Thomas William Brown AM

b. 15/03/1881 South Shields, County Durham.  d. 28/10/1969 Kensington, London.

DATE OF AM ACTION: 23/12/1919 Newcastle upon Tyne.

Thomas W Brown AM

Thomas was born in South Shields on 15th March 1881, the son of George and Mary Brown. During WWI, he served in the Royal Navy, and was demobbed as Petty Officer First Class. On his return to the North East, he became a Fireman, and was awarded the Silver Medal from the Society for the Protection of Life from Fire, as well as the AM for his part in the rescue. He was presented with the AM by King George V on 2nd November 1920. He eventually moved south, and was a keen member of the Albert Medal Association on its formation in 1966. He was killed in a road accident in Kensington on 28th October 1969, and was cremated three days later.



On the 23rd December 1919, at about 4 p.m., a fire, which speedily attained serious proportions, broke out at Cross House, Westgate Road, Newcastle-on-Tyne, in the basement of the building, where cases containing a large quantity of cinematograph films were stored, and flames were quickly shooting up the lift shaft and the staircase. The work of the Fire Brigade was performed under most difficult and dangerous conditions, owing to the great heat, noxious fumes and explosions caused by the burning films. Flames were already shooting across the street on one side of the building when the Brigade arrived on the scene within a few seconds of the call having been received, and it was from the windows of the upper floors that a large number of the rescues were effected; the action of Fireman Thomas William Brown in reaching the top of the building by means of a hook ladder being an outstanding feature of the work of rescue. A 50 ft. fire escape had been pitched on one side of the building, and Brown, having ascended the escape, fastened to a window on the fourth floor a 14 ft. hook ladder which he carried, and by this means enabled thirteen persons to escape. He then threw up the hook ladder to the main cornice above, which projected 2 and a half feet from the building, and with great coolness and daring ascended to the parapet, where he effected the rescue of three other persons by making fast the hook ladder in another position and attaching it to a 65 ft. escape. There was great risk of the hook slipping while the Fireman was ascending the ladder some 70 feet from the ground, seeing that by reason of the overhung of the cornice the ladder was clear of the wall. Upwards of 100 persons were in the building when the fire broke out. Twelve deaths resulted, 57 were rescued, while 50 others effected their escape from the windows of the lower floors.





Allan Stanistreet – Images of the Brown AM medal group and the Illustrated Chronicle newspaper.