NAME William Charles Angus Brown
BORN 1878 Belfast Ireland
DIED 1925 – Suicide
UNIT 45th Battalion
ENLISTED Liverpool 24 January 1916
DISCHARGED Sydney 16 January 1918 – Medically Unfit severe shell shock.

After World War One, William Brown took up Crown Lease No. 3617 in the County of Napier, Parish of Merrygoen, Land District of Dunedoo.  The block consisting of 4395 acres, was to be used for sheep and agriculture.  In an undated letter, possibly written early in 1922, Brown listed numerous supplies required to build his house.[1] Initially he seemed to be full of enthusiasm for this farming venture even though, ‘he and his wife would be living in a tent pending the arrival of the materials and the erection of the building’.[2] 

By April 1922 getting the house underway continued to be a problem as he was not able to get a horse and cart to transport material needed for his house. Brown complained about the high cost being charged by a teamster to carry a bedstead and bedding to the holding, ‘till then (we are) sleeping on mother earth’. [3]

 Brown was also having difficulties because of a lack of water on his property.

 No rain has fallen since I have been in residence here, so there is no water in the tank you mention and labour is next to an impossibility at present.[4]  

Brown was not in a financial position to repair a broken dam on his holding so he applied to the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission for the use of one of its boring plants.[5] By August E.P. Fleming the Acting Under-Secretary agreed that the original £60 allocation in the Advance be increased to £100 to assist Brown with his boring costs.[6] Brown continued to be angry about the lack of water on his block and the fact that he was expected to meet the expense to obtain water himself. [7] In January 1923, there was still conflict about this.  Brown declared,

 There was no dam (swept away before I got it) and there were no (water) holes, a dry creek.  Been trying to get water on unsuccessfully now for ten months’.[8]

 In March 1923, when he was in Mudgee Hospital with (he said) damaged ribs, he wrote to Mr. Wearne requesting  finance to help with obtaining water, ‘so that I will not have to abandon my home, another broken and ruined settler misled by the government’.[9]

 An undated report outlined Brown’s circumstances,

 Have built on the property, done clearing, fencing etc. will have to abandon it unless water is provided.  Carried water in buckets two miles and back every night after a day’s work for the first five months.  No water on the place now, except a tank on the house.  Several shafts sunk, various depths, some dry, some went dry.[10]

On 16 April 1923, the Director of the Returned Soldiers’ Settlement Branch, A.A. Watson stated that Brown had ‘no real grounds for grievances as the dam referred to was washed away before he took up the holding and that (Brown) was in the same position as any other soldier who took up a waterless block’.[11]  E.P. Fleming the Under-Secretary saw this differently, ‘It is possible that an injustice has been done’.[12]  The District Surveyor agreed, ‘the dam was washed away in 1919 before Brown applied for the land and the incorrect Gazettal was a mis-statement of fact’.[13] Brown’s problems getting water for his block eventually were handed to A.H. Chesterman the Surveyor General who stated that the problems were possibly created by Brown himself, particularly as he had failed to inspect the property fully before application. To claim that the Gazette Notice guaranteed a water supply as Brown had stated, was a distortion of the facts.  Because of drought, a dam should never be considered a permanent fixture.[14] 

By October 1923, Brown was allotted an amount of £100 from his advance to meet the cost of boring operations.[15] Brown also applied for his advance to be increased to meet further costs for water, but this was refused.[16] He wrote to Mr. Fleming in December complaining that the boring had not begun, and was not happy about having to ‘wait his turn’.[17]

 Brown’s problems continued throughout 1924 with the Returned Soldiers’ Settlement Branch and the Water Commission arguing about who was to pay for the boring and/or the equipment.[18] In April 1924, Brown wrote to the Branch stating that he had been in hospital for nine months of the last year due to war injuries, and was not strong financially.[19]  In January 1925, he was again in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the bore had still not been completed.[20] Toward the end of March, 1925  he wrote again, complaining about the standard of work, ‘your water boring men had a merry game with a sick man, boring and filling up the hole with basalt rocks’.[21]

The problems Brown had on his block became too much for him and by 23 March 1925, he killed himself using poison.[22]  Brown’s wife left the property on 4 April, 1925 although the Inspector of Soldiers’ Settlements believed ‘that tools she had with her and furniture were purchased from the Advance money’.[23]  So despite the death of her husband, it seems there was little compassion given to his wife. 

The Hon. J.W. Percival wrote to the Under Secretary for Lands in August 1926, pleading that Brown’s assets not be written off and that they should remain the possession of his wife.  This request was made because Brown was a ‘deceased shell-shocked wreck, mentally deficient who in a fit of madness committed suicide’.[24]

 Interestingly, when approval was eventually given to transfer the property to Walter Ware, he also complained about what he called, false information about the good supply of water on the block.[25]  Brown’s wife was eventually given permission to sell her husband’s Crown lease and his Advance was repaid in full on 9 August 1927.[26]


[1] SRNSW:  Lands Department; NRS 8058, Returned Soldiers loan files;  [12/7274 No. 7902] William Charles Angus Brown. Letter to RSS Branch nd;  A long letter listing material needed, including files, braces, screw drivers, nuts and bolts.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, William Brown 3 April 1922.

[4] Ibid, William Brown to RSS Loans 6 June 1922.

[5] Ibid, Frank Chappey, to Mr. Wearne 2 August 1922.

[6] Ibid, RSS Branch Office Memorandum 12 August 1922.

[7] Ibid, W.C.A. Brown to Securities 8 September 1922.

[8] Ibid, W.C.A. Brown to Mrs Hare, 18 January 1923.

[9] Ibid, W.C.A Brown to Mr. Wearne, 9 March 1923.

[10] Ibid, Report on Crown Lease, W.C.A. Brown nd.

[11] Ibid, RSS Branch Office Memorandum 16 April 1923.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid, A.W. Deane District Surveyor to the Under Secretary for Lands 8 May 1923.

[14] Ibid, A.H. Chesterman,  Report 13 June 1923.

[15] Ibid, Under Secretary for Lands to the Secretary Water Conservation & Irrigation Commission, 5October 1923.

[16] Ibid, RSS Branch Office Memorandum 17 October 1923.

[17] Ibid, W. Brown to Fleming, Under Secretary for Lands 16 December 1923.

[18] Ibid, RSS Branch Office Memorandum 12 March 1924.

[19] Ibid, W.C.A. Brown possibly to Under Secretary 14 April 1924.

[20] Ibid, Water Conservation and Irrigation 21 January 1925.

[21] Ibid, W.C.A. Brown to Mr Fleming 21 March 1925.

[22] Ibid, Under Secretary of Lands to Secretary Water Conservation & Irrigation Commission 23 March 1925.

[23] Ibid, F.B. Connell Inspector SS to District Surveyor Orange, 11 April 1925.

[24] Ibid, Hon. J.W. Percival to the Under Secretary for Lands 6 August 1926.

[25] Ibid, Department of Lands Report abt. December 1926.

[26] Ibid, Department of Lands Memorandum 8 September 1927.

Sources used to compile this entry:

State Records of NSW:  Lands Department; NRS 8058, Returned Soldiers loan files [12/7274 No. 7902] William Charles Angus Brown

National Archives of Australisa: B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers (William Charles Angus Brown)