The Rushden Echo, 16th October 1914, transcribed by Gill Hollis.
Rushden Officer at the Front - “Our Men Are Well Fed”
Germans Glad to be taken Prisoners - They Won’t Face Our Infantry
“Germans are Awful Cubs” - “Up to all sorts of Mean Tricks”
Major Browning, of the Queen’s Bays son of Mr. E.C. Browning, J.P., of Rushden House, sends home a most interesting letter from the front, from which we make the following extracts:-
Sept. 4th. We went by train from Havre to Maubeuge on the Belgian frontier, and stayed there about a day; we were not in touch with the Germans at once. During the battles of Le Mons and Le Catteau the four days fighting we were on the flank, and I saw a good deal of the fighting, only we were not actively engaged, lozing only a few men by shell fire. Poor Bushell who disappeared, we hoped that he was taken prisoner in a night attack after Le Catteau, in which the 11th Hussars had a few casualties. The charge of the second brigade at Mons was a ghastly mistake, and a useless sacrifice of life. They got into some wire and were enfiladed by maxims and every kind of thing, and did practically no good at all.
Sept. 4th The Germans leave everything in a most awful state of filth and dirt, and smash everything. Two or three days ago we billeted in a most beautiful chateau, and all the lovely things in it had been smashed.
Sept. 20th I have seen a good many German prisoners. They are as a rule very pleased to be captured. To-night we are in a clean house with the prospect of a clean bed and good dinner, tomorrow night it will probably be a ditch full of water.
Sept. 24th It was during the retirement that the affair of Nery occurred and that we took eight guns from the Germans. We had just got in in the dark, and put outposts. The order in the morning was to have one squadron saddles up, and the others standing to, at 5 a.m., it was a misty morning, and I had just gone down about 5 a.m. to look at my horses, when a most tremendous outburst of shell fire and maxims burst on my astonished ears. I was in a farm with the regimental head quarters, and the Battery (L Battery) were picketed about round the villages. I rushed out into the field, and for a moment could see nobody. The horses had stampeded. However, in a second or two I met Captain Springfield and Major Ing, and a few others, and together with about 100 men we proceeded to ride in the direction from which the firing came. There we saw our (L) Battery still firing but in a terrible condition. The road and Battery were simply plastered by shrapnel and bullets. It was some little time before we could see the enemy, and then at last we saw their guns about six or seven hundred yards off. Mr. Lamb with his maxims did most excellent work, getting into them in fine form, and together with our fire from the road drove them away from the guns. In the meantime the General (General Briggs) had come up, and standing up in the road, amidst a perfect hail of bullets, took in the situation, and sent the 5th Dragoon Guards round the other side of the village to threaten their flank. It was in this movement that Colonel Ansell was killed. Our artillery in the meantime had stopped, all the officers being killed or wounded. The last man to leave the battery was the Sergeant Major; he served one gun until the ammunition had gone. I personally saw and spoke to him in the road, and he then collected some of his drivers, with rifles, and helped us with rifle fire; I believe he has been recommended for the ‘V.C.’ The situation remained like this for some time. The Germans kept on trying to get their guns away, and we kept plastering them for I should say about two hours. Then the 4th Cavalry Brigade and also some infantry appeared, at which the Germans bunked, leaving their guns, and a considerable amount of dead and wounded, and about 100 prisoners. We heard afterwards that it was just as much a surprise to them, as to us, only unfortunately they saw us first. After that we retired in peace to Paris, and rested for one day, then we started off again, this time I am glad to say in the direction of the Germans, and not away from them.
This is a beautiful place, the valley of the Aisne, where we had been for about ten days taking our turn at the trenches and dodging German shells. The Germans are awful cubs, and up to all sorts of mean tricks. I personally saw them put some prisoners they had taken in front of one of their maxims, to prevent them being fired on themselves. They came on with bands playing and tootling horns; you never heard such a din, but they won’t in the majority of cases face our infantry who have supreme contempt for them, but we all have a wholesome respect for their artillery.
Our supply arrangements are wonderful, men being awfully well fed even right up in the trenches. This is just as well, as the country, having had the French and English Armies through it, is about played out as regards local supplies.
Sept. 27th. We are very pleased at Lamb getting the D.S.O.; he thoroughly deserved it; he and his maxim saved the day at Nery.
We have seen a good deal of the French Algerian Troops. They are funny looking beggars and the Spahis ride small ponies about fourteen hands high, and wear brilliant scarlet coats, most picturesque looking people.
My charger (Brune) had stampeded at Nery, due to my servant, but I found him next day with a man on his back, whom I quickly removed.
Sept. 28th. We have seen a good deal of the Foot Guards. They are magnificent, and I should say no regiment have done better than they in this campaign. We were with them yesterday, and they had just captured two Germans whom they had found in the middle of a haystack behind our lines. They had been left behind by the Germans to send information and had been in the haystack for fourteen days. They were only found by chance as some man went to fetch some hay, and found them comfortably ensconced in the middle.
I saw poor Springfield’s death in the papers to-day; he was a gallant soul, and the respect I always had for him was enormously increased by what I saw of him out here. He is a great loss, not only to the regiment but to the British Army.
The French Infantry, or a portion of them, go about in motor 'buses. The other day during a battle, I saw a motor 'bus arrive and wait round the corner whilst the battle waged, and then proceed on.
Rushden Echo, Friday 6th November 1914, transcribed by Greville Watson
Major James A Browning
Major J. A. Browning Killed in Action
With deep sorrow we have to record the sad fact that Major James Alexander Browning, second son of Mr. E. C. Browning, JP, and Mrs. Browning, of Rushden House, has been killed in action. He was 36 years of age. Only last week we published in our columns a portrait of Major Browning, and a fortnight before that we printed a most interesting letter which he had sent from the front to his friends; now it is our painful duty to announce that he has fallen a victim to the enemy. The deceased officer was, at the time of his death, in command of his regiment, the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays), the commanding officer (Col. Wilberforce) being at the time at home on sick leave, suffering from a severe attack of neuritis.
A Brave Soldier and a Keen Sportsman
Rushden profoundly moved A brilliant career prematurely ended
Major Browning had had a brilliant career in the Army, and his rapid rise in the profession of his choice was in earnest of still further advance had his life been spared. Born in the year 1878, he obtained his first appointment in 1898, his captaincy in 1901, and his majority in 1911. In 1900 and 1901 he was Aide-de-Camp to the Inspector-General of Cavalry in Great Britain and Ireland. He acted as Adjutant of the Queen's Bays from 1906 to 1909. He served in South Africa during the latter part of the campaign, being engaged in the operations in the Orange River Colony, the Transvaal, and Cape Colony, and he had the honour to receive the
Queen's Medal with five clasps.
The deceased officer was educated at Eton and Sandhurst College. A born soldier, he took his profession very seriously, and in every way he sought to qualify himself for the effective service of his King and country. He married Miss Lilian Brenda Fisher, daughter of Captain John Basil Fisher, and niece of Mr. W. Hirst Simpson, BA, CC, of Chelveston, the Town Clerk of Higham Ferrers, with whom she used to reside. The wedding took place at St.Mary's Church, Higham Ferrers. Major Browning leaves a widow and two sons, one aged eight years, and the other four. When the sad news of Major Browning's death became known at Rushden - on Tuesday evening - it caused profound grief, for the gallant officer was extremely popular with all who were brought into contact with him; and the utmost sympathy is felt for those who have suffered so sorrowful a bereavement.
It is a sad fact that two of Major Browning's cousins have met with their death in the present terrible war - Captain Charles Browning, late of Clapham Park, Bedford, who was killed at Mons, and Commander Bernard Pratt Barlow, who was drowned in the recent disaster to HMS Hawke.
The Sad News
The first intimation of the sad fate which had befallen Major Browning was conveyed by the War Office to his wife, who resides at "Stoneycroft," Aldershot, in the form of a terse telegram, which she received as late as eleven o'clock on Monday night. Mr. and Mrs. E. C. Browning have been staying for a time at Hove, Brighton, and they have arranged to leave on Tuesday for Rushden House. On Monday afternoon Mrs. E. C. Browning received from the front a postcard in which Major Browning stated that he was quite well. It was on Tuesday morning that Mr. and Mrs. Browning received the painful intelligence that their gallant son had met with his death at the hands of the enemy. No details have, up to the time of writing, been received, but it is known that since Saturday, Oct. 24th, the late Major had been in command of the Queen's Bays, during the absence of the Colonel, and that he was in command of the regiment - in Belgium - when he met with his death. He must have been one of the youngest commanding officers in the British Army, and this is in itself eloquent testimony of the fact that his undoubted capabilities were fully realised in high official circles.
It is noteworthy that he was the officer selected to represent his regiment - at that time stationed in South Africa - at the coronation of Edward VII. About two years after the declaration of peace in South Africa the Queen's Bays were recalled from that country and were for some years located at Hounslow. About two years ago the regiment was moved to Aldershot.
The deceased officer was
A Keen Sportsman
He was an excellent cricketer and polo player, but in this district he was best known as a frequent follower of the Oakley Hounds. Generally he had his leave in the months of October, November and December, and he always hunted from Rushden House, being the only red-coated follower of hounds in the district. After a heavy run he could often be seen leading his horse home, so considerate was he of the hunter which carried him. The horse with which he went through the South African campaign was brought to Rushden House.