Letters home from the
First World War
by Major William Neilson Brown
About William Neilson Brown
Neilson Brown was born on the 3rd May, 1883, into a Scottish Borders
family of textile mill owners.
At the age of 17 he joined the 4th Battalion King’s Own Scottish
Borderers. He served as a volunteer from 1900 – 1908.
When the 1st World War broke out in 1914, he volunteered for service
with the Army Service Corps in Japan, before returning home and
joining the 2nd Battalion, Gordon Highlanders in 1915.
During his service, Major Brown was wounded twice; In October 1917
and January 1918, and won the Military Cross for gallantry and
bravery in Italy, Belgium and France, as well as the 1914 Star,
British War Medal, Allied Victory Medal and the Italian Generals
Silver Medal for the Battle of Piave.
written in the field would be censored, however, the letters which
you are about to read are particularly graphic and extraordinarily
detailed, whilst laced with his wry humour and wisdom.
The letters were
written between 1915 – 1918 from both France and Italy to his Aunt,
Minnie McGilvroy, who lived in Galashiels, in the Scottish Borders.
William Neilson Brown died, age 70, in August 1953 and is buried
with his wife, who survived him by
30 years, in Wairds cemetery, Melrose, Scottish Borders.
Wholesale / Book
Shop Bulk purchases - please contact us.
'Timothy Brown' (Grandson of William Neilson Brown) is also
available for book signings / talks etc. Phone 07979321774
Books are also available to purchase throughout the Scottish
Borders - please telephone 07979321774 for your nearest outlet
Text from one
of the letters from 'All Well Yet'...
It is impossible to describe the ‘no mans land’, it’s the greyness of
it, the actual want of colour, the endless succession of holes and
mounds, shattered timbers sticking up from mud, endless abandoned
trenches, rows of trees halved, or stripped into poles, the
extraordinary amount of abandoned equipment bombs, rifles, clothing,
and the dead amongst it all, quiet, not repulsive, fitting into the
drab scene, sometimes German sometimes English. In twos or threes as
they were killed, or one by himself, lonely even in this lonely
place. The pools of water in the shell holes are green or red, and
over the endless stumps and twisted broken wires rises the sour
smell of battlefield.
The Lewis guns having the time of their lives, and crying, their
voices lost in the din of the shells and the savage yells of our men
half mad with blood over the ruins of house and orchard, a machine
gun, manned to the last, holds up the line, the bombers swing round
it, rifle grenades add to the din and it stops. Then the objective,
furious digging, rushing up and down, stores up, guns in position,
and then comparative quiet.
When the smoke clears away, the bright sunlight reveals every sordid
detail of a mechanical war. Stores lie in every direction,
everything broken, and every here and there a man, twisted into
dreadful attitudes, but with quiet faces they lie where they fell,
the dust veiling the wounds, finished with it all...
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