Brown, William Young (No. 7686313)

Brown, William Young (William, sometimes Billy)

Lance Corporal

No. 7686313, Intelligence Corps

Died as a result of enemy action on Wednesday 7 August 1940 (aged 24)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Brookwood Memorial, Surrey, England (Panel 21 Column 1)

Donaghadee and District War Memorial

Shore Street Presbyterian Church, Donaghadee

Family grave headstone in Movilla Cemetery, Newtownards


William Young Brown and his twin sister Mary Young Brown were born at 11 Cambridge Terrace, Dublin on 20 February 1916.  William was the younger son of Thomas Watters Brown and Mary Elizabeth Maxwell Brown (nee Hadden) of Ben Ingan, Warren Road, Donaghadee.  They were married on 12 August 1913 in Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast and they had at least three children:

James Alexander (born 13 June 1914 at 11 Cambridge Terrace, Dublin)

Mary Young (born 12 noon, 20 February 1916 at 11 Cambridge Terrace, Dublin)

William Young (born at 1.00 pm, 20 February 1916 at 11 Cambridge Terrace, Dublin)

In 1918 Thomas Watters Brown, a barrister, was elected Member of Parliament for North Down and in June 1921 he was appointed Solicitor General for Ireland.  In August 1921 he was promoted to the position of Attorney General for Ireland.  He resigned that post in December 1921 and served as a Judge of the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland from 1922 until his death on 7 October 1944.  William Young Brown’s mother, Mary Elizabeth Brown, died on 11 May 1976 and his twin sister Mary died in October 2005.

During the Second World War William Young Brown’s older brother, James Alexander Brown, served as a Captain with the Royal Ulster Rifles (6th Airborne Division) and from 1967 until 1978 he was a County Court Judge in Co. Down.  From 1978 until 1982 he was Recorder of Belfast.

William Young Brown was educated at Mourne Grange School, Kilkeel; at Campbell College, Belfast from 1930 until 1933; in the Sillig Institution, Vevey, Switzerland and in France.  There was a short biography in the December 1940 edition of The Campbellian:

‘Billy Brown was an outstanding example of the boy, unsuccessful at school, who does well later. Owing to an illness while at his preparatory school, he was exceptionally backward when he arrived at Campbell. He left the school at the age of 17 from the Upper Fourth and went to a school in Switzerland. There he developed a passion for languages, though previously he had been unable to put two French words together.

Returning to Ireland he served his apprenticeship in the Rope Works, but found time and energy to attend language classes four nights a week. As a result, upon leaving the Rope Works, he obtained a good post with Messrs Combe, Barbour and Company and did so well that, shortly afterwards, he was promoted to a post carrying much greater responsibility and salary than that enjoyed by the average young man of his age. He continued language studies and actually delivered a lecture in Spanish to the Spanish Society in Leeds, being billed as Senor Don W.Y. Brown.

His eyesight, which was bad, would have debarred Billy from active service, but his linguistic qualifications, due entirely to his own efforts, procured him admission to the Field Security Police, and he died by enemy action whilst serving in this Force. He would have asked no better.

Billy’s attractiveness, which all who knew him felt strongly, was mainly due to the fact that he was essentially unselfish. Added to this was a quiet but very strong sense of humour. It will be long before we cease to be conscious of the gap he has left.’

Soon after returning to duty following a short period of home leave spent in Donaghadee, Billy was reported missing on 7 August 1940 after the sinking of the SS Mohamed-Ali El-Kebir about 250 miles west of Malin Head.  This military transport ship was on route from Avonmouth to Gibraltar when she was hit by a torpedo fired from the German submarine U-38.

Later, Lance Corporal William Young Brown (No. 7686313) was officially presumed dead, one of around 120 who died.  His body was never recovered.

Lance Corporal William Young Brown (No. 7686313) was 24 when he died and he is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial in Surrey; on Donaghadee and District War Memorial; in Shore Street Presbyterian Church, Donaghadee and on the family grave headstone in Movilla Cemetery, Newtownards.