Roll of Honour

Captain

Alexander Russell Brown

Mentioned in Despatches

MA BSc

Alexander Brown was born in 1889 and brought up in Longriggend in Lanarkshire. He was the son of George and Agnes Russell Brown and his father was a colliery manager.

Image of Alexander Russell Brown

Alexander was educated at Airdrie Academy, where he was class dux, and then here at Glasgow University. He graduated Master of Arts in Classics and Mathematics in 1910, and Bachelor of Science in Pure Science in 1912.

As a Carnegie Research Fellow at Glasgow University, Alexander investigated the Absorption of Light by Inorganic Salts. The results were published in 1913 and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh at the age of 24.

Alexander also completed two courses of teacher training at the Glasgow Provincial Training College, later Jordanhill College of Education, now the University of Strathclyde. He qualified both as a teacher of mathematics and as a teacher of science in 1912, and was Science Master at Buckhaven High School in Fife from 1912 until 1914.

After war was declared, Alexander obtained a Lieutenancy in November 1914. He first went to France in August 1915 with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. His battalion, the 7th, fought in the Battle of Loos in September 1915 and suffered huge losses.

He was promoted to Captain in May 1916, and mentioned in despatches for gallant and distinguished conduct in June. He was wounded by a German bomb in July, but soon returned to the front line.

Captain Brown died at the Somme on the 17th August 1916, aged 27. His death is recorded in A Border Battalion, the history of the 7th and 8th King’s Own Scottish Borderers, as follows:

‘Captain A. R. Brown, who had been acting as a Company Commander for eleven months, was hit while carrying a stretcher to a wounded man, and, before he could be removed, was again struck by a shell and killed. The battalion thus lost an officer who by his coolness and level-headedness could ill be spared.’

His local paper, The Leven Mail, said of Alexander:

‘As a science master he had the gift of awakening the enthusiasm of young students in the subjects… and as a colleague he gained the highest respect and esteem of all his fellow workers, his naturally warm and genial nature drawing friends round him both in the school and among the public.’

A letter of condolence from the school’s headmaster to Alexander’s brother shows the high esteem in which he was held. He writes:

“Alexander’s colleagues here, his pupils, and their parents unite with me in deploring his early death.

Personally I shall miss him more than I can tell; he was so thoroughly able and willing to help in all details of work; entirely reliable and inspired by the highest sense of duty.

If he had been spared to continue teaching he would certainly have in due course occupied one of the best positions in the profession and left on the rising generations the mark of his strong and virile personality.”

Captain Alexander Brown is buried in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, France. His name is on the War Memorial in Buckhaven, and in Caldercruix Church.

His name appears both here on the Glasgow University Roll of Honour, and on the Roll of Honour of the Glasgow Provincial Committee for the Training of Teachers.

Alexander was very close to his elder brother Dr Charles Brown, a Glasgow University medical graduate, and to Charles’s wife Jessie. His brother was a GP in Kirkcaldy from 1912 to 1950, and Alexander's two nephews George and John both became GPs and joined their father’s medical practice. Alexander’s memory is kept alive in the family, his grave is visited, and descendants of both of Alexander’s nephews are here today.

Alexander’s family connection with this university continues. His great-great-nephew Fergus is a Glasgow University graduate and a staff member in the University’s College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences.

It is perhaps fitting to end with the epitaph on Alexander’s gravestone in France, which reads simply:

“A Distinguished Scholar.

A Brave Officer.

A Son Much Missed.”

Thanks to Clare Brown, Alexander Russell Brown's great-niece for contributing this biography.