We Have Our Lives

Claude Wreford-Brown
  • Born Clifton, 17th February 1876
  • Died Ypres, Belgium, 24th May 1915
  • Age39
  • RankCaptain
  • RegimentNorthumbria Fusiliers
  • Unit5th Battalion

Claude Wreford-Brown

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Claude Wreford-Brown was born in Clifton in 1876 to William and Clara. They lived at 5 Litfield Place, on the edge of the Downs, which was converted into part of the now-closed St Angela’s Care Home shortly after the war.

He joined the Army in 1897, and was promoted Lieutenant two years later. By the time of the Great War, he was a seasoned veteran, having served in Sudan, Crete, South Africa and India, where he was severely wounded. His service in the Boer War earned him the Distinguished Service Order, normally reserved for officers ranking Major or higher. Claude worked as an instructor at Sandhurst from 1912 until he was called up to the front in February 1915.

In May 1915 Claude’s regiment was practically wiped out in the second Battle of Ypres, and although wounded he demanded to return to the front. Three days after arriving back in Ypres, Claude and his newly assembled battalion arrived at the Menin road, where they immediately suffered heavy losses under heavy artillery and machine gun fire. All but three officers were killed, leaving Claude and two Lieutenants in charge of their remaining men.

At 7pm that night, he was ordered to attack the enemy position at all costs, despite the desperately weakened state of his unit. He is recorded as telling another officer in the trench: “Goodbye, old fellow, I shall not see you again. I am ordered to attack this place, it is hopeless, but I shall lead my men to it. Now we will make the final charge of the Mohicans”. There were least twenty machine guns concentrated on Claude’s men, and after an impossible dash ‘over the top’ he fell 10 yards from the German trench, mortally wounded. His body could not be recovered, and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate.

Claude had a younger brother, Oswald, who was killed on the Somme as a Captain in the 9th Northumberland Fusiliers. Oswald worked at London Stock Exchange, and played Cricket for Middlesex.