

Australian War Memorial, 125890

Arnold Brown (1894-1960), army officer, was born on 22 July 1894 at Hunters Hill, Sydney, twelfth child of James Brown, representative and agent, and his wife Clara, née Marshall, both English born. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, Scots College and Bathurst Experiment Farm, Arnold worked as a jackeroo at Condobolin and as an overseer on a sheep station at Cobar. In 1914 he went to Western Australia with the intention of buying land, but on 5 March 1915 in Perth enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He was 6 ft 1½ ins (187 cm) tall and weighed 12 st. 10 lb. (81 kg). Posted to the 28th Battalion and promoted sergeant, he left Australia in June and served at Gallipoli from September to December. He was commissioned on 12 February 1916 in Egypt.

Next month the battalion moved to France. For his efforts in patrolling and consolidating the front line at Pozières in July-August, Brown was awarded the Military Cross. Promotion to captain followed in September. While leading a bayonet charge at Flers on 16 November, he was shot through the neck. Evacuated to England, he rejoined his unit in January 1917 and was promoted temporary major in April. During the second battle of Bullecourt, on 3-4 May he organized and conducted bombing raids on enemy trenches, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Wounded in September, he was again hospitalized in England and was mentioned in dispatches. By February 1918 he was back in action, on occasions in temporary command of the battalion. He returned to Australia in April 1919 and his A.I.F. appointment terminated on 30 July.

At the Pitt Street Congregational Church, Sydney, on 6 January 1920 Brown married Freda Mary Thompson. That year, as a soldier-settler, he took up Bective station near Coonabarabran. In 1926 he sold this holding and bought Mow Rock, a wheat and wool-growing property in the same district. Active in public affairs, in the early 1930s he was vice-president of the Coonabarabran sub-branch of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia, president of the town's branch of the Sane Democracy League and a 'zone' commander of the New Guard. Brown unsuccessfully contested the seat of Gwydir as a Country Party candidate at the 1931 Federal election. He leased Mow Rock in 1935 and became a partner in a stock and station agency. In 1938 he was a foundation member of the National Defence League of Australia (president of its central council 1947).

Joining the A.I.F. on 1 May 1940, Brown was posted to the 2nd/1st Pioneer Battalion and sailed for the Middle East. He assumed command in December and was promoted lieutenant colonel on 9 March 1941 in Libya. From April to September the battalion operated as infantry in the defence of Tobruk. Brown was mentioned in dispatches and appointed O.B.E. (1942) for his services in Cyrenaica. Repatriated in March 1942, he commanded the 36th Battalion in Papua (May to September) before returning to his old unit in New Guinea. He was in hospital for most of the five months to March 1943, left the pioneers in June, and subsequently held command and administrative positions in New Guinea, Melbourne, Queensland and Singapore. In early 1946 he presided over military courts in Darwin which tried Japanese war criminals. The apparent leniency of some punishments caused a public outcry, but he defended the sentences passed. His A.I.F. appointment terminated on 29 August.

Brown farmed near Windsor, New South Wales, until deteriorating health forced him off the land. In 1949 he became director of the Immigration Holding Centre, Scheyville. Classified in 1958 as totally and permanently incapacitated due to war service, he died of ischaemic heart disease on 6 March 1960 at Batemans Bay and was buried in the local cemetery with Anglican rites. His wife, two daughters and one of his two sons survived him. Both his sons had served in the A.I.F., one being killed in action.

Select Bibliography

  • H. B. Collett, The 28th (Perth, 1922)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1942)
  • H. K. Kahan, The 28th Battalion AIF (Perth, 1969)
  • B. Maughan, Tobruk and El Alamein (Canb, 1966)
  • S. and L. Brigg, The 36th Australian Infantry Battalion (Syd, 1967)
  • G. Osborn (ed), The Pioneers (Syd, 1988)
  • Reveille (Sydney), Nov 1932, June 1960
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Apr 1917, 2, 8, 15 Dec 1931, 17 Mar 1932, 15 Nov 1938, 26 Feb, 18, 19 Mar 1946
  • Dubbo Liberal, 10, 12 Dec 1931
  • Australian War Memorial records
  • Dept of Veterans' Affairs, Canberra records
  • private information.

Citation details

J. B. Hopley, 'Brown, Arnold (1894–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brown-arnold-9597/text16917, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 23 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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