Second Lieutenant James Monteagle Brown, 25th Australian Infantry Battalion
Jimmy Brown enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 2 August 1915. He was assigned to the 9th Reinforcements of the 25th Battalion and commenced a short period of training in Australia. Brown rose quickly through the ranks, first being promoted to sergeant, then quartermaster sergeant before applying for a commission in the AIF. His commission was granted on 17 December 1915, and he was appointed second lieutenant. He embarked for active service in January the following year, sailing from Brisbane on board the troopship Wandilla.
After several weeks at sea, Second Lieutenant Brown arrived in Egypt, where he joined other new recruits and veterans of the recently abandoned Gallipoli campaign. He remained there until March, when he embarked for the Western Front. He arrived in the French city of Marseilles after a week-long voyage and was immediately sent north to the French and Belgian border. Over the weeks that followed, Brown’s unit undertook periods of training behind the lines, as well as short stints on duty in the trenches.
In July, the 25th Battalion was sent south to the Somme Valley, to take part in the advance on German positions around the French village of Pozieres. The men entered the front lines around the village on 28 July 1916, in preparation for an attack under the cover of darkness the following morning. They began their advance just after midnight on the 29th, tasked with taking two lines of German trenches on Pozieres Ridge. In five waves the men of the 25th jumped the parapets, coming under murderous machine-gun fire from enemy lines. As they pressed forward, Brown and his men were hit by the enemy’s artillery, as well as fire from mortars as they reached their first objective. By the time they made it to the second trench, the battalion was so outnumbered that the men were forced to dig in for cover.
Shortly after, the battalion received orders to retreat to its own lines. By the following morning, the 25th Battalion had suffered some 340 casualties. Among the dead was 2nd Lieutenant James Monteagle Brown.
One of his comrades, Lieutenant Harrison, recounted the last time he saw Brown:
“I saw him killed on July 29th at night - about 12:30am. He was first wounded in the arm by machine gun fire. He stood up to have his arm bandaged when another machine gun got him in the head. I went up to him but found he was dead. This was against the German wire at Pozieres. We were driven back that night and Germans came over the ground and heavy bombardment opened up and as far as I know his body was not brought in.”
Brown’s remains were later recovered from the battlefield and reburied nearby. Today, he lies at Courcelette Military Cemetery. Friends and colleagues in Brisbane later said of him:
“We knew where he went that he would do his best and his duty. He had done so and had laid down his life. In him, we have lost a personal friend and a young man of bright promise which he sacrificed gladly. In him, was the spirit that permeates the whole of our race, and the state is poorer by the loss of such a life.”
Second Lieutenant Jimmy Brown was 28 years old.