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Dr Robert Graham BROWN

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Major Manchester Regiment, British Imperial Forces 02 Apr 1887 7 Aug 1914 1 Dec 1916 3
Captain Robert “Graham” BROWN   
(1887 – 1945)
Family and early life

Robert Graham Brown was born in Brisbane on 2 April 1887, the eldest child of John Graham Brown and Amelia (nee Morris)1.  John Graham Brown, Robert’s father, was born in Lurgan, County Down, Ireland in 1860 and came to Australia in 1885.  He had been employed in railway work in Ireland and joined the railway department in Brisbane on his arrival.  (John G. Brown later became Traffic Superintendent and General Manager of the Northern Division of the Queensland Railway Department2.)

In 1885, the year of his arrival in Australia, John Graham Brown married Amelia Morris.  Amelia died in 1930 and John re-married in 1932 to Miss Mabel Lange Zillman, a music teacher. 

Robert Graham Brown used his second forename “Graham” and records pertaining to him usually refer to R. Graham Brown or Graham Brown.  On the Saint Andrew’s Honour Board he is listed as R. Graham Brown.  “Graham” will be the name used in the following story.

Graham had a younger brother, Leonard Graham Brown (b1888) and an older sister, Agnes Graham Brown (b1886).   His brother, Leonard Graham Brown who, incidentally, used L. Graham Brown as his name, is also listed on the Saint Andrew’s Honour Boards; his story has been written under separate cover.


Graham was educated at the Normal School, Brisbane and then at the University of Sydney.  In 1908 at 21years of age, Graham travelled to England with his friend, Charles William Blocksidge.   Charles was a well-known writer and published his works (including prose and verse) under the pseudonym William Baylebridge.  (Nine years later, R. Graham Brown became Charles’ brother-in-law on marrying his sister Constance Muriel Blocksidge.)  

Graham attended the London Hospital Medical College and qualified with a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians Diploma (L.R.C.P.), London and was admitted as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS, Eng.) in 1912.   

Following graduation, Graham continued his professional life as a Demonstrator of Anatomy, London Hospital Medical College, and as an Ophthalmic House Surgeon, Receiving Room Officer, Chief Clinical Assistant Surgical and Medical at Aural House and a Surgeon at the London Hospital.  

Commissioning and service

While in England, Graham enlisted and was commissioned on 7 August 1914 as a temporary Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), British Expeditionary Forces (BEF)3.   He served as an Ophthalmic Specialist with the RAMC.   From Graham’s British Army Medal Rolls Index Card it appears he disembarked on 15 August 1914 for the “Egyptian Theatre” of war. 

Information about his service is very limited although in 1938 he was Honorary President of the Queensland Branch of the Old Contemptibles Association.  This would suggest that Graham served in France and Belgium with the BEF during the period from August to November 1914.  

The “Old Contemptibles” and the Mons Retreat4

Germany entered Belgium on 3 August 1914 and the British government declared war the next day.  A series of battles between German, Belgian and French Armies began on 4 August.  By 22 August 1914, four BEF infantry and one cavalry division were in France ready to begin fighting.  (It is assumed that Graham would have been with them.)

The Battle of Mons took place on 23 August and was the first major confrontation between British and German troops.  The Germans were intending to advance on Paris but the British stood in their way.  They repeatedly withstood attacks and the enemy described them as England’s “Contemptible Little Army”.  The name “Old Contemptibles” was henceforth proudly adopted by the BEF. 

Heavily outnumbered, the BEF was forced to retreat for almost 200 miles from Mons to the River Marne.  As they marched through southern Belgium and northern France, they were pursued by the German 1st Army and were often involved in rearguard actions.  The Battle of the Marne, which began on 6 September, ended the retreat.

No further information on his service was available at the time of writing.

A notice in the The London Gazette (Supplement #29415 of 23 December 1915, Page 12803) reported Robert Graham Brown was again made a temporary Lieutenant on 1 December 1915.  He was later promoted to Captain but relinquished his commission on 1 December 19165.

Post War

Following his de-commissioning, Graham Brown gained his Fellowship of the Royal Society of Medicine (Eng.) in the Laryngology and Otology Section in 19166.

Graham returned to Australia in 1916 and went into partnership with a Dr W. N. Robinson .  In 1917, he was boarding at “Montpelier”, now the United Services Club on Wickham Terrace, Brisbane8,9.

R. Graham Brown established a notable private practice as an Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon.  His private practice rooms were at “Equitable Life Building” (formally known as “Preston House”) at 371 Queen Street, Brisbane.  “Preston House” was designed and built by his good friend, Lange L. Powell, a highly respected Brisbane architect.  Powell also designed the Masonic Temple, St. Martin’s War Memorial Hospital (in Ann Street not far from Saint Andrew’s) and numerous other notable buildings.   

In addition to his private practice, Graham also worked at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, as a Senior Honorary Surgeon at the Brisbane Hospital for Sick Children and at the Brisbane General Hospital.   

After his practice was well-established, Graham became President of the Oto-Rhino-Laryngology Section of the Australian Medical Congress in Sydney in 1929, and Vice-President of the Section Oto-Rhino-Laryngology Centenary Meeting, British Medical Association, in London in 1932.  He was a member of the British Medical Association and a Member of the Medical and Scientific Treatment Committee for the Queensland Cancer Campaign6.  Throughout his life he published a number of medical papers relating to his work and specialty.

Marriage & family

On Friday evening, 28 September 1917, the Rev. Dr Ernest N. Merrington married Graham and Constance (Connie) Muriel Blocksidge at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Ann Street, Brisbane10.  Constance was one of nine children to George Henry and Kate Blocksidge, of the well-known Brisbane real estate and auction house family of Blocksidge & Ferguson. (Her brother, William, was the friend Graham travelled to England with in 1908.)

Graham and Constance had a daughter, Edna, on 2 August 1918; she was his only child.   

Unfortunately, the marriage failed and Graham and Constance agreed to a separation on 9 September 1924.  The following years were marred with controversy and in 1931 Graham and Constance were divorced.  Graham travelled to the United States for the divorce and his re-marriage.  Mrs Marion Perry nee Griffiths from Brisbane became his wife in a ceremony conducted in Reno, USA11.

Graham and his wife, Marion, returned to Brisbane where they lived at Hillside Crescent, Hamilton.

Later life

Graham continued to be involved with memories of his service as he is reported in The Sunday Mail of 28 August 1938, page 3 as attending the Mons Veterans’ 12th Reunion in Brisbane: 

“A closer association between the Old Contemptibles and the British Imperial sub-branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Association was advocated by the honorary president (Dr R. Graham Brown) at the 12th annual reunion of the Queensland branch of the Old Contemptibles’ Association last night.


With medals proudly displayed, 17 Old Contemptibles attended the reunion and exchanged precious memories of the greatest rearguard action in history 24 years ago – the retreat from Mons.”

St John’s Cathedral association

Graham had a very strong association with St John’s Cathedral throughout his life and in the 1930s and 1940s he donated many art objects to the Cathedral in memory of family and friends.  Images of some of these artworks have been graciously provided by the Anglican Archives of South East Queensland and include the following:  

• A white marble bas-relief of Sir William MacKennal’s carving of Our lady in the Lady Chapel, St John’s Cathedral.  Given by Dr Graham Brown in memory of his mother Amelia Brown who died in 1931.

• A carving of St Martin of Tours by Mr Jack Muller to a design by William Bustard.  The sculptured figure is found high on the wall of St Martin’s House facing Adelaide Street and was donated by Mr Graham Brown.

• A set of windows in the north wall of the Lady Chapel were given by Dr Graham Brown in memory of his father, John Graham Brown who died in 1937.

Copies of pertinent correspondence was provided by the Archivist of Anglican South East Queensland Diocese, viz. correspondence between the St John’s Cathedral Chapter (12 December 1940) and a letter (14 December 1940) from Graham to the Archbishop, Rev’d John William Charles Wand, about his donation to the Cathedral in memory of Lange Powell12.  These letters and an image of the altar and triptych can be seen in the photo gallery of this website.  Graham’s letter to the Archbishop reads as follows:

Dear Archbishop,

It was good of you to take the trouble over the inscription and I thank you very much.  May we talk over the matter again?

I take this opportunity to wish Mrs Wand, your daughter and granddaughter and yourself, all the best of good wishes for Christmas and the coming year in which my wife joins me.

With kind regards,

Yours respectfully

R. Graham Brown

Graham Brown’s favourite past-times were art, music and gardening.  He lived in the Brisbane suburb of Hamilton for most of his life with his last address at “Camden” Toorak Road, Hamilton.  


It is known R. Graham Brown died suddenly13 while mowing his lawn in the garden at Toorak Road, Hamilton on Saturday 31 March 1945.  He left a widow Marion (his second wife), a daughter Edna Graham Brown, a sister Agnes and a brother Leonard Graham Brown.

Endnotes / Select bibliography

1. Birth index record #008658, Page 1749,
2. The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Jan 1915, p. 8  Trove NLA
3. The London Gazette, Issue #28873, 18 Aug 1914. Source: The Gazette, Official Public Record.
4. Radcliffe on Trent and the First World War, Retreat from Mons.
5. British Army Medal Rolls Index Card for Brown, Robert Graham. Source: The National Archives United Kingdom. 
6. Knox, Errol G., Medical Directory of Australia, 1935, 24th Edition, Sydney NSW.
7. The Sunday Mail, Sun 1 Apr 1945, Page 3. “Dr R. Graham Brown Dead”.
8. The Queenslander, 27 Feb 1930, p40.  Montpelier Article #22926190
9. Your Brisbane: Past and Present – United Services Club history.
10. The Week, Fri 5 Oct 1917, p 23 “Family Notices”. 
11. The Truth, Brisbane, 25 Oct 1931, p. 
12. Anglican Archive of South East Queensland, Correspondence from Dr R. Graham Brown dated 14 December 1940.
13. The Courier Mail, Wed 4 Apr 1945, Page 8.  Death notice.

With special thanks to Michael Rogers, Archivist, Records and Archives Centre, Anglican Church of Southern Queensland for information from the archives on Dr R. Graham Brown’s donations and contribution with respect to St John’s Cathedral and St Martin’s Hospital, Brisbane.

Researched and written by Miriam King, Brisbane.  August 2018 ©  Edits and new images May 2021©




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