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Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Guernsey boy who never grew up...

Born Guernsey 1929

Died Oldham, Lancashire 1942
 Aged 13

A collage entitled 'From Our Garden, L'ancresse Bay
and Guernsey Harbour'

The mail boat 'Isle of Guernsey'

My uncle might have grown up to be an artist. My uncle should have grown up, of course, but the sad truth is that he never got the chance. He died in the second world war when he was just thirteen years old; not from a bomb or a bullet, but  from a knock on the head by a football.

David Richard Brown died in 1942  during soccer practice for his school  team in Oldham, Lancashire. He  had been evacuated to Oldham Hulme Grammar School, England, from Amherst School, Guernsey, along with many others,  when  Hitler's troops occupied the Channel Islands. David, it seems, was a quietly spoken boy with a love of  sport, but  the only time he was truly happy was when his thoughts turned to home. He would sit in his bedroom for hours at a time staring out at the unfamiliar streets, with their terraced houses and soot-clad chimneys, whilst sketching  the sea and sunshine of his beloved island.

One of my most treasured possessions   is the quaintly-titled 'Brush-Drawing Book' (above)  issued  from the County Borough of Oldham Education Committee for the use of local schoolchildren. Poignantly,  David's   homesickness was reflected in  his sketches.

My favourite  is a 'collage' ( though I doubt if he knew what the word meant at the time) of three sketches entitled 'From our Garden,' Lancresse Bay' and 'Guernsey Harbour. '  Other pages depict the Isle of Guernsey, the mail boat, as it was affectionately called by islanders, that regularly travelled from Guernsey to Southampton or Weymouth before the war. Then there is the touchingly titled  'A corner of our bungalow' and a  'A goal' , a more upbeat sketch depicting a triumphant Guernsey footballer hitting the back of the net.

My late father Harry Brown,  a freelance journalist, wrote prolifically throughout his life,  yet   never  himself  recorded the impact on the family of his brother's tragic death.
My grandmother, very occasionally, would  reminisce about her younger son, but then her face would cloud over and the words,all too soon, would die on her lips.


Suzie Tullett said...

How very tragic... yet thanks to his sketch book, your Uncle still left his mark.

What a touching story x

Guernsey Girl said...

Thanks Suzie, your comment has given me a different perspective.

Elaineyross said...

I didn't know you had this treasured memory. Somethign for you to pass onto your grandchildren I think.

Guernsey Girl said...

Yes, Elaine, I will do just that!

Faith said...

How terribly sad, but lovely for you to have the mementoes, especially as you live in Guernsey like he did. Through researching my family on I have found similar sad tales which are sometimes hard to cope with no matter how long ago it was. One of my mother's cousins went down with HMS Hood, and he was under 20. It is always sad when a young life is lost.

Guernsey Girl said...

Death is always difficult to accept but the death of a child is particularly poignant. History tells us that few men survived the sinking of HMS Hood and that our retribution - the sinking of the Bismarck - did much for British morale. I have felt much bitterness over the years at the way my father's family life was destroyed yet now I see that all who died, on whichever side, were grieving mothers' sons.

Gloria Horsehound said...

Hi M,thanks for your comment sorry to hear about your physical stuff. do pop in to mine soon, bound to be something there to cheer:(

Vitesse said...

I have just found this story. Is this the same David Brown who lived with a relative in New Moston, Manchester when he first came from Guernsey? He became my husbands best friend for a period and we would dearly like to know more about him. We thought he had moved to Moston, but it seems more than coincidence that 2 boys of the same name died ar such a young age

Guernsey Girl said...

Hello, Vitesse - I've only just seen your comment but am so glad that we have now been in touch with each other. I'm finally beginning to think that we are talking about the same David. Looking forward to speaking to you soon.

Lydia said...

What a heartbreaking story. Your uncle was so artistic. If only he'd lived to a ripe, old age.