The Brown Brothers

Lieutenant Colonel B. H. Brown
220th (12th York Rangers) Battalion

Lieut.-Col. B. H. Brown of the 220th (York County) Battalion played the role of Santa Claus last evening when the two battalions in question celebrated Christmas.

(Toronto Globe, 22 Dec 1916, 6)

Benjamin Hinchcliffe Brown was the son of retired Colonel F. M. Brown, a leading Orangeman, long-time member of the 12th (York Rangers) Regiment and veteran of the Riel Rebellion. A member of Loyal Orange Lodge No. 142, B. H. Brown was born on 15 October 1878 in Toronto. He worked as a printer and publisher with his brother, Francis Frederick Middleton Brown, who was born on 20 August 1885, and named in honour of their father’s commanding general in the 1885 Rebellion.

Both of the younger Browns followed their father’s example by joining the 12th Regiment. At the outbreak of the First World War, Benjamin and Francis had each served in the York Rangers for sixteen years. In April 1915, twenty-nine year old Francis enlisted as a captain in the 35th Battalion. Thirty-seven year old Benjamin initially joined the 127th as a major before receiving a command of his own in spring 1916.


Disappointed with lackluster enthusiasm in York County, an Ontario Tory activist identified the problem in a recruitment speech for the 220th:

Politicians, thinking of their own satisfaction, have told us that there is no need for conscription or national service in Canada, but I and a very large number of others think it is time the people of Toronto told the politicians that we must have a more equitable sharing of the burdens of this war in Canada.

The 220th eventually proceeded to England in late April 1917, where it was absorbed into the 3rd Reserve Battalion. Brown was struck off strength as surplus to requirements.

FFMBrownMeanwhile, Francis Brown, who had sailed for England with the 35th Battalion in October 1915, proceeded to the field with the 2nd Field Company Engineers in 1916. He worked as paymaster in France until May 1917 when he was granted leave to Canada.

In 1918 he was promoted to acting major and employed with the “D” unit of the Military Hospitals Commission of Canada (M.H.C.C.) and Canada Canadian Army Pay Corps. However, by November 1918, the strenuous work had led to a diagnosis of neurasthenia. The medical report stated:

This Officer refers to nervous condition as developing under strain of heavy work with District Depot and “D” Unit M.H.C.C.. Subsequently he has been worried over the question of his rank and this has aggravated his condition.

He died on 27 May 1950.

Digitized Service Files (LAC):
B. H. Brown-

F. F. M. Brown-

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