Remembering Alexander Harvey, Frederick Brown & Robert Pitman

Posted on: 18, August, 2020

Alexander Harvey, Frederick Brown and Robert Pitman were all remembered by me last week on the British Army Ancestors Facebook page. William and Robert were family men who died serving their King and Country during the First World War. Frederick served during the Second World War and he survived but never spoke about his time in the army. I remembered him on the 15th August: VJ day.

GS/9959 Lance-Corporal Alexander Harvey

The photo I published is possibly the last photo that was taken of Alexander Harvey who would be killed in action on the Somme on the 13th July 1916 whilst serving with the 7th Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment. He is pictured here with his expectant wife, Annie, three children and mother, in what was possibly a parting photograph prior to his embarkation for France.

After his death, a single disc – probably one of two identity discs – was sent to Annie Harvey and she asked someone to respond on her behalf. “Mrs Harvey would be very much obliged if you can tell her if the body of her husband was found” wrote the correspondent. The fact that a single disc was returned suggests that perhaps Alexander had been found and buried, one disc remaining with the body, the other returned to the authorities. However, if he was afforded a simple burial, the grave must subsequently have been lost in the fighting as today he is is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

4864831 Pte Frederick Arthur Brown, 7th Leicestershire Regiment

One of my correspondents wrote, “The soldier is my auntie’s dad Frederick Arthur Brown . He was a Chindit and served in the 7th Leicestershire Regiment, rank private, army number 4864831. He contracted malaria, survived the war & died in the late 70s. He refused to go & collect his medals, saying ‘they know where I live if they want me to have them’ . After his death, my aunt Lil ( his widow ) applied for them herself. A lovely quiet man he was too . I only found this information out recently and was very surprised by it. Anyway, I hope it’s of interest to you.”

640 Sgt Robert Weston Pitman, 9th Royal Fusiliers

Robert Weston Pitman was killed in action on the 27th July 1915 whilst serving with the 9th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. His death probably occurred when the battalion took over trenches from the 11th Middlesex Regiment. A note in the battalion war diary reads, “one sergeant killed”.

The photo dates to about 1911 and shows Robert with his wife Emma (nee Hammond), eldest daughter Cecily and baby Gertrude. Another photo dating to August 1914 in Bournemouth was returned to Emma after her husband was killed. A note on the reverse reads, simply, “returned from France.” It may have been some comfort to his widow and, in later years, his grieving children, that he had carried their images with him during his time in the trenches.

Robert is buried in the Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension in France.

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