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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

William Clayton Browne-Clayton.

Co. Carlow

An unusual picture taken circa 1889 of the Browne-Clayton family of Browne's Hill, Carlow, pictured on the steps of the stable on the grounds of  Browne's Hill House circa 1889. Starting at the bottom of the steps they are:-  Mary Caroline 1867-1955 Annette 1868-1948 Robert 1870-1939 (the heir) Margaret 1871-1938 Florence 1872-?? William 1873-1897 Lionel 1874-1946 Kathleen 1875-1961 Madeleine 1876-1953 Lucy 1876-1953 Julia 1881-1948 Caroline Zoe 1882-1957
Source: Michael Purcell 2013

William Clayton Browne-Clayton

Carlow Sentinel.

Saturday, October 9th, 1897.

Lieutenant William Clayton Browne-Clayton Killed In Action.

On Saturday last a feeling of profound sorrow was caused not only in this town and county but throughout every portion of her Majesty's wide dominions by the sad intelligence that some British officers had been killed in action at the North-Western frontier in India, including a gallant young Carlowman, Lieutenant William Clayton Browne-Clayton, second son of William Clayton Browne-Clayton, Esquire, D.L., of Browne's Hill, Carlow.

Very meagre particulars of the engagement have as yet been received, but it is probable that it was a hand-to-hand encounter, and it is certain that our young county man was in the forefront of the fight when cut down in the prime of youth, and when apparently a brilliant career was before him.

By early post on Saturday a letter was received from him from the seat of war, written in excellent spirits, and it was not until some members of the family reached the Carlow railway station, with the intention of proceeding to Dublin by early train, that they learned the sad news through the morning papers.

By every section of the community sorrow and sympathy find deep expression, and during the day the Church bell was tolled in honour of the dead.

The gallant young officer, whose death is everywhere mourned, had only been in the army a little over two years, having entered the Royal West Kent Regiment on May 29th, 1895.

[note added 2010 by Michael Purcell].

The following account of the battle during which William Browne-Clayton was killed was compiled by Philip Wilson,  transcribed by Grace Bunbury.

In September 1897 Lieutenant Colonel J.L. O' Bryen commanded the 31st Punjabis in the Expedition to Bajour and took part in various operations until he fell whilst gallantly leading it in the storming of the heights were the villages of Agrah and Gat are situated in the Mamund Valley on the 30th September 1897.

Winston Churchill in his book The Malakand Field Force invites the reader to examine the legitimacy of village-burning. A camp of a British Brigade, moving at the order of the Indian Government and under the acquiescence of the people of the United Kingdom, is attacked at night.

Several valuable and expensive officers, soldiers and transport animals are killed and wounded. The assailants retire to the hills. Thither it is impossible to follow them. They cannot be caught. They cannot be punished.

Only one remedy remains; their property must be destroyed. Their villages are made hostages for their good behaviour.

On the 29th September over a dozen villages in the plains of the Mamund Valley were destroyed, without a single loss of life. However on the 30th September events took a totally different course Brigadier General Jeffrey's 2nd Brigade attacked the fortified villages of Agrah and Gat.

These two villages occupied the strongest strategical position of any yet seen, perched on the lower slope of a steep and rugged hill, and mutually supporting each other they were protected on either side by high rocky boulders, great rocks lay tossed about, interspersed with these were huts or narrow cultivated terraces, covered with crops, and rising one above the other by great steps of ten to twelve feet.

Both villages had to be occupied at the same time and this compelled the Brigade to attack on a broader front in full view of the enemy, whose drums could be heard as they manned the rocky heights, their red flags plainly visible to the advancing army.

The Guides Cavalry on the left advanced as far as the scrub would allow them drawing fire from isolated skirmishers. The Guides Infantry was ordered to clear the spur to the left; the 31st Punjab Infantry supported by the 38th Dogras, the centre ridge between the two villages, while the Royal West Kent Regiment was meant to advance straight up the hill on the right of the Guides.

The fighting was at very close quarters and it soon became apparent that there were insufficient troops to undertake the task. A gap opened in consequence, between the Guides and Royal West Kents and this enabled the enemy to get round the left flank of the Royal West Kents, while the 31st Punjab Infantry was also turned by the enveloping enemy on the right.

The Royal West Kents eventually forced their way into the village of Agrah and encountered stiff enemy resistance in strongly occupied sangers. Under heavy enemy fire the Bengal Sappers and Miners commenced to destroy the village with explosives.

Meanwhile on the right flank the 31st Punjab Infantry commanded by Lieut. Colonel O’Bryen were exposed to severe fire from a rocky ridge on their flank. Their attack was directed against a great mass of boulders tenaciously held by the enemy. The two advance companies being hotly engaged at less than 100 yards, experiencing cross fire from their right flank.

Lieut Colonel O’Bryen moved swiftly from point to point directing the fire and animating his men who were devoted to him. As the enemy marksmen’s bullets struck the ground everywhere around his prominent figure he continued to live a charmed life.

'Two companies of the 38th Dogras' came up to clear their right. The gunfire, though accurate, could not shift the tribesmen from their cover. So Lieut Colonel O'Bryen of the Punjabis ordered a charge.

As O'Bryen rose to lead the 31st Punjabis in the charge towards their objective he was mortally wounded and was then carried to the rear. The casualty roll for the 31st (Punjab) Regiment of Bengal Infantry confirms he died of gun shot wounds to the abdomen.

Brigadier Jeffreys ordered the 7th Battery to engage the enemy from 600 yards to cover the withdrawal of the 2nd Brigade. The shells screamed over the heads of the Royal West Kents who were now clear of the hills retiring towards the guns. As the guns of the 7th Battery continued to fire, white puffs could be seen as the shells burst along the crest of the ridge, tearing up the ground adding great clouds of dust, whilst flames and smoke continued to rise from the burning village.

At length the withdrawal was complete and the 2nd Brigade returned to its camp five miles down the valley ..?.. job almost done. The Village of Agrah was well and truly destroyed whilst the village of Ghat had been severely shelled.

On hearing the news General Sir Bindon Blood proceeded to Inyat Kila with sizeable reinforcements. He arrived on the 2nd October giving orders for fourteen 12 pounder guns to arrive in time for a determined two Brigade strong attack on Agrah and Gat which was scheduled for the 5th October. As the British Army poured into the Mamund Valley, the tribesmen sued for peace on the 4th October.

After the action on the 30th September Lieut Colonel McCrae 45th Sikhs was sent up to command the 31st Punjab Infantry and Winston Churchill was attached as a temporary measure to the 31st Punjab Infantry to fill the vacancy arising from Lieut. E.B. Peacock receiving gun shots wounds to the thigh in the action on the 30th September. The total casualties for the day being 61 of which 8 being officer casualties: Lieut Colonel O’Bryen (killed) 2nd Lieut W.C. Browne-Clayton of the Royal West Kents (killed ) with a further six Officers of the Royal West Kents being wounded that day at Agrah.

Source: Michael Purcell & Turtle Bunbury website

Prayers for Lieutenant William Browne-Clayton.

[Sermon preached in St. Mary's Church, Carlow, on Sunday, 3rd October 1897, extracted from Dean John Finlay's notes 24 years later, in 1921, at the age of 80 years, Dean Finlay, one time Dean of Leighlin, was himself murdered by the Irish Republican Army following a raid on his home. G.B.]

Rev. Dean John Finlay delivered the following address on the death of 24 year old Lieutenant William Clayton Browne-Clayton, who was born at Browne's Hill House in 1873 and was killed in Afghanistan in September 1897.

A feeling of sorrow I know pervades this congregation to-day for the Browne-Clayton family - which has been plunged into grief by the loss of one of its members.

Oh! -- how hard it is for a father and a mother, how hard it is for the brothers and sisters to think of a young life full of health and strength and hope being taken so suddenly.

The anxious watching, day by day, for news, and then when it comes with its burden of sorrow, the hearts of the waiting ones are wrung with grief --such grief as only those who suffer can know its depth.

He fell doing his duty.

You, my brethren, I know do sorrow this day with those that sorrow - you give them your heartful sympathy ; but, brethren, stop not here.

Give them also your prayers that God may comfort and strengthen them; and when we kneel and use the words:

"We humbly beseech Thee of Thy goodness, O Lord, to comfort and succour all them who in this transitory life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity": and we also bless The Holy name for all Thy servants departed this life in Thy Faith, and fear.

When we use these words , I say, let us think of those who sorrow to-day, and let us commit them to God's care.

We are all one in Christ.

We are all bound to feel for one another, and to pray for one another.

May a feeling of closer union take possession of our hearts to-day, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, that we being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled with all the fullness of God.

And then out of that fullness may we give the sympathy that softens sorrow, and the prayer which will comfort those who mourn, with the comfort which comes from the Father of us all.

Source: Michael Purcell & PPP