BROWN, Willam Symington
(Service number 8/1943)

First Rank Corporal Last Rank Second-Lieutenant


Date 11 September 1894 Place of Birth Darjeeling, India

Enlistment Information

Date 5 February 1915 Age 20 years
Address at Enlistment 36 Napier Terrace, Napier
Occupation Clerk
Previous Military Experience F Battery NZFA - serving
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs J. H. BROWN, 36 Napier Terrace, Napier; 3 Lough Street, Timaru; 65 Grey Street, Timaru
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation 5th Reinforcements
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Otago Infantry Battalion
Date 13 June 1915
Transport Maunganui
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Campaigns Balkan (Gallipoli); Egyptian; Egyptian EF; Western European (France)
Service Medals 1914-1915 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards Military Medal; Military Cross

Award Circumstances and Date

MM - For acts of Gallantry in the Field; 18 November 1916. MC - For Acts of Gallantry in the Field; London Gazette, 4 October 1918

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations

Clerk; chainman; engineer


Date 3 January 1941 Age 45 years
Place of Death Tobruk, Bardia, Libya
Cause Died of wounds
Notices Evening Post, 10 March 1941
Memorial or Cemetery Hafaya Sollum War Cemetery, Egypt
Memorial Reference 17. D. 10.
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

William Symington Brown was born on 9 September 1894 at Darjeeling, India, the second son of Henry Rylands and Jane Halliday (née Symington) Brown. Henry R. Brown, born in Lancashire, England, and Jane H. Symington, born in Dumfries, Scotland, had married in 1886 in India. Six children were born at Darjeeling, India – George Howard in 1888, Isabel Halliday in 1890, Annie Rylands in 1893, William Symington in 1894, James Hudson in 1897 (it appears) and Henry Alexander in 1900. Henry Rylands Brown was a missionary in India. In 1911 the family was in England. Jane and three sons – George, James and Henry – were at Canterbury; Henry senior, a Baptist minister, was visiting at Hawkhurst, Kent; Isabel and William were with a Symington aunt at Bromley. Jane was with her parents at Birkenhead, England, in 1891, George and Isabel with her; while Henry, a missionary, was with his widowed mother in Lambeth, London. The Rev Henry Rylands Brown died on 12 May 1913 at Canterbury, England. On the outbreak of war in 1914, Jane and her four sons were in New Zealand.

George Howard Brown was the first of the brothers to enlist wih the New Forces, doing so on 13 August 1914 at Napier. He had previously served with the Bombay Volunteer Artilleries until leaving India. He named his mother as next-on-kin Mrs Jane Brown 36 Napier terrace, Napier; and his sister Isabel – Miss I. H. Brown, C/o The Matron’s Office, St Thomas Hospital, Westminster. George – who may have been known as Howard – returned to New Zealand in 1915 and was discharged in 1916. He married Jean Macrae in 1916. They had a son, Douglas Rylands Brown, and a daughter, Phyllis Halliday Brown. George and Jean lived in Napier, where both died, George in 1941.

William Symington Brown enlisted on 5 February 1915, while James enlisted on 16 November 1915. William was a clerk, residing at 36 Napier Terrace, Napier, which was previously the address of his mother. Single and Presbyterian, he named his mother as next-of-kin – Mrs J. H. Brown, 3 Lough Street, Timaru, and as of May 1917, 65 Grey Street, Timaru. Hospital notices were to be sent to his brother – G. H. Brown, 36 Hospital Hill, Napier. He was serving with F Battery NZFA. 2ndy-Lieutenant W. S. Brown (M.M.), 8/1943, Timaru, was wounded on 29 September 1918, but a subsequent hospital and progress report noted that his was not a severe case. The report issued a few weeks later, however, recorded that he was still seriously ill but improving. Second-Lieutenant W. S. Brown, 8/1943, (M.C., M.M.), of Timaru, returned to New Zealand by the “Ruahine” which was due at Wellington on 6 July 1919. He had given extensive service – four years and 174 days, and he had served in all theatres of war, for which he received the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. And more – on 18 November 1916 he was awarded the Military Medal for Acts of Gallantry in the Field and on 15 February 1919 the Military Cross for Acts of Gallantry in the Field.

There in 1919 at 65 Grey Road, Timaru, with their widowed mother (Jane Halliday Brown), were William Symington Brown, soldier, and James Hudson Brown, soldier. Mrs Ryland Brown had donated to the YMCA Fund at Timaru in January 1918. William married Vida Thomson Bradshaw (née Stuart) in 1925. Vida had married Arthur Colville Bradshaw, whom she divorced in 1925 on the ground of separation for three years. Vida had two sons, both of whom served in World War II, one being taken a prisoner of war. William and Vida lived in Wellington, William a clerk and then an engineer. Mr W. S. Brown and Mrs V. T. Brown travelled to Sydney by the “Ulimaroa’ in 1931. It appears that William may have remained in Australia, being in Victoia when his mother died in 1938, while from the mid 1930s Vida was back in Wellington.

William Symington Brown served with the Australian Forces in World War II. In early 1941 Sergeant W. S. Brown, A.I.F., the husband of Vida Brown, Wellington, was killed in action at the Battle of Tobruk and Bardia. The Age, Melbourne, of 26 February 1942, published a notice to the effect that an application would be made to the Supreme Court of Victoria for Letters of Administration (with the will, dated 29 February 1940, annexed) of the estate of William Symington Brown, also known as and in the will called William Symington, late of Second Australian Imperial Forces abroad, formerly of Crow’s Nest, Queenscliff, in the State of Victoria, Soldier, deceased. The application was for Administration to be granted to the Public Trustee for Victoria, the duly elected guardian of Gray Valentine Douglas, a minor, the sole executor and beneficiary named in the will, for his use and benefit and limited until he attained the age of twenty-one years. Gray Valentine Douglas, who was born on 20 December 1922 at Auckland, NZ, enlisted with the Australian Forces (Merchant Navy) on 31 August 1939. He died in 1993 in Victoria, Australia.

Now William did enlist with the Australian Forces on 27 February 1940 at Geelong, Victoria – as William Symington, Service Number VX8452 - and gave false details. He declared that he was born on 9 September 1940 at Claremont, Queensland. He was, thus, 39 years 8 months. He was a soldier and a widower! He did state that he had served with the infantry at Gallipoli and in France. A mobilization attestation form, he gave a birthdate of 9 September 1899 at Darjeeling, India, but he was still a widower. He named an aunt as next-of-kin – Miss J. (Julia) E. K. Symington, Golders Green, London, England. This was Julia Emily Ker Symington, a younger sister of William’s mother. She died in April 1940 in Middlesex. Julia had travelled to Melbourne, Australia, in 1932. William also named Miss Nan Symington, Angel Down Cottage, Wantage, Berkshire, England, perhaps his mother’s youngest sister, Annie. In 1991 Mr Ian Halliday Brown, of Georgetown, South Australia, wrote seeking the full service details of his uncle, William Symington, VX8452. Ian was a son of William’s youngest brother, Henry Alexander Brown. He knew specific details of his uncle’s life – that he was born on 9 September 1894 at Darjeeling, India; that he was a sergeant; that he served in North Africa; that he died on 3 January 1941 in Libya. But he did not know his nominated next-of-kin. His reason for seeking the information – “I want to learn more of my unce. This uncle, whom we call “Buster”, was unknown to me but my father often talked of him. He had a distinguished military career in the 1st World War with the New Zealand Forces – fought at Gallipoli and other places, won both the Military Medal and Military Cross (after promotion). I also wish to advise that the serviceman died on 3–1–41 at Libya (died of wounds).” At the time of war, Ian’s father was William’s only relative in Australia. “My father told me that Uncle Buster changed both his name and age in order to join the Australianforces to go to war. Your records will show him as William Symington but actually he was William Symington Brown. (Symington was both his and my father’s mother’s maiden name.) . . . . my father told me that he put his age back 10 years. . . . . there were brothers inNew Zealand and sisters in England. . . . .” William had been medically examined on 5 October 1939 at Melbourne.

William Symington Brown, alias William Symington, served with the 2/5 Infantry Battalion and died of wounds received in the Battle of Tobruk on 3 January 1941 at Bardia, Libya. He was buried at Hafaya Sollum War Cemetery, Egypt (near to border with Libya). He was awarded the 1939/45 Star, the Africa Star, the War Medal and the Australia Service Medal. In addition he was twice Mentioned in Despatches. His name is recorded on the War Memorial at Canberra.

Two brothers of William also served with the New Zealand Forces – George Howard Brown and James Hudson Brown. His mother, Jane Halliday Brown, died on 26 September 1938 at Dulwich Hill, New South Wales, and was buried in the Prsbyterian Cemetery, Rockwood. “By deceased’s request, no flowers at funeral, but will friends take them to the sick instead.”. She was survived by her six children – G. Howard, of New Zealand, Isabel H. Garson, of England, William S. of Victoria, James H. of New Zealand, Annie R. of Peru, and Henry Alexander, of Sydney. She had gone from England to Australia in 1922, perhaps to her youngest son. James had spent time with his mother at Summer Hill, New South Wales, in the early 1930s.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [30 June 2022]; 1891 & 1911 England census returns ( [30 June 2022]; Evening Post, 5 May 1917, 12 October 1918, 3 December 1918, 23 January 1931, 10 March 1941, Press, 16 October 1918, Timaru Herald, 17 January 1918, Otago Daily Times, 23 April 1919, NZ Times, 25 June 1919, 10 February 1925, Dominion, 27 February 1918, 4 May 1918 (Papers Past) [30 June 2022; 02 July 2022]; Sydney Morning Herald, 27 September 1938, The Age, Melbourne, 26 February 1942 (Trove) [03 July 2022]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [30 June 2022; 01 July 2022]; Ausralia Electoral Rolls ( [03 July 2022]; CWGC [03 July 2022]; Extracts from Australian Forces World War Two file (National Archives of Australia ref. NAA: B883, VX8452) [04 July 2022]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, South Canterbury Genealogy Society

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