PRIVATE BERNARD MANNING BROWNING
3RD OCTOBER 1918 AGE 30
BURIED: BELLICOURT BRITISH CEMETERY, FRANCE
This is a rather poignant inscription for an Australian soldier who was born in England in 1888 and only went to Australia in 1912 when he was 24. It was chosen by his wife Phyllis. She too was born in England although the couple married in Australia in 1913.
Browning volunteered in January 1918. There was no conscription in Australia; he must have wanted to go. However, January 1918 is quite late to be enlisting if you were someone who was keen to get to the war. This could be explained by his answer to the question on the attestation form - Have you ever been rejected for military service? Browning's answer is 'Yes - made fit by operation'. He had wanted to go, but he needed to undergo an operation before he could be considered fit enough.
Browning's inscription comes from Wordsworth's 'I Travelled Among Unknown Men' of which this is the first verse:
I travelled among unknown men,
In lands beyond the sea;
Nor, England! did I know till then
What love I bore to thee.
I don't think Browning regretted going to Australia. He must have liked it since he persuaded his older brother, James, with his wife and two children, to join him in the country in 1913. But when England was in danger he realised what he felt for the old country.
Browning was killed in action at Beaurevoir on 3 October 1918, six weeks before the end of the war. The news went to his wife in Australia and his family in England only learnt of his death through friends. His sister therefore wrote to the Australian Red Cross to ask if they could tell her how he had died and whether he had been buried. They were able to assure her that he had been killed instantly and buried properly but spared her the full details, which they had learnt from the stretcher bearer who was first on the scene:
"I saw the above (all of B Coy) and one other man whose name I think was Lionel killed by one shell near Beaurevoir about 7 am during the attack about 1/2 hour or less after we hopped over. I was stretcherbearing & was following up behind them and was not 8 yards from them. Browning (killed instantly) was hit through head, Clarkson (instantly) thigh to knee badly smashed and concussion, Sgt, Crockett (instantly) all over body, Lionel (instantly) head, Langley hit on left collar bone and the artery was cut he was the only one with any life and I tried to dress the wound and succeeded in stopping the bleeding but he was dead before I finished ... Browning, Clarkson and Langley were all late joined us at Cappy, first time in line."