William BROWNEY (1071)
5 Divisional Ammunition Column KiA 28/7/1917
Wllliam Browney was born in Ipswich, Queensland. The details of his background are sketchy. In his file there is extensive correspondence about the distribution of his medals. This was because before the AIF was prepared to give them to his foster mother they needed to be sure that there were no surviving male family members who, in terms of the legislation, had a more substantial claim. Correspondence from the foster mother – Susan Adelaide Beadmore – offers a brief account of the boy’s childhood:
… I took W Browney 15 [this was subsequently corrected to 25] years ago he was then 7 years old. His mother was dead & I have not heard of any living relations since infact I dont think he had any bros or sisters I was the only one that had anything to do with him & he looked to me as a mother. 3/1/1921
The foster mother resided at Korumburra and William Browney – also known as William Beadmore – attended the local state school there. When he enlisted, he did so at Foster and he gave his address as that of his foster mother at Korumburra. She also recorded on the (National) Roll of Honour that the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’ was Korumburra.
At the same time, William Browney had a definite connection to the Shire of Alberton. His death – 28/7/17 – was written up in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 17/8/17:
We learn with much regret that Driver W. Browney, of Wonyip, was killed in action in Flanders, France on 31st July [sic]. He was one of the oldest residents in that district, the adopted son of Mrs. Beadmore. When he enlisted 19 months ago [it would have been closer to 30 months earlier] the residents gave him a send-off at Ryton Hall.
The reference to William Browney being one of the ‘oldest residents’ points to the fact that Wonyip was not really opened up for settlement until the turn of the century. William must have gone there for work after he finished his schooling.
Even though he was working and living in the Wonyip district he was not identified as someone from the Shire of Alberton. His name is not recorded on either the Roll of Honor or the Soldiers’ Memorial. It appears that his connection to the Shire of South Gippsland was seen as stronger. As indicated, his foster mother linked him to Korumburra and his name is recorded on the roll of honor for the South Gippsland Shire.
William Browney enlisted as a 27 yo on 7/1/15. He was single and he gave his occupation as labourer. His religion was listed as Church of England. He left Australia as reinforcements for 9 Light Horse Regiment. However, in Egypt in May 1916 he transferred to the artillery and joined 5 Divisional Ammunition Column. He left the Middle East in August 1916.
Not long after he reached France he was hospitalised with influenza for 2 weeks, in September 1916. Then in November 1916 he was hospitalised again, with ‘cattarh’. It appears that this general condition was subsequently re-diagnosed as another bout of influenza, and also asthma, and he was transferred to hospital in England in December 1916. It appears that there was further illness, again influenza, in February 1917. His general health was clearly problematic. He did not return to the front line in France until the end of June 1917. He was killed in action one month later on 28/7/17.
There is no Red Cross file for Driver Browney but there is some information in the war diary of the 5th Australia Divisional Ammunition Column. At the time, the unit was working in the Poperinghe area, just over the border with Belgium, near Ypres. The main work appeared to be the rebuilding of ammunition dumps which had been destroyed by enemy shell fire. For example, 3 days before the death of Driver Browney, the diary records:
Forward Dump in Cambridge Road destroyed by enemy shell fire. 2 Officers and 100 Other Ranks sent out to re-establish dump, which was completed by dawn on 26.7.17.
Then for 28/7/17 the entry reads:
Another Forward Battery Dump destroyed. The working party despatched to re-establish same reported work complete by dawn 29.7.17
and, for the same day:
1 Other Rank Killed and 1 O.R Wounded by explosion of enemy bomb dropped from aeroplane.
Driver Browney was of the very few members of the AIF killed by enemy aerial bombing.
The body was recovered and Driver Browney was buried in the nearby Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, Vlamertinghe, Flanders.
His mother was advised by cable dated 2/8/17, less than a week after he had been killed.
In April 1918 his meagre personal kit – 2 Wallets, Photos, Cards, Blank disc, 2 Religious books – was returned to his foster mother at Korumburra.
Apart from the correspondence in the file to do with the issuing of the medals there is nothing else that throws light on this man’s story. It appears that it was inevitable that his personal history would fade, and certainly the recognition of his presence in the Shire of Alberton did not last, even to the end of the War. Others from Wonyip were remembered and celebrated but William Browney, also known as William Beadmore, was not.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
National Archives file for BROWNEY William 1071
Roll of Honour: William Browney
First World War Embarkation Rolls: William Browney