BROWN Raymond Arthur

Private Arthur Raymond BROWN c.1921 – 1940

4456730 Private A.R. Brown, 10th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 20 May 1940 aged 19, during the German advance into France.  He is buried at Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux and commemorated on Evenwood War Memorial.[1]

Family Details

Raymond Brown was the son of Richard and Isabella Brown and lived at Copeland Row, Evenwood.  His brothers were Christopher (Kit), Jim, Russell and Richard and sisters were Vera, Violet and Nancy.[2]

Private Ray BROWN

Service Details

In April 1939, the Secretary of State for War appealed for recruitment to double the size of the Territorial Army from 13 to 26 Divisions.  Each battalion was asked to double its recruitment and provide a second line battalion.  As a result of this appeal:

  • the 6/DLI raised the 10th,
  • the 8/DLI raised the 11th and
  • the 9/DLI raised the 12th which became known as the 1st Battalion, the Tyneside Scottish which was attached to the Black Watch.

This was the organisation of the Division when it went to war in September 1939.[3]  The 10/DLI, 11/DLI and 12/DLI formed part of the 23rd (Northumbrian) Infantry Division.

The service record of 4456730 Private A.R. Brown 10/DLI has not been examined.  The Battalion War Diary has been researched and the following details were reported: [4]

12 April: To Catterick

18 April: Drafts received:

  • 5th Holding Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry [KOYLI] 100 Other Ranks
  • 8th Holding Battalion, Leicester Regiment, 31 Other Ranks
  • Durham Light Infantry [DLI] Infantry Training Corps, 58 Other Ranks
  • 3rd Holding Battalion DLI, 44 Other Ranks

25 April

07.00: Le Havre onto Gare Transatlantique

14.00: left train with 11/DLI

16.00: Languetot Station

1 May: 

The battalion was undertaking “pioneer duties” at Nuncq aerodrome, a couple of miles south of St. Pol, west of Arras, in the Somme region.

13 May:

Orders were received to guard various aerodromes against attack from German parachutists and the battalion was dispersed throughout the region to defend a dozen airfields.

17 May: 

New orders were received for the battalion to assemble at Lagnicourt Mercel.

19 May: 

New orders were given to withdraw and occupy defensive positions between Queant and Boisleux, to the south of Arras.  Companies took up positions along the north side of the railway as follows:

  • “A” Company: Boisleux – Boyelles
  • “HQ” Company: Boyelles – St. Leger
  • “D” Company: St. Leger – Ecouste
  • “B” Company: Ecouste – Queant
  • “C” Company was attached to 12/DLI [1st battalion, Tyneside Scottish] defending the line of the Canal du Nord.

The front was so big that it was considered impossible to hold.

19 May:

At 1530 hours, orders were received to withdraw to the north of Arras via Wancourt, Monchy and Thelus however 2 hours later, new orders instructed the battalion to withdraw to the Lattre area and take up a front between Bautry and Beaumetz.  Transport was provided to ferry troops from Mercatel to Lattre.

20 May:

The roads were congested with refugees and air attacks prevented the transport from returning to Mercatel until 08.30.  The battalion moved via Ficheux and Blairville to Lattre.  “A”, “D” and ½ of “HQ” Companies arrived in Lattre and took up the defence of the village.  However, the remainder of the battalion did not get through because it was attacked by German Armoured Fighting Vehicles and Infantry between Blairville and Ficheux.  Tanks attacked the second half of the column and caught units of all battalions.  The 1st Tyneside Scottish suffered heavily, half of 11/DLI were missing, “B” and “C” Companies 10/DLI were missing entirely including the following officers:

  • “B” Company: Capt. G.E. Robinson, 2/Lt. A.J. Smith and 2/Lt. J.H. Davis
  • “C” Company:  Capt. J.W. Kipling, 2/Lt. H. Moon and 2/Lt. R.A. Ede

Second Lieutenant T.A. Graham, “A” Company manned an anti-tank rifle and knocked out one tank and disabled another before being killed.  The remnants of 10/DLI withdrew to Beaumetz where they were picked up by transport and ferried to Lattre. Trucks returned to pick up the force until only 3 officers and 25 Other Ranks were left.  These men left for Avesnes and Frevent, to the west, but the German advance had already reached Frevent.  They were rescued by a lorry and were taken to Nuncq. 11/DLI withdrew to the Hermaville area and stragglers made their way to Lattre.  By 15.30 Avesnes was occupied by German forces.  At 18.00 the 10/DLI withdrew to Hermaville, “D” and “A” Company providing rear and flank guards Company.  10/DLI lost 28 Other Ranks killed in action, including Private R.A. Brown.  He was killed within a month of landing in France.  It is highly likely that Private Brown was killed during the German attack on the DLI column moving between Blairvile and Ficheux.  Others were missing included 2 other Evenwood men, Corporal Russell Bell and Private John Walton.[5]  It is recorded that Corporal Bell was captured at Villiers, 20 May.  There is a small village called Villers-les-Cagnicourt to the north of Queant on the extreme east of the line and another village called Villers-Sir-Simon to the north of Avasnes, to the west of the line near the route of the withdrawal.  If he was captured at this village then it would have been later in the day and after the action at Blairville-Ficheux.

21 May:

It was reported that the Germans entered Hermaville, 15 minutes after the DLI had left.  The exhausted British troops moved onto Cambligneul then Lens then Seclin.  4 Other Ranks were killed.

22 May:

The battalion arrived at Gondecourt and spent the next day resting.

24 May:

The 50th Division which included 6, 8 & 9/DLI passed through Gondecourt after defending Arras.

10/DLI withdrew via Meteren, Westoutre, Reninghelst, Krombeke, Stavele before reaching the coast at La Panne on the 31 May.  Rough seas prevented evacuation so the battalion marched along the dunes to Dunkirk and embarked onto several boats from the mole there.  On arrival at Dover, units were mixed up.


18 May 1940:  German Panzer Units took St. Quentin and Cambrai and farther north German 6th Army (Reichenau) took Antwerp.

19 May 1940:  Most of the German panzer forces halted in positions between Peronne and St. Quentin to regroup but some of Guderian’s troops pushed forward. Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division also made a small advance in the direction of Arras. De Gaulle’s 4th Armoured Division attacked around Laon. It made very good progress against gradually stiffening resistance but was ordered to retire before any real gains could be achieved. The main British forces were in positions along the Scheldt.

20 May:  The German armoured advance again made considerable progress. The most spectacular gains were made by Guderian’s 19th Corps. Amiens was taken in the morning and in the evening Abbeville was captured. Advance units even reached the coast at Noyelles. The Germans had a corridor of at least 20 miles wide from the Ardennes to the Channel.  The Allied armies in the north were cut off from the French forces south of the Somme.

10/DLI and 11/DLI (Tyneside Scottish) were attacked by German Panzers near Wancourt, off the Arras Cambrai road and at Neuville Vitasse, Ficheux and Mercatel.  There could only be one result and in the one-sided fighting.  The British units were badly equipped and poorly trained.  All 3 battalions suffered grievous losses.

 Burial: Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux [6]

Private Ray Brown is buried at Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux which is situated on the D919 road heading south from Arras to Ayette. The cemetery is on the right hand side of the road, 9 kilometres from Arras, just before a crossroads with the D36 between Ficheux and Boisleux-au-Mont.  It was laid out by the Imperial War Graves Commission for WW1 burials and re-used in May 1940 for the burial of troops killed during the German advance. There are 136 burials and commemorations of the Second World War; 26 of the burials are unidentified and special memorials commemorate 39 soldiers whose graves in the cemetery could not be specifically located.

BROWN Ray Headstone


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission [CWGC]

[2] Family details from the late Nancy Horsman

[3] “The Faithfull Sixth” Harry Moses

[4] WO 167/733 details provided by John Dixon

[5] Private J. Walton may have served with 6/DLI as reported in a press article.  He was referred to in a postcard to home written by Corporal R. Bell while a POW.

[6] CWGC