Harry W Brown VC

b. 10/05/1898 Ganonoque, Canada. d. 17/08/1917 Meharicourt, France.

Harry W Brown (1898-1917) was born on 11th May 1898 at Gananoque, Ontario, Canada. It is believed he was born John Henry Brown, but this was shortened to Harry. His father, Henry, was of Irish extraction, and was a brass-moulder. He married Adelaide “Addie” Helen Ledger, a cook. Harry’s father died before 1911, and his mother remarried, to Patrick McAuliffe, a widowed farmer in Peterborough, Ontario. Harry had three siblings – Irene, Marie and Lawrence.

Harry W Brown VC

Harry was educated at Peterborough, Ontario and began working on his mother’s farm at East Emily Township, Omemee in c.1910. He moved to London, Ontario, where he worked in a munitions factory in 1916 and lived with his married sister, Irene. Harry enlisted with the Depot Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles CEF at London on 18th August 1916. Harry sailed for Britain on RMS Mauretania on 25th October as part of the 6th Overseas Draft, Canadian Mounted Rifles, arriving on 31st October. He was taken on strength of Lord Strathcona’s Horse Reserve Regiment at Shorncliffe, Kent on 1st November and transferred to 11th Reserve Battalion on the 3rd. He finally sailed for France in May 1917, joining the Canadian Base Depot. He joined 10th Battalion at the front on 27th June 1917.

On 16th August 1917, on Hill 70, after the capture of a position, the enemy massed in force and counter-attacked. The situation became very critical, all wires being cut. It was of the utmost importance to get word back to Headquarters. This soldier and one other were given the message with orders to deliver the same at all costs. The other messenger was killed. Private Brown had his arm shattered but continued on through an intense barrage until he arrived at the close support lines and found an officer. He was so spent that he fell down the dug-out steps, but retained consciousness long enough to hand over his message, saying ‘ Important message.’ He then became unconscious and died in the dressing station a few hours later.

Harry was buried in Noeux-les-Mines Communal Cemetery, France. As he died on operational duty, his next-of-kin was eligible for the Canadian Memorial Cross. As he never married, his VC was sent to his mother but was recorded as undeliverable and was re-addressed to his sister, Mrs Charles Egelton in London, Ontario. In addition to the VC, he was also awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. The VC passed to his half-brother, Father Lawrence McAuliffe, on the death of their mother. When he went to the Dominican Republic, he left the VC in the care of a fellow priest at Omemee, Ontario. It was retained in a vault until after the death of Lawrence and his fellow priest, when it passed to the Scarboro Foreign Mission Society near Toronto. In 1970 the Society donated the VC to the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, where it is still held.






Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map

Canadian War Museum – images of his VC medal group/medal