Suffolk Regiment, 1st Bn.
II. E. 11.
Son of John Robert and Edith Lydia Brown from Great Ashfield, Suffolk, Engeland.
Nelson John Brown served in 1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment, Service number 5826084. In 1938 he was serving in India on the North West Frontier. During 1939 and 1940 the 1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment was stationed in the UK until they went to France, where they were rescued during Operation Dynamo, which was the code name for the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, in the north of France, between 26th May and 4th June 1940.
Following this the 1st Battalion remained in the UK until 1944 when plans were drawn up for the Normandy invasion, codenamed Operation Overlord. The 1st Suffolk Regiment was to be one of the Assault Divisions for the invasion. In preparation for this they practised beach landings in many places around the UK, including in the north of Scotland and south of England.
In June 1944, as part of the 3rd British Infantry Brigade, they joined the rest of the British and Allied Expeditionary Forces in the south of England, waiting for the invasion to commence on the morning of the 6th June. This was known as D-Day.
They landed at the Queen sector of Sword Beach, which was the area between Langrune-sur-Mer and Ouistreham to the north west of the mouth of the River Orne just north of Caen in Normandy. The 1st Suffolks were involved in the advance to recapture Caen, which was not achieved until July 1944. They went on to fight throughout France and then Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, known as the Benelux countries.
Nelson John’s story continues, as written by his nephew George, the son of his half-brother Arthur Rose.
My name is George Rose, I was born at No. 3 Council Houses, Daisy Green, Great Ashfield, Suffolk in July 1951. My brother Edwin was born in January 1955 and my other brother Brian in April 1957. My connection to Nelson John Brown is that his mother was my Grandmother. The family believes that Nelson John was named after Granny Rose’s brother John Stearn who died in infancy in 1890, aged 11 months. Granny Rose also had a brother named Nelson Stearn, who passed away on 28th November 1949 and is interred at Holy Innocents Churchyard in Great Barton, Suffolk.
My Grandmother’s maiden name was Edith Lydia Stearn and she married John Robert Brown in the last quarter of 1913. Nelson was born in the Summer of 1915 on 3rd August. His father was killed in action at Arras in Northern France on 28thApril 1917. Nelson was always referred to as John by the family and he was raised by his mother and her parents during the First World War. They were Thomas and Mary Ann Stearn who were living at the Tin Hut, Lawton Lane, Elmswell, Suffolk.
In 1922 my grandmother Edith Lydia married George William Rose at Badwell Ash and had a son Arthur Rose, my father, in September 1924. George died in 1928 after being knocked off his bicycle in Stanton when he was on his way home from work.
Nelson John left school in 1928 during the world depression and economic crash and worked as an Agricultural Labourer, then enlisted in the Suffolk Regiment in Bury St Edmunds on his 18th birthday, 3rd August 1933. He was posted to the Gibraltar Barracks depot for his training, which lasted 16 weeks, and on 30th December 1933 was posted to the 1stBattalion serving in India. He was transferred to the 2nd Battalion on the 10th December 1935 when the two Battalions swapped over garrison duties in India. He served in India and on the North West Frontier and was involved in action three times during this period. He returned to the UK on 10th April 1943 and was posted back to the 1st Battalion on 20thAugust 1943.
From 2nd to 4th June 1944 the regiment was in a holding camp at Horndean near Portsmouth. They embarked for France on 5th June and landed in Normandy as part of the first wave at 0630 hours on 6th June (D-Day) at Sword Beach (3 hours ahead of his brother Arthur Rose also in the Suffolks). The 1st Suffolks captured the Hillman Bunker on the extreme right flank of Sword Beach by the second day and just days later, without tank support, using only smoke and their own mortar personnel, they attacked and captured a Chateau used as the German regional headquarters.
John served and advanced through France and Belgium and was promoted to Lance Corporal on 14th August 1944.
After Operation Market Garden the allies lost their foothold on the Arnhem Bridge but they held a long salient from Joe’s Bridge on the Belgian border through Eindhoven, Nijmegen almost to Arnhem, a narrow corridor that straddled the road XXX Corps had used in September to relieve the paras at Arnhem.
The Germans were desperately trying to close the salient, the allies trying to enlarge it. At the battle for Overloon and Venray on 12th October 1944, John was one of the first to be killed in action. As we grew up, sometimes Granny Rose would mention John’s death as having occurred at a town square with a church spire in Overloon, but sometimes the story would be that he was killed in the early evening as the regiment rendezvoused overnight.
The family would like to thank their tour guide from 2016 and Taff Gillingham, Suffolk Western Front Association Branch Chairman and military historian, whose initial help allowed them to uncover the details of Nelson John’s death. On 12thOctober 1944 the 1st Suffolk ‘A’ Company, after spending the night in a small dog shaped wood on the road to Venray, moved out of the wood towards a burnt-out windmill and their goal of the brick factory site, which they achieved later that afternoon.
On pages 150 – 151 of Fighting through to Hitler’s Germany, Personal accounts of the men of 1 Suffolk 1944-45 written by Mark Forsdike (Friends of the Suffolk Regiment), published by Pen & Sword Military, details of Nelson John’s character and his death are documented through the eyes of his comrade Joe Fuller.
“As darkness descended, standing patrols of ‘A’ Company were stationed on the southern side of the brickworks facing towards Venray…
The battalion had secured all its objectives, but the cost had been high. Along with the loss of Major Ellis, the Company Commander, Lieutenant George Holt was wounded and two-thirds of ‘A’ Company had been killed or wounded around the windmill. One of the men killed there was Private Nelson Brown.
Nelson ‘Biff’ Brown joined the Suffolk Regiment in 1932 (according to the family he joined on his 18th birthday in 1933). His father, John Brown, had been killed while serving with 7 Suffolk during the attack towards the chemical factory at Roeux in April 1917. Nelson had served in India for the greatest period of his service, being a keen and active footballer. Brown’s comrade Joe Fuller stood at his grave in 1999 and recalled his story:
My old mate, Lance Corporal Nelson Brown. He was mad! – a pre-war soldier – hard as nails. The night before the battle of Overloon he had a Nazi swastika shaved into the top of his head! He was a real laugh. The next morning we attacked out of the woods and coming down across this open stretch of ground. I saw him killed right there… just in front of me.”
Following his death, the Reverend Hugh Woodall wrote to Brown’s mother. I have the letter he wrote to my Grandmother. In this letter he writes:
“As the padre, I thought you would like to hear from me as I had the unfortunate task of laying your son to rest recently. It would appear the death was instantaneous from shellfire and he didn’t suffer. We laid him to rest along with others at Overloon, Holland.”
Lance Corporal Nelson John Brown, aged 29, is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Overloon, in the Netherlands, his grave number is II. E. 11. He lies beside the Company Commander, Major Ellis. In the same row lay men from Saxmundham, Framlingham, Sibton as well as West Suffolk. This cemetery is in a wooden glade, in a large wood on the town outskirts not far from a large military museum. I, daughter Laura and her husband Paul visited his grave in 2016 on an Arnhem tour and laid a poppy cross from me, my brothers and our families.
The inscription on his gravestone reads “IT’S HARD TO PART WITH ONE WE LOVE. HE GAVE HIS LIFE FOR HIS KING AND COUNTRY”.
We would have loved to have had the chance to meet you John, and I am very proud to be a part of your family.
George Rose, son of Arthur George Thomas Rose.
George Rose (family member of Nelson John Brown)
Fighting through to Hitler’s Germany, Personal accounts of the men of 1 Suffolk 1944-45 by Mark Forsdike.
Kvk nummer: 83346422
Banknummer: NL04 RBRB 8835 3869 69
t.n.v. Stichting Overloon War Chronicles