Thomas Brownrigg

Thomas's name as it appears on Southampton's Memorial Wall

Thomas’s name as it appears on Southampton’s Memorial Wall

Date of birth: 29th July 1889
Place of birth: Dublin
Service No.: TBC
Rank: Lieutenant
Regiment / Division: Royal Air Force
Battalion: 37th Training Depot Station
Died: 21st August 1918 aged 29 years
Death location: In the sea off Southbourne, Hampshire


Life before the War
Thomas was born in Dublin on 29th July 1889 to Joseph (1859 – 26/04/1927) and Annie Teresa Brownrigg (nee Murphy 1864 – 1931).  His parents were married in Cork in 1886.  There was a probate for Thomas’ father dated 17th May 1927, leaving effects to Annie.

Thomas’ siblings were:

Joseph Augustine (1887 – 1910)
Margaret Mary (1893)
William Xavier (1896 – 1964)
Arthur Christopher (05/01/1898 – 1976)
Eleanor J (1899 – 1931)

There is a WW1 Medal Card for William showing that he first served as Private PS/2187 in the Middlesex Regiment and then as a Second Lieutenant in the East Lancashire Regiment.  He also had this rank in the 12th Hants (Soton) Battalion of the Home Guard in WW2, serving from 1st February 1941.

Arthur’s WW1 Medal Card shows that he first served as Private 06949 in the Army Ordnance Corps and then as Second Lieutenant in the Durham Light Infantry.

Arthur married Dorothy L Harris (1898 – 1963) in Southampton in 1928.

On the 1901 Irish Census Thomas is living with his family at 2 Finglas Road, Glasnevin, Dublin.  Thomas was educated at Belvedere College, Dublin.

The 1911 English Census show that Thomas’ mother is living with her daughters Margaret and Eleanor at 18 Waterloo Road, Southampton. William is a church student at St Joseph’s, Eskdale Avenue, Chesham.

On the 1911 Irish Census there is a Thomas Brownrigg, of the same age and birthplace, who is working as a professor at St Colman’s College, Fermoy, County Cork.

On his service papers for the Royal Flying Corps it states that in 1913 Thomas was a law student at The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, London.  These papers also state that Thomas had knowledge of French and Military Law.

When Thomas died his parent’s were living at Highcliff House, Highcliff Avenue, Cedar Road, Southampton.

Military History
Thomas enlisted as a Private 3151 into the Inns of Court O.T.C. at Lincoln’s Inn, London on 1st April 1915.  On his Attestation papers he originally put his address as ‘St Edmunds College, Ware, Hertfordshire’, but this was crossed through and his parent’s address was written instead, so he may have taught at the College.

Thomas applied for an appointment to a Temporary Commission on 31st May 1915 and he was appointed to Temporary 2nd Lieutenant to the 15th Battalion Middlesex Regiment on 20th June 1915.  On 14th May 1916 he transferred to the 13th Battalion Middlesex Regiment.  He served in France until 14th February 1917 when he joined the Royal Flying Corps as an Observer and was sent to England for training.  Whilst in this service Thomas achieved qualifications in Aerial Observation and Aerial Gunnery.  There was a constant appeal for volunteers from the Army to join the RFC.  Many men were transferred temporarily and usually worked as Observers but some soldiers were selected to train as pilots.  The training usually took place in the UK.

The following promotions were included in the London Gazette:

Dated 12th June 1917:
‘Royal Flying Corps Flying Officers (Observers). — 23rd May 1917:– Temp. 2nd Lt. T. Brownrigg, Midd’x R., with seniority from 15
th Feb.1917, and to be transfd. To Gen. List.’

Dated 31st August 1917:
‘Royal Flying Corps The undermentioned temp. 2nd Lt., Gen. List, to be temp lt. 1st July 1917: — T. Brownrigg’

Dated 16th July 1918:
‘Royal Air Force Flying Branch. The undermentioned Lt (Observer Officers) to be Lt (A & S.):– T. Brownrigg’

The initials ‘A & S’ refer to ‘Aeroplane and Seaplane’.

On 6th April 1918 Thomas transferred to ‘28 Wing’ of the Royal Air Force and on 22nd June he was stationed at 16 Training Squadron, which was formed in the 7th Wing at Beaulieu on 15th December 1915. The Squadron moved to Yatesbury and 28th Wing on 30th October 1917 and disbanded into 37th Training Depot Station on 15th July 1918.

The following extract from the “War Book of Gray’s Inn” (privately published in 1921), is reproduced by kind permission of the Masters of the Bench of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn:

‘LIEUTENANT THOMAS BROWNRIGG was educated at Belvedere College, Dublin, and was admitted as a student at Gray’s Inn in 1913.  In 1915 he joined the Inns of Court O.T.C. as a private, and was gazetted Second- Lieutenant in the 15th Middlesex Regiment, with which unit he served in France from May 1916 to February 1917, when he joined the Royal Flying Corps. He served in France as a pilot for nine months, being shot down twice in one day.  He returned home to recover from his injuries, and was then engaged in instructional work in England, where he was drowned when flying on active service on the 21st August, 1918.  His machine crashed during foggy weather in the sea off Southbourne.  He was one of three brothers, all with meritorious war records.  He was twenty-eight years of age.’

Thomas was awarded the 1914 -1915 Star, the Victory and British War Medals.

Thomas is buried at the Southampton Old Cemetery.  Grave reference 181 D.48.  This cemetery is on the Common and was made in 1846 under Act of Parliament.  It contains 99 Commonwealth war graves of the 1914-18 War, a plot of 21 1914-18 War Belgians and 15 Commonwealth war graves of the 1939-45 War.

Thomas Brownrigg's gravestone at Southampton Old Cemetery

Thomas Brownrigg’s gravestone at Southampton Old Cemetery

Thomas is also remembered on the War Memorial of Belvedere College, Dublin and on the 1914 – 1918 War memorial at the Gray’s Inn Chapel.

Researcher: Jackie Chandler
Published.: 4th June 2014
Updated: Insert dates here

The following information was provided by a member of the public –  C Olding, but has not been verified:

Arthur Christopher Brownrigg s Joseph m Dorothy Lilian Harris d Samuel 9 April 1928 St Edmund’s RC church by Fr Bernard Lindsay.
Witnesses William Xavier Brownrigg and Winifred May Harris.
William Xavier Brownrigg m Lindsay Brenda Williams Drove on 23rd December 1926 also at St Edmund’s by Fr Bernard.
Witnesses Annie Teresa Brownrigg and Jessie Drover.

St Edmund’s Catholic magazine mentions in its monthly magazine:
1. William public school btn June 1915, October 1916 2nd Lt, Dec 1916 wounded.
2. Arthur June 1915 AOC.
3. Thomas May 1915 OTC, August 1915 commission in 15th btn Middlesex regiment.

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