The superb Great War Western Front Battle of Passchendaele Military Medal and British War Medal pair awarded to Private E.C. Brown, 102nd Battalion – Central Ontario Regiment, a company runner, who on the night of 12th to 13th November 1917, when off duty in the Support area on Abraham Heights, when he saw six men buried by shell explosion, he immediately seized a shovel and shouting for help started digging them out under intense shell fire, and saved their lives.

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Product ID: CMA/20105
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Description:

The superb Great War Western Front Battle of Passchendaele Military Medal and British War Medal pair awarded to Private E.C. Brown, 102nd Battalion – Central Ontario Regiment, a company runner, who on the night of 12th to 13th November 1917, when off duty in the Support area on Abraham Heights, when he saw six men buried by shell explosion, he immediately seized a shovel and shouting for help started digging them out under intense shell fire, and saved their lives.

Military Medal, GVR bust; (219931 PTE E.C. BROWN. 102/CAN: INF:); British War Medal; (219931 PTE. E.C. BROWN. 102-CAN. INF.)

Condition: Good Very Fine.

Awarded to Private (No.219931) E.C. Brown, 102nd Battalion – Central Ontario Regiment, which existed from August 1917, having previously been the 102nd Battalion – Northern British Columbia, and had embarked for Britain on 18th June 1916, and seen service on the Western Front from 12th August 1916.

Brown’s battalion formed part of the 11th Infantry Brigade in the 4th Canadian Division.

On the 12th November 1917 during the Third Battle of Ypres, as an account reads: ‘saw us on our way to Support area on Abraham Heights. The intention was that the Battalion would only stay in the Forward area a couple of nights, pending relief by the Imperials, and orders were issued that no shaving kits of any description were to be taken up; this order was gleefully obeyed by nearly everybody. As it turned out, we remained in the line seven full days, and the results were rather comical. On arrival at Boathoek, where Headquarters was to be established, we found that the 87th Bn., whom we were relieving, were not yet ready to proceed up to the front line, as their rations had not come up. We were accordingly kept, waiting for two hours standing round in pitch darkness; in the meantime the Hun shelled the ration dump, inflicting serious casualties on the 87th, with the result that after all we had later on to supply carrying parties to take up their rations. In addition, during the next three nights we were kept busy sending up stretcher-bearing parties to bring out their casualties, as they seemed to be utterly unable to cope with these themselves. Finally at about 10.00 p.m. the 87th, to our great relief, moved up and allowed us to settle down.’

It was for his bravery in action on the night of 12th to 13th November 1917 when in the Support area on Abraham Heights, that Brown performed the act of saving life under heavy shell fire which led to his award.

The recommendation reads as follows: ‘For conspicuous courage and devotion to duty on the night of November 12/13th 1917, in the front line Passchendaele. This man is a company runner, but was temporarily off duty when he saw six men buried by shell explosion. He immediately seized a shovel and shouting for help started digging them out under intense shell fire. When they were exhumed he rendered First Aid and conducted them to the Dressing Station. This he did after a heavy days work and continuous bombardment. To his quickness and initiative the 6 men owe their lives.’

Brown’s recommendation was written on 27th November 1917, and passed through Corps Orders R.O.1506 on 30th December 1917, the award of the Military Medal being published in the London Gazette on 13th March 1918.

The account further states: ‘During this tour Lieut.-Col. J. T. O'Donohue, D.S.O., commanding the 87th, was acting as Brigadier in the absence of Brigadier-General Odlum, who was acting as Divisional Commander. For three days we furnished working parties of all sorts, Support area being subjected all the time to heavy artillery fire, which caused many casualties. Headquarters had its full share of this bombardment, but the pill-box which served as an office was built by the Hun for just such contingencies, and though several direct hits were registered the only damage done was to the officers' breakfast on the morning of the 15th. On the afternoon of the 16th the Battalion moved up by platoons to relieve the 87th in the front line. It is impossible to give any adequate idea of the scenery on the way to the summit of Passchendaele Ridge. There is just a brown landscape, an interminable acreage of mud and shell-holes billowing up in a gradual ascent, with depressions rather than valleys, between each billow, until a flat and desolate top is reached, on which no semblance of any human habitation remains; like a map, it represents merely a number of topographical expressions. The ascent is made by means of an elaborate system of bath-mats which spread like threads in every direction, whilst here and there on the hillside is seen a battery, ostrich-like, unable to see the enemy but hoping that a scant shelter of brushwood is shielding it from the eyes of the prying aeroplanes. Enemy planes were very active over Passchendaele and seemed to be having it all their own way.’

Brown was wounded in action on 15th November 1915, in the shelling of the support area, which the account described as ‘being subjected all the time to heavy artillery fire, which caused many casualties. Headquarters had its full share of this bombardment, but the pill-box which served as an office was built by the Hun for just such contingencies, and though several direct hits were registered the only damage done was to the officers' breakfast on the morning of the 15th.’

The account finalises this period: ‘The move to the front line was carried out without casualties, the Hun being kept busy attending to a minor offensive which was taking place on his right flank, but immediately after relief a fierce barrage came down, and for the next 48 hours a very heavy artillery fire was maintained on the whole of our area, D Coy., whose turn it was to have the usually preferable position of local Support, by the irony of fate suffering particularly heavy casualties. On the night of the 17th, a reconnoitering party from the Suffolks reached Headquarters and requested to be sent up the line; hardly had they gone 200 yards from the pill-box when they were caught by the splinters of a shell which burst well away to their left, but claimed seven casualties, two being fatal. The following night our relief by the Suffolks began at 5.00 p.m., and the Battalion proceeded by small parties to Potijze, where a hot meal was in readiness and a halt, was made for the night.’

‘It is worthy of mention that the102nd Bn. was the last Canadian unit to leave the Heights of Passchendaele, but we had gained no particular honour or glory there. Our tours in the line had been short and had involved no offensives; they had entailed much hard work in burying cable, digging trenches and putting the line in better shape, and they had called for the staying quality which enables men to lie down for long hours in ill-protected positions under incessant bombardments. We had just done the little that we had been set to do, but had suffered casualties out of all proportion to our task, and that it is which makes the memory of Passchendaele a nightmare in the minds of all those who had a share in a particularly odious experience. The second tour cost in casualties: Killed, 20 Other Ranks. Wounded, Lieuts. A. R. Turner, W. W. Dunlop (at duty), G. T. Lyall (at duty), and 47 Other Ranks.’


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