William Edmund Brown


The oldest of the four Brown boys, Uncle Bill (William Edmund) was conscripted and joined the Royal Canadian Army.  The fact that he didn’t volunteer was always a bone of contention with Gpa Mike. Those that were drafted were called “zombies” by those that had volunteered.

By the autumn of 1944, Canada’s Minister of National Defence became convinced of the need for conscription. Higher-than-expected casualties on the front, combined with a large commitment to the RCAF and the RCN, left the Canadian Army short of manpower. 22 November 1944, it was announced that conscripts would be sent overseas. A total of 12,908 were actually sent abroad: this group were unaffectionately known as “zombies.” Uncle Bill was one of the 12,908 conscripted Army men sent overseas. I still hear my Grandma Betty refer to Uncle Bill as a “zombie.” When Bill returned home, he was very ill with tuberculosis and stayed at the Muskoka Cottage Sanatorium (Gravenhurst), the first TB sanatorium in Canada.

Best story: by luck in 1945, they bumped into each other in Holland at a bar! One of my favourite memories Gpa shared with me about the War was the time he was in Holland (1945) having a beer with some of the local ladies. Someone came up behind him and slapped him across the back. Not knowing who it was, Gpa jumped out of his chair and spun around, fist cocked. It was his oldest brother Bill! Neither one knew the older was in Rotterdam – what are the chances?

In Gpa’s little book, he has written Uncle Bill’s mailing address as:

Pte. Brown, WE
#33 C.A.(B).T.C, A Coy., 2 platoon
Lansdown, Ottawa

The second line means No. 33 Canadian Army (Basic) Training Centre, A Company, second platoon. The fact that this entry is in his journal confuses me conscription didn’t kick into real force until 1944…. and the last entry in my grandfather’s journal is July 25th, 1943. I tried for YEARS to get a portion of Uncle Bill’s war file but gave up.  I think it is time to try again.  I was able to determine that Uncle Bill’s date of enlistment is 14 September 1942: so this adds up and explains why his contact information is in the book.  But it is odd that his contact information in Gpa’s journal was his address while at basic.  I also have been able to determine that Uncle Bill’s date of discharge was 15 March 1946.  I am going to have to do some more digging because there are too many gaps.

Only last year did I come across some new info re: Uncle Bill due to information on the back of a photo of all things!  He served with D Coy., Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada. Formerly known as the Highland Light Infantry of Canada, the unit merged with the Royal Scots Fusiliers of Canada. (The latter regiment was reorganized after the Second World War as the 54th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RCA. Years later it was designated as infantry once again and took back its old name, Royal Scots Fusiliers of Canada.)