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Brown, Herbert Basil (1893–1938)

by Malcolm McGregor

This article was published:

Herbert Basil Brown (1893-1938), soldier and labourer, was born on 23 June 1893 at Banstead, Surrey, England, son of George Brown, licensed victualler, and his wife Ellen, née Felce. Nothing is known of his early life. He migrated to New South Wales shortly before World War I and was working as a labourer in an Arncliffe brickyard when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 26 September 1914. He was posted to the 13th Battalion and sailed for Egypt in December.

Brown first saw action at Gallipoli when his battalion was sent into Monash Valley on 25 April 1915; he later fought at Hill 60. He was wounded in action on 15 May and again on 27 August but remained at Anzac until the evacuation. After patrol work in Egypt his unit left for France, taking over the line at Bois Grenier in June 1916. From mid-July Brown served on the Somme and was wounded at Pozières. Having volunteered to take charge of an observation post at Mouquet Farm, where three occupying parties had already been killed, he held on for thirty hours and several times crawled out under heavy fire to tend wounded men in shell holes. He was promoted lance corporal in August and corporal in October, and in December was awarded the Military Medal.

In the winter of 1916-17 Brown served at Flers and Gueudecourt and distinguished himself in the capture of Stormy Trench on 4 February 1917. He led a bayonet charge against a wave of advancing Germans, then with Captain H. W. Murray pursued and routed them. That same day he was made temporary sergeant. He fought at Bullecourt in April and won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry in the battle of Messines on 7 June. His officer having been killed, he took charge of the platoon which was under heavy shell-fire and, after his unit had been relieved, led his men to safety through a sudden barrage. He later returned and carried two wounded men to the dressing station. He was commissioned second lieutenant on 21 July and promoted lieutenant in November. Next March, in the advance on Hébuterne, he was in charge of a patrol which recaptured a section of the town; on 5 April he led a bombing attack on a nest of machine-guns, destroying the guns and taking prisoners. For these services he was awarded the Military Cross. He fought at Villers-Bretonneux and Hamel and in the battle of 8 August before taking part in the final advance to the Hindenburg Line.

'Hard Boiled' Brown, as he was affectionately known in his battalion, was one of the very few men in the A.I.F. to receive the D.C.M., M.C. and M.M. His A.I.F. appointment ended in January 1919 and he began work as a storeman in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills. On 28 May 1921 he married Teresa May Cox at St Peter's Catholic Church; there was one son of the marriage which was dissolved in February 1931. For some years before his death Brown used the name of Richard Long. He died of tuberculosis on 23 September 1938 at Waratah Hospital for Infectious Diseases and was buried in Sandgate cemetery with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • T. A. White, The Fighting Thirteenth (Syd, 1924)
  • London Gazette, 8 Dec 1916, 24 Aug 1917, 16 Sept 1918
  • Reveille (Sydney), Nov 1938
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 Feb 1931.

Citation details

Malcolm McGregor, 'Brown, Herbert Basil (1893–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 27 January 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2023

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Long, Richard

23 June, 1893
Banstead, Surrey, England


23 September, 1938 (aged 45)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence