Biography

Birth date: 03 July 1885
Birth place: Australia: Tasmania, New Norfolk
Death date: 28 February 1942
Death place: Malaya
Final rank: Gunner
Service number: 1689A - First World War, 1914-1918
1689 - First World War, 1914-1918
NX35492 - Second World War, 1939-1945
Units:
  • 20th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • 2/15th Field Regiment

Born in Tasmania, Wally Brown was a grocer in Sydney when he enlisted in 1915. He was in the light horse and the camel corps before transferring to the infantry. A brave soldier, he gained the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1917.

On 6 July 1918, at Villers-Bretonneux, Brown's party had taken over some newly captured trenches. When told that an enemy sniper was causing trouble, Brown discarded his rifle and picked up two Mills bombs. Running towards the post, he threw one bomb, which fell short, but on reaching the position he attacked a German with his fists and threatened the others with his remaining grenade. They all promptly surrendered.

During the war Brown was twice wounded, and promoted to sergeant. Although married and over-age, he served again in the Second World War. He went missing after the fall of Singapore in February 1942; he was last sighted declaring, "no surrender for me".

Brown was awarded the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Conduct Medal, service medals for the First and Second World Wars, and the King George VI Coronation Medal.

Rolls and Awards

Roll of Honour

  • Rank: Gunner
  • Date of Death: 28 February 1942
  • Unit: 2/15th Field Regiment

First World War Embarkation Roll

  • Rank: Private
  • Date of embarkation: 23 October 1915
  • Place of embarkation: Sydney

Second World War POWs and Missing Persons

  • Rank: Gunner
  • Unit: 2/15th Field Regiment
  • Theatre of war: Malaya

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: 20th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: 20th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Distinguished Conduct Medal

  • Unit: 20th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: 20th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Distinguished Conduct Medal

  • Unit: 20th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: 20th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Distinguished Conduct Medal

  • Unit: 20th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Collection Items

Photograph

044957

Sydney, NSW. 1938-04-23. A group portrait of Victoria Cross recipients who were invited to Sydney by the United Licensed Victuallers Association (ULVA) to march as a group in the 1938 Sydney Anzac Day march. This gesture by the ULVA was part of the Australian sesquicentennial (150 years)...

044957

A02600

Studio portrait of 1689 Sergeant (Sgt) Walter Ernest Brown, VC DCM, 20th Battalion from Hobart, Tasmania. A 30 year old grocer prior to enlisting on 11 July 1915, he embarked for overseas with the 11th Reinforcements of the 1st Light Horse Regiment from Sydney on 23 October 1915 aboard SS Hawkes...

A02600

A02600A

Studio portrait of Sergeant Walter Ernest Brown VC DCM, of the 20th Battalion. This photograph is cropped from A02600.

A02600A

J03054

"The First Million". The total attendance at the Australian War Memorial during the two years it has been in Sydney, has now reached one million. The distinction of being the one millionth visitor is held by Mr W E Brown, VC, DCM, who is seen entering the Exhibition.

J03054

J03075

1927-04-25. AUSTRALIAN VICTORIA CROSS (VC) WINNERS WHO TOOK PART IN THE ANZAC DAY MARCH IN MELBOURNE, WAITING TO ENTER THE EXHIBITION BUILDING, WHERE A COMMEMORATION SERVICE WAS HELD. LEFT TO RIGHT: CAPTAIN R.C. GRIEVE, 2ND LIEUT W. RUTHVEN, CAPT J.E. NEWLAND, 2ND LIEUT J. HAMILTON, LIEUT. A....

J03075

J03076

MELBOURNE, AUS. 1927-04-25. AUSTRALIAN VICTORIA CROSS (VC) WINNERS WHO TOOK PART IN THE 1927 ANZAC DAY MARCH. IN THE BACKGROUND ARE THE KING'S AND REGIMENTAL COLOURS OF THE A.M.F. BATTALIONS AND REGIMENTS. LEFT TO RIGHT:- CORPORAL (CPL) B.S. GORDON MM, CPL T.L. AXFORD MM, CPL J. CARROLL, SERGEANT...

J03076

Heraldry

Victoria Cross : Corporal W E Brown, 20 Battalion, AIF

Victoria Cross. Engraved reverse suspender with recipient's details and reverse cross with date of action.

RELAWM15391.001

1914-15 Star : Private W E Brown, 1 Light Horse Regiment, AIF

1914-15 Star. Impressed reverse with recipient's details.

RELAWM15391.004

1939-45 Star : Gunner W E Brown, 2/15 Field Regiment

1939-45 Star. Impressed reverse with recipient's details.

RELAWM15391.007

Pacific Star : Gunner W E Brown, 2/15 Field Regiment

Pacific Star. Impressed reverse with recipient's details.

RELAWM15391.008

British War Medal 1939-45 : Gunner W E Brown, 2/15 Field Regiment

British War Medal 1939-45. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

RELAWM15391.009

Australia Service Medal : Gunner W E Brown VC DCM, 2/15 Field Regiment

Australia Service Medal. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

RELAWM15391.010

George VI Coronation Medal : W E Brown, VC DCM

George VI Coronation Medal. Unnamed as issed.

RELAWM15391.011

French 1915 pattern 'Adrian' steel helmet : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion AIF

French Army 1915 Pattern 'Adrian' steel helmet bearing the the flaming grenade 'RF' (Republic Francaise) and crossed cannon badge worn by artillery units. The helmet has an overall 'horizon blue' finish, which is largely obscured by a layer of dirt and corrosion. There are two rust marks on the...

RELAWM09113

German Model 1916 steel helmet : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion, AIF

German Model 1916 steel helmet with leather liner. The helmet is painted fieldgrey. Three sections of leather spaced equidistant around the inside of the helmet make up the liner that are stitched to a leather band attached to the helmet by three rivets. The string used to join the top of the...

REL/00994

Improvised directional sign 'HOOGE' and 'BIRR X ROADS' : Belgium

Improvised British sign constructed of three planks of white washed wood with text stencilled in black paint. The sign bears the words 'HOOGE / BIRR X ROADS' and a large right facing arrow. The sign also has a small improvised metal plaque attached to the top right hand corner which states 'NOTICE...

RELAWM00594

Improvised sign, 'JARGON TRACK' : Belgium

Improvised British sign for Jargon Track. Constructed from three pieces of wood nailed together. The sign has been stencilled with black paint with the words 'JARGON TRACK / TO / BOSSCHEN TRACK. / POLYGONVELD. / CRUCIFIX. / THE BUTTE. / FRONT LINE.' There is a thin black border painted around the...

RELAWM00600

Pair folding scissors: Sergeant W E Brown: 20 Battalion AIF

Small pair folding scissors. Pressed handles are hinged at base of blades, which are serrated on the cutting edges. Impressed on upper blade above grub screw hinge with 'FRANCE' and star flash motif.

RELAWM09110

French ARS gas mask : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion AIF

French model ARS (Appareil Respiratoire Special) gas mask. Stencilled in green on brown rubberised fabric face piece is '[partially obscured] 136' and 'PT'. Stencilled in black on mustard brown filter dock is 'AG 143'. Stencilled in black on filter is six pointed star and '143'. Two tinted...

RELAWM09114.001

French ARS gas mask carrier : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion AIF

Pressed metal carrier for storing French model ARS (Appareil Respiratoire Special) gas mask. Painted khaki with remnants of cloth carrying sling present. Instructions in French on the use of the gas mask are glued to inside of carrier lid. Two cardboard storage plates are present inside canister....

RELAWM09114.002

German 'Lederschutzmaske' gas mask : Sergeant Walter Ernest Brown VC DCM, 20 Battalion AIF

German 'Lederschulzmaske' (Leather protection mask) gas mask. Sometimes referred to as a model 1917 after the year of its introduction. The mask is made from a single piece of chrome-tanned sheepskin dipped in an oil sealant solution. The single seam running under the chin and the folded edge of...

RELAWM09115.001

Carrier for German 'Lederschutzmaske' gas mask: Sergeant Walter Ernest Brown VC DCM, 20 Battalion AIF

Cylindrical metal case to hold the German 'Lederschutzmaske' (Leather protection mask) respirator. The case has a hinged cap secured by a simple wire over-centre clasp. Three flat metal loops are attached to the exterior for the suspension strap. Remnants of string are present on bottom loop. The...

RELAWM09115.002

French model M2 gas mask : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion AIF

French model M2 gas mask. Full face gas mask covered with khaki coloured rubberised fabric enclosing a muslin pad orinally impregnated with a solution designed to negate the effects of gas. This example has two eyepieces, an improved version of the original M2 which first had a single eyepiece that...

RELAWM09116.001

French model M2 gas mask carrier : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion AIF

Khaki rubberised cotton carrier bag for French model M2 gas mask. Bag has cotton shoulder strap that has become detached on the left hand side.

RELAWM09116.002

French water bottle : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion AIF

One litre capacity French model 1877 water bottle. Pressed steel, halves soldered together. Water bottle has hot-dipped tin outer showing signs of rubbing wear. Large neck has cork stopper; smaller neck has wooden stopper. Stoppers connected to side suspension loops by string. Brown leather sling...

RELAWM09117

German entrenching tool carrier : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion, AIF

Brown leather rectangular voided entrenching tool (spade) carrier. Impressed on rear lower 'LIEBHART & THEIMER MUNCHEN'. Impressed on front upper '11' and 'TDI'.

RELAWM09126

German model 1895 ammunition pouch: Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion AIF

German model 1895 ammunition pouch. The pouch is of blocked leather construction with metal dividers creating three sections. The pouch holds a total of 45 rounds of 7.92mm cartridges in clips. Original black finish still evident. Included with pouch are 51 spent 7.92mm cartridges in 11 clips with...

RELAWM09128

Identity discs : Corporal W E Brown VC, 20 Battalion AIF

Two identity discs on a leather neck thong. One is a pressed aluminium pre 1916 style disc privately engraved: Obverse: '1698 W. E. Brown Reg A.L.H. A.I.F. C of E.' ; Reverse: 'Next of kin S. F. Brown c/o Mrs E. Hill 48 Bathurst St Hobart Tasmania'. The other disc is octagonal composite fibre...

REL/00792

British Brodie steel helmet : Sergeant W E Brown VC DCM, 20 Battalion, AIF

British Brodie steel helmet. Remnants of grit textured finish visible. Faint red triangles painted on front and rear . Small red 'X' on right hand side. Dent on front of dome and rim.

REL/00985.001

German water bottle: Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion AIF

German water bottle made from pressed steel with the halves soldered together. Water bottle has hot-dipped tin outer which is painted grey-green. Cork stopper connected to neck of bottle by twine. Maker's tag soldered on seam near neck of bottle impressed with 'ULLRICH17'. Has accompanying brown...

REL/01051.001

Soldier's pay book : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion AIF

Soldier's pay book, serial number 29169, with light brown glazed linen cover. Additional number 79817 stamped on first page. Period covers 23 October 1915 - 1 November 1919. Owner's pay details printed on front cover: 'Pay-Book No. 85022; Surname, Brown; Christian Names, W E; Regimental No. 1689A;...

REL24300.001

Soldier's pay book : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion AIF

Soldier's pay book, serial number 29169, with darl brown glazed linen cover. Additional number 79817 written in blue on first page. Period covers 23 October 1915 - 6 November 1918. Owner's pay details printed on front cover: 'Pay-Book No. 85022; Surname, Brown; Christian Names, Walter Ernest;...

REL24300.002

Distinguished Conduct Medal : Private W E Brown, 20 Battalion, AIF

Distinguished Conduct Medal (Geo V). Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

RELAWM15391.003

British War Medal 1914-20 : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion, AIF

British War Medal 1914-20. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

RELAWM15391.005

Victory Medal : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion, AIF

Victory Medal. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

RELAWM15391.006

Sign : British notice board, "Idiot Corner"

British notice board collected from the Ypres Battlefield area by SGT Brown VC DCM and PTE W Wise and PTE F KENT of the 20th Battalion. The sign is constructed of two panels of wood and is held together by three smaller planks nailed to the back. The sign bears evidence of extensive damage,...

RELAWM00598

Technology

Aircraft wing fragments : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion AIF

Wing fragments said to have been souvenired from the Fokker Dr.1 Triplane aircraft in which Baron Manfred Von Richthofen was shot down on 21 April 1918. The fragments are made from 2mm timber plank sandwiched between .5 mm veneer strips. There is evidence of glue from a subspar on the rib fragment....

RELAWM09123

Maxim MG08/15 Light Machine Gun : Corporal W E Brown, VC, 20 Battalion, AIF

The MG 08/15 Maxim machine gun is a short recoil operated, water cooled, full automatic, belt fed weapon. The operating system uses a two part toggle lock connected by a hinge which is located between the breech block and a barrel extension. The entire barrel extension and breech block recoil...

RELAWM09368

German 'Stielhandgranate' stick hand grenade handle : Sergeant W E Brown, 20 Battalion AIF

Handle from a German 'Stielhandgranate' stick grenade. The handle is hollow to accommodate a double length pull cord that was connected to a friction pull igniter for the grenade formerly attached to head of handle. The mechanism was designed to provide a 4 to 5 second delay prior to explosion to...

REL/00867

Film

The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX35492) Gunner Walter Ernest Brown VC DCM, 2/15th Field Regiment, AIF, Second World War

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind...

PAFU2015/061.01

Timeline

Date of birth 1885-07-03
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1915-07-26
Other units 1915-10 !st Light Horse Regiment.
Date of embarkation 1915-10-23
Other units 1916-07 Hoping to be transferred to the infantry in France, he invented a story of having lost his false teeth so he could be sent to Cairo, where he obtained a transfer to the 20th Battalion.
Other units 1916-09-30 55 Battalion.
Other units 1916-10 Australian field butchery.
Date of honour or award 1917-07 Awarded the Victoria Cross after he captured a German officer and 12 other ranks from a sniper post.
Other units 1917-08 20th Battalion.
Date of honour or award 1917-09 Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for attending to the wounded under heavy fire and taking charge of the section after his sergeant was wounded at Passchendaele.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-03-05
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-03-09
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-07-10
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-07-11
Date wounded 1918-08-11 Wounded twice.
Other units 1918-08-26 Rejoined the 20th Battalion.
Date of discharge 1920-02
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1940-06-21 Lied about his age on enlistment, claiming he was 39 instead of 54, however his real age and military records were soon discovered and he was promoted to lance sergeant and posted to the 2/15th Field Regiment. He asked to be returned to the rank of gunner and this was agreed.
Date of death 28/02/1942 Last seen a few hours before the surrender to the Japanese in Singapore, where he picked up some grenades and walked towards enemy lines with the parting comment 'No surrender for me'. It is likely that he was killed a few hours later. His body was never recovered.