THE enormous courage shown by Bert Brow in one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War is the kind of tale that inspired Boy’s Own story books.
Having lied about his age to the army recruiters because he was really too young to fight, the teenager from Comely Bank found himself in the most horendous situation during the Battle of Cambrai in France. That battle would go down in history as the one where tanks were first used in significant number, with the result that almost 100,000 lives were lost between the German and British sides.
The 19-year-old Bert could not have known at the time quite how devastating an impact the tanks were having around him. But with bullets and shells flying over his head he knew that he was risking his life as he scooped up his severely wounded comrade and carried him across No Man’s Land.
His brother in arms was too badly wounded to survive, but Bert did – and so too did the story of his gallantry, which earned him a Military Medal. But for how much longer?
This is a tale with the power to inspire future generations. Stories of great bravery from the Great War are perhaps not rare, but all deserve to be treasured.
There is a special power to Bert’s story to anyone connected with his family or the north Edinburgh community where he lived. Imagine local schoolchildren looking at a picture of the local lad who lied about his age in order to go to war and reading about how he became a hero.
The official record of his courage has been destroyed, presumed during the Blitz, and the medal itself has been lost in the intervening century. All that remains to tell the story is an ageing Court Circular and a yellowing clipping from the Evening News. These will not last forever. And then there is only the official record to record his story.
The honourable thing for the Ministry of Defence to do is amend their records and in doing so live up to those famous words: “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”