A Forgotten Hero
from Belsen Prison Camp
One of the plaques on Darlaston War
Memorial lists the names of the Darlastonians who died
in the Second World War. It includes the 93 people who
died in the armed forces, and 12 civilians who died
locally. Some of their stories would be terrible indeed.
It's hard to image their bravery, suffering and pain.
The story of one man, Fred Brown,
is outstanding. He was a brave man, who died as a result
of his time in a German prison camp. He returned to
Darlaston with a fatal illness, and died three months
later. His name is not included on the War Memorial.
Fred Spellman Brown was the son of
Mr. and Mrs. Brown who lived at 46 Heathfield Lane,
Darlaston. He was educated at Old Church School and
played for the old boys' football team. On leaving
school he worked at Garringtons, and stayed there until
he was 23 years old.
He joined the Royal Artillery and
served for seven years in India, then went to France at
the outbreak of war. After evacuation from Dunkirk he
served in Iraq, and parts of Asia. Fred was one of the
first men chosen to join the newly formed Eighth Army,
in which he served as a gunner.
At the beginning of the war, Libya
was an Italian colony, and the strategically important
city of Tobruk became the site of a number of battles
between the Allies and Rommel's Panzer Army. Fred went
to Tripoli with the Eighth Army, but on 30th May 1942
was taken prisoner by the German Army, near Tobruk, and
handed over to the Italians. When Italy surrendered, he
was given back to the Germans and ended-up in the
dreaded Belsen prison camp.
He endured terrible conditions at
Belsen, where he was inoculated with tuberculosis, which
eventually took his life. In the camp he was forced to
work on the railways, manhandling heavy sleepers, whilst
a sick man, suffering from the terrible effects of TB.
Before his imprisonment he was a healthy man weighing 14
stone 4 pounds, but due to his illness and the terrible
conditions at Belsen, his weight fell to just 6 stone 6
He was repatriated on 1st February,
1945, and discharged from the army in June of that year,
as a sick and dying man. He returned to Darlaston, but
refused to talk to his family about his ordeal, although
on occasion he did open-up to friends.
Fred died on Wednesday 19th
September, 1945, at the age of 39. He left behind his
widow and a four year old son. His funeral was held at
St. Lawrence's Church, Darlaston, where a colour party
from the Royal Artillery carried his coffin. Fred is
buried at James Bridge Cemetery.
He was a brave man, a thoughtful
man, who suffered dearly, and wouldn't burden his family
with his trials and tribulations. He was a hero in every
sense of the word, and should never be forgotten.