Brown, Ephraim Hugh (No. 41777)

Brown, Ephraim Hugh (Hughie)

Flight Lieutenant

No. 41777, 230 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Killed on active service on Saturday 25 July 1942 (aged 24)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Alamein Memorial, Egypt (Column 247)

Valetta Memorial in Malta (for airmen with no known grave)

Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI)

Memorial Plaque on one of the pews in Portaferry Methodist Church


Ephraim Hugh (Hughie) Brown was born in Shore Street, Portaferry on 9 February 1918 and he was a son of Ephraim Hugh (Ephriam) and Elizabeth (Elsie) Brown (nee Brown) of Westgate, Portaferry.  Ephriam Brown ran the family business (William Brown) in Ferry Street, Portaferry selling agricultural merchandise.  He and his wife Elsie were second cousins and they were married on 17 June 1914 in St. Paul’s Church of Ireland Church, Belfast.  Ephraim and Elsie Brown (nee Brown) had five children:

Thomas (Tommy, born 11 October 1915)

Ephraim Hugh (Hughie, born 9 February 1918)

Olive Christine (Olive, born 22 July 1919)

William Price (Billy, born 25 April 1921)

Richard Percival (Dickie, born 22 January 1933)

During the Second World War Tommy Brown served as an ARP Warden, Olive Brown served with the WAAF at Ballykinlar, Co Down and Billy Brown served with the Fleet Air Arm.

Hughie Brown attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) from 1930 until 1934 and, after he left school, he worked in the family business in Portaferry.  A keen sailor, he was also an active member of the local Young Farmers’ Club (YFC).  In 1938 he applied to join the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) and travelled across to Strangford by boat for tutoring for the entrance examination.  He went to Glasgow for his medical examination.  He was home on leave for a few days in early April 1939 before leaving for Prestwick, and then the RAF Depot at Uxbridge.  He sailed to Egypt on 12 April 1939.  He wrote letters home from wherever he was stationed, and these letters have been preserved by his family.  In one of his letters from the Flight School in Prestwick he said that he was earning 16 shillings and sixpence (16/6) per day.  His service officially commenced on 29 May 1939 and in August 1939 he wrote from No. 4 Flying Training School when he was in Abu Sueir, Egypt.  He was with 33 Squadron flying Gloster Gladiator aircraft and he concluded the letter by saying that he was going to Iraq.  This letter was censored, and it wasn’t delivered until 1946, four years after Hughie’s death.  In December 1939 he was with 102 Maintenance Unit in Egypt and was being paid £1 per day.  In August 1940 he was with 33 Squadron in Habbaniya (55 miles west of Baghdad) and he said that it was so hot they flew in shirts and shorts, rather than wearing flying overalls.  On 30 October 1940 he was posted to 112 Squadron as a Pilot Officer and he took part in the Greek campaign, again flying Gloster Gladiators.  On Christmas Eve 1940 he and some others flew from Egypt to Jerusalem and stayed in the King David Hotel at a cost of 36 shillings per day.  On Christmas Day he went by taxi to Bethlehem.

On 13 March 1941, still with 112 Squadron based at Sidi Haneish in Egypt and flying a Gloster Gladiator, he shot down an enemy plane in a dogfight with the Italians over the Kelcyre area in Albania. Two days earlier he had been credited with damaging an enemy plane.  He was transferred to 230 Squadron on 14 April 1941 where he operated as a Flight Lieutenant piloting Sunderland Flying Boats.  On 3 August 1942 his family received a telegram informing them that, during the night of 25/26 July, Hughie and his crew were missing in action over the Mediterranean, off the Egyptian coast.  They left RAF Aboukir in Egypt aboard a Short Sunderland aircraft (L5806) to carry out an anti-submarine patrol but failed to return.  Searches over the next two days found nothing.  Later it was officially confirmed that Flight Lieutenant Hughie Brown (aged 24), and all the other members of the crew, must be presumed dead:

  • Flight Lieutenant William Arthur Hargreaves Chapman
  • Flying Officer Jack Edward Sedgwick Bentley (aged 28) (RNZAF)
  • Flying Officer Albert Gordon Boswell Williams (aged 25) (RNZAF)
  • PO Eric Ernest Thomas Cattemull (aged 22) from Teddington, Middlesex
  • Pilot Officer Kenneth Frederick Harding (aged 28) from Gravesend, Kent
  • Pilot Officer Herbert Reginald Nash (aged 22) from Brockley, London
  • Flight Sergeant Leonard Blashill
  • Flight Sergeant Roland Lionel Manley (aged 29) (SAAF)
  • Sergeant William Bulman (aged 26) from Aspatria, Cumberland
  • Sergeant Alastair Hugh Macdonald (aged 24) from Glasgow
  • Sergeant Amon Riding (aged 21)
  • Sgt Eric Sutherland Clutton Williams (aged 26) from Whitstable, Kent

Flight Lieutenant Ephraim Hugh Brown is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial in Egypt; on the Valetta Memorial in Malta for airmen with no known grave; in RBAI and on a memorial plaque on one of the pews in Portaferry Methodist Church.  The Brown family burying ground is in Ballymanish Cemetery, Portaferry.