Frederick Brown's grave

On Thursday June 6th 1918 a 17 year old boy from Isleworth, Frederick Charles Brown, the son of a tobacconist, died after a long illness. He was buried three days later in Isleworth Cemetery. For some years he had been a keen member of the Boy Scout Group at All Souls Church in Northcote Road, and held the rank of ‘Second’. He also played bass drum in the Scout Group band. The parish magazine remembered him…

All that knew him well can testify how earnestly he tried both to serve God and to serve his fellows. Now he has been called to still higher service. May God grant him that rest and peace he has so fully earned.

Frederick Brown obit

His death must have been a particularly tragic experience for his family. He was a teenager and during the years of the Great War they would have seen him growing towards an age when he would have been called up for military service. At the same time they must have been aware, particularly during the summer of 1918, that the War was reaching an end. Hadn’t the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, said so himself?…

“We are passing through days of almost breathless tension. From hour to hour the victory which we have hoped and prayed is brought nearer by the heroic deeds of our Forces and the Forces of our Allies. After long years of anxious strain the goal seems to be at length in sight. Our hearts are full of thankfulness, thankfulness above all to God Who through the courage of these men has wrought His will.”

Frederick’s parents and his younger sister Elsie must have thought it especially cruel that their teenage son and brother should be taken from them at a time when the War that had once threatened him was so nearly over.

influenza poster

1918 was a time of pitiless death. Although the Great War seemed to be coming to an end the slaughter on the Western Front and beyond continued undiminished. Local papers and parish magazines were full of it…

To the list of 76 men who have made the supreme sacrifice must be added five more names. Cyril Tom Cuthbert Keene has died from wounds and Horace Henry Kesby and Laurence Sealy have been killed in action… Frederick Reginald Tyler and Joseph William George Denton have died from illness contracted on Active Service…

That unnamed ‘illness contacted on Active Service’ was an early calling card for Influenza, a disease that would go on to kill between 50 and 100 million people around the world before it had completed its grim progress at the end of 1920. As well as beginning to report on the number of people dying from the ‘Flu the ’Richmond and Twickenham Times’ started to publish advice on avoiding its deadly effects…

“Don’t worry! Get into the open air as much as possible! Moping over possible illness leads to morbidity and lowers the repellent forces of the system.”

FCB BUGLE

Three months after Frederick’s death, in September 1918, the editor of the Parish magazine noted in the Scout News section that… “the Troop are anxious to improve the Band and wish to purchase additional bugles. It has been suggested to collect waste paper, an article that now finds a ready sale.”

On February 27th 1919, during the course of a Troop Entertainment laid on to raise money in aid of the Annual Summer Camp funds, a nickel-silver bugle inscribed ‘In Memoriam F.C.B June 1918’ was presented to the Scout Band in honour of their former bass drummer Frederick Charles Brown.

And there the story seemed to end. Somewhere along the line the bugle, the Scout Band and the Troop they were both part of disappeared until…

church lads brigade

In 2011 Richard Frank, the current minister at All Souls, visited St Augustine’s in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire to celebrate the licensing of their new vicar and his friend and former curate Charles Hudson. After the service one of the Broxbourne parishioners, Derek Rumbelow, approached Rev. Frank to announce that between 1935 and 1959 he had been a member of the Church Lads Brigade at All Souls. He then gave him a nickel-silver bugle inscribed ‘In Memoriam F.C.B June 1918 ’. Mr Rumbelow said that the Church Lad’s Brigade and its band had been in existence at All Souls “since time immemorial” and the FCB bugle had always been played by the lead bugler – and he had been the last of them! When he left the neighbourhood and the Church Lads Brigade in 1959 he was asked to take the bugle with him. Mr Rumbelow, who has no recollection or knowledge of there being a Scout Troop at All Souls, did suggest that possibly in the 1920’s the Scouts transmuted into the Church Lads Brigade.

BUGLE

Whatever its tangled history the bugle is now back home where it first started, hanging on the church wall for all to see. It is there in honour of a 17 year old Boy Scout, Frederick Charles Brown, who died in the closing months of a War and within a few months of the long awaited peace. The boy and the people that mourned him are long gone but the bugle made in his name stills plays as sweetly as ever…

boy scout and bugle

Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,

Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

ALFRED LORD TENNYSON

— from Martyn Day