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Brabban, W., Pte., 1917

Hooge Crater Cemetery

Hooge Crater Cemetery

In Hooge Crater Cemetery, near Ypres, Belgium, is the Commonwealth War Grave of 37766 Private William Brabban serving with the Durham Light Infantry who died 23/08/1917.

Pauline Priano has submitted the following:-

William Brabban, was one of 9 children of whom only 8 survived, his sister Margaret born 1880 having died in 1883. He was the 2nd born of 4 sons and had 2 elder and 2 younger sisters. His father Martin Brabban born 1854 at Tudhoe, Spennymoor, and mother Mary Ann Reece of Consett, born 1852, both in County Durham, were married in 1876 in the district of Durham. Daughter Sarah Ann was born 1879 and Margaret Jane in 1880 while they were living at 63, Upper Church Street, Tudhoe Colliery, where Martin was employed as a coal miner. Ten years later they were still at the same address and Mary Ann had given birth to a further 5 children, Elizabeth Jane 1882, Thomas Reece 1884, William 1886, Susannah 1889 and Nicholas, September 10th 1890. Their youngest children George and Margaret Hilda were born 1893 and June 10th 1896 respectively. By 1901 Martin was still employed at the colliery as a shifter below ground, Sara Ann (22) was an assistant elementary school teacher, Thomas Reece (17) a machine fitter’s apprentice and William (14) a grocer’s apprentice, he was fully qualified by 1911. William’s elder siblings were married by 1911, his brothers Nicholas (20) and George (18) had joined their father at the colliery employed as putters, Elizabeth Jane and Margaret Hilda assisted their mother at home.

William was married at Durham, July 10th 1912, to Deborah Bennison born at Croxdale, County Durham, where she was baptised, February 17th 1891 and their son Norman was born, December 21st 1912, his birth entered into the registry 1st quarter (Jan/Feb/Mar) 1913 in error as Brabbam. In 1914 he and his family were living at 68, Attwood Terrace, Tudhoe Colliery, he left his employment as a rolley-man and enlisted December 9th 1915 at Ferryhill, for the duration of the war. William was posted the same day to the Army Reserve until he was mobilised, August 10th 1916, joining the 3rd Battalion Durham Light Infantry as Private 37766 as part of the coastal defences at South Shields and Jarrow where he was trained in readiness to depart for the front. He departed to France, December 1st 1916 and arrived the following day at the 35th Infantry Base Depot at Etaples, France, where he was posted to the 15th Battalion Durham Light Infantry and re-posted to the 10th Battalion, December 23rd, joining his regiment in the field December 26th 1916. Spring 1917 the battalion participated during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line where March 11th 1917 he was taken by the 42nd Field Ambulance to the 14th Dressing Station suffering from a minor ailment, re-joining his unit March 18th 1917. The division moved to the Arras sector where the Battle of Arras commenced April 9th until May 16th. They successfully crossed the Hindenburg Line system of barbed wire and trenches, taking prisoners as they progressed, although they only advanced little more than a mile. By August 1917 they had returned to the Belgian salient suffering heavy casualties during the Third Battle of Ypres (July 31st-November 10th 1917) during the Battle of Menin Road at Inverness Copse before taking over the front line.

Private 37766 William Brabban was reported as missing August 23rd 1917 his next of kin informed and extensive investigations began as to his whereabouts. He remained amongst the missing until April 12th 1919, while during the clearing of the battlefields of isolated graves and smaller concentrations at the request of the Belgian and French Governments, 4 unmarked graves were found at map reference J. 14. c. 1. 1. During the exhumation 3 Durham Light infantry were identified by means of a disc as 44038 H. W. Roberts, 37621 G. Douglas and 37766 Pte. W. Brabban, the fourth as an unknown British soldier, D.L.I. They were brought into Hooge Crater Cemetery for reburial with all reverence and honour by an Army Chaplain. Private 37766 William Brabban Durham Light infantry, aged 31 years at the time of his demise in 1917, is at rest, grave VII. E. 9. alongside his comrades Roberts (E. 7.) and Douglas (E. 8.).

After this find a letter was sent to the Officer In Charge, Infantry Records Office, York, by the War Office, London, which stated, “No. 37766 Pte. W. Brabban 10th Durham L. I. Reported missing 23/8/1917. With reference to the above casualty this soldier is now reported, “Killed in Action or Died of Wounds” on or shortly after 23/8/1917 which please accept and inform next-of-kin accordingly.” Although this sadly confirmed the death of their loved one his family must have taken solace in the fact that William had a Christian burial.

His widow received all monies due to him, a pension for herself and their son, his awards of the British War Medal, Victory Medal and the 2 discs found on William’s remains, sent to her at 68, Attwood Terrace, Tudhoe Colliery, County Durham.

William’s three brothers were eligible to serve during WW1, however, only the record of his elder brother Thomas Reece Brabban and younger brother George Brabban have been found.

Deborah Brabban [nee Bennison, aged 62 years] of 74, Attwood Terrace, Tudhoe Colliery, Spennymoor, County Durham died 12th October 1953 at Bensham Hospital Gateshead. Effects £983 18s 10d to Norman Brabban omnibus driver. Norman Brabban died aged 66 years in 1979, registered at Durham Northern.

In God’s safe keeping. Rest In Peace.

William Brabban is remembered at Spennymoor on S131.02 and S131.11

He is also remembered in The DLI Book of Remembrance page 222

The CWGC entry for Private Brabban

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk