BROWN-EKIN George Herbert

BROWN-EKIN George Herbert

George Herbert Brown-Ekin

BROWN-EKIN George Herbert

Rank: Private
Unit: 44th Australian Infantry Battalion
Service: Australian Army
Conflict / Operation: First World War, 1914-1918
Conflict eligibility date:  First World War, 1914-1921
Date of death: 27 March 1917
Place of death: Australia
Place of association: Gnowangerup, Western Australia, Australia
Cemetery or memorial details: Katanning Public Cemetery, Katanning, Western Australia
Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army

Near the entrance to Katanning Public Cemetery in the Church of England Section is an intriguing grave. It belongs to Private George Herbert Brown-Ekin of the 44th Battalion A.I.F.

According to popular history, of the sixty thousand Australian deaths in the Great War, only one was returned to Australia for burial: Major General William Bridges, Commanding Officer of the First Australian Division at Gallipoli, who died as a result of a sniper’s bullet. So, why is Private Brown-Ekin buried here?

Enlistment papers show that George was a farmer, lean (170 pounds) and lanky (six feet one inch), with fresh complexion, blue eyes and auburn hair. He stated that he was 26 years and 11 months old and Church of England.
He gave his permanent address as East Gnowangerup. George was born in England, at Weston, Hertfordshire to be precise.
He had been apprenticed to engineer E. Atkinson in London for eighteen months before coming to Australia.
George enlisted on 3 October, 1916 in Perth, whilst staying at the Railway Coffee Palace, and was assigned first to the 16th Battalion before being moved to the 8th Reinforcements, 44th Battalion.
Whilst at Blackboy Hill Camp, he was charged with overstaying leave by sixteen days. His punishment appears exceedingly light: he forfeited sixteen days pay. Such leniency may point to remorse and shame on the part of the soldier guilty of a first offence.
By 1917, the arrival of a telegram was dreaded by all next of kin of soldiers in service. The telegram in Private George Brown-Ekin’ file reports that this soldier died in Katanning Hospital on 27 March,1917 as the result of an accident, and that the next of kin, his father, had been informed.
As it happened, Captain E. Campbell Pope of the Australian Army Medical Corps had been in Gnowangerup at the time of the accident. He reported that George was attempting to board a train in motion and was thrown off into the cattle pit between the railway line and the road, breaking his neck. Captain Pope had George transferred to Katanning Government Hospital, where he was operated for spinal cord injury, but died fourteen hours later.
The verdict of a jury at the Coroner’s Inquest in Katanning on 2 April,1917 was that no blame was attachable to anyone. The Acting Coroner was R.L. Richardson J.P.
Private George Herbert Brown-Ekins was accorded a military funeral and Church of England minister in Katanning, William Burbidge, conducted the burial. The undertaker was John Squiers.
George never went into action with the 44th Battalion, but like hundreds of thousands of others, he put his hand up to serve his King and Country, and in due course would have found himself on the battlefields of the Western Front in France and Belgium. That he did not may suggest that his eagerness to catch an already moving train from Gnowangerup station was driven by the resolve not to overstay his leave for a second time. He died a soldier. Lest We Forget.

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