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Rushworth Brothers-In-Arms

Rushworth brothers Alan and Bruce Brown both served our country overseas in World War 11. Their military careers followed similar paths, in that both were first called up and served in the militia (Citizens Military Forces or CMF) before joining the AIF.

Alan and Bruce Brown

The boys were born to long-established Rushworth families. Their father Christie Brown (Junior) and Elizabeth (nee Crothers) are buried in the Rushworth cemetery having lived in the town all their lives. Around the time of the war, they were garage proprietors, living in Stanhope Road. By the late 1940s, Christie listed his occupation as farmer.

Like many people in Rushworth at the time, some of the boys’ grandparents had migrated to Australia. On their father’s side, Christie Brown Snr was from Holland and Margaret from Scotland. Christie was a baker, a trade that his son Christie also followed for a time before going into other business. The family attended the Methodist church, and the five children did all their schooling in Rushworth. On their mother’s side, Elizabeth’s father Daniel’s roots were in Cornwall. Daniel was a great entrepreneur, and amongst many other enterprises, ran hardware stores in Rushworth and Stanhope.

Bruce’s story

The older brother, Lance Sergeant Bruce Kelvin Brown (VX87711) was born in Rushworth in 1919, just after the end of the First World War. Bruce enlisted in the CMF of his own volition in January 1939, before the outbreak of the war. Those who enlisted in this way did some basic training then attended regular training sessions and annual camps.

Members of the CMF could be called up to serve on Australian soil (which at the time included Papua New Guinea). Bruce got the call in October 1941 then chose to join the AIF in July the following year. He served full time for about four and a half years, well over two years of which was served on Papua New Guinea and Bougainville with the 2nd Field Regiment.

Alan’s story

Younger brother, Lance Sergeant Alan Wilbur Brown (VX135236) was born in Rushworth in 1923. He had been working as a hardware salesman, one would assume in his grandfather Daniel’s business. He joined the CMF when he was 18 and ended up in Darwin for two and a half years from August 1942. During that time, he enlisted in the regular army, serving in ordnance units. The Japanese started bombing northern Australia in February 1942, with air raids continuing until November 1943. Ordnance depots would certainly have been a target, so Alan would have witnessed some of those raids. In August 1945 Alan went overseas to New Guinea and New Britain for over six months before eventually being discharged in June 1946. His final unit was the 3rd Australian Base Ordnance Depot. Alan’s service overseas started just after VJ (Victory Over Japan) Day – 15 August 1945 - so although not in the line of fire, he would have seen some horrific sights.

Lack of recognition

The RSL, who are the present-day custodians of the war memorial, unveiled a plaque on the war memorial about fifteen years ago, which purports to show the names of all those with a local connection who served. Along with other deserving veterans, the Brown brothers are not included on that list.

The RSL has stated in writing that it “feels that it would be inappropriate to now make alterations to the names on the plaque”, even though it demonstrably contains omissions and possibly errors. In recent years, much more information has become publicly available about the service of WW2 veterans who had a local connection, including the service history of many. As a result, there seems to be no reason why the list of veterans could not be revisited to produce a more accurate representation of those who served.

Anzac Day is a time for remembrance, so it follows that all the locals who served our country overseas in its hour of need deserve that recognition.

REFERENCES: Bons, Tracey, Rushworth Businesses & Their Owners, Vol 1 & 2; AWM, DVA and Ancestry websites