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Brian Brownscombe  

Servicenumber : 246170
Rank : Captain
Regiment : Royal Army Medical Corps
Unit : Attached to 2nd (Airborne) Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment
Date of Death : 24-09-1944
Age : 29
Grave : Plot 15. Row B. Grave 10.
Brian "Basher" Brownscombe was a son of Herbert Henry and Edith May Brownscombe of Watchet, Somerset.
He served with 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance. In July 1943 Brownscombe was in command of an Advanced Dressing Station for the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment during operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. The 3 gliders of the 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance all landed in the sea. All members of the crew and passengers got out to on the wings. The glider sank in a few minutes and it was found one soldier was in danger of drowning. Brownscombe stayed with this man and kept him afloat for five hours until they were both picked up by a boat. Brownscombe then tried to get put ashore, but when permissio was refused he insisted on helping in the treatment of the wounded and carried on without a rest until his task was completed. 
Brownscombe was awarded the George Medal on 30 November 1943 for his actions in Sicily.
During Market Garden he was again attached to South Staffordshires were he served as the Regimental Medical Officer. He left England by glider on 17 september 1944 and landed near Wolfheze. Soon after landing he and other medical personnel set up a Regimental Aid Post (RAP) into a farmhouse (Reijerscamp) to treat any landing casualties. Casualties were light and they soon moved to their pre-planned positions. (Red Berets and Red Crosses page 90)
On 19 september Brownscombe and his team set up an RAP in or near a building the British called The Monastery (the Municipal Museum), at the rear of the assault of the South Staffordshires in the area of the St Elizabeth's Hospital and the Museum at Arnhem. After the assault failed and the troops retreated to Oosterbeek, Brownscombe and some medics stayed behind with the wounded. They were then captured by the Germans. Like most medical personnel Brownscombe continued to treat wounded in the Arnhem area. He first worked in St Elizabeth's Hospital and after a few days he went to the Municipal Hospital at Arnhem. There he was killed by the German Karl Lerche. Niall Cherry wrote about the incident in his book Red Berets and Red Crosses (page 120): "A Battlefield atrocity was committed at the Municipal Hospital. Captain Brian "Basher" Brownscombe, the RMO of the South Staffordshires (and the previous section officer of 181 A/L Fd Amb) was murdered. Private George Phillips was working in the Municipal Hospital and remembers that one evening just after he had finished a stint of duty that Captain Brownscombe was killed. He was shot by a drunk SS NCO. George still can see him lying on the stretcher with a hole in the back of his head. He said they were completely knocked out by this and he was the only British medical officer in the hospital. The SS NCO responsible for the killing was tracked down after the war and stood trial as a war criminal."
The authors of the book By Land, Sea and Air, about the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, also wrote about the killing of Brownscombe (page 146): "On the evening of Sunday the 24th the British staff was visited by three German War reporters, who were trying to soften up the British wounded and staff for whom they bought spirits, to use them for propaganda purposes. This did not come off and afterwards Captain Brownscombe went outside with one of the reporters, a Dane who had joined the SS as a reporter. Another reporter for no apparent reason shot him from the back through the head. After the war, the United Nations War Crime Commission investigated the incident. They were able to track down one of the suspects in a prison in Denmark where he was imprisoned for collaborating with the enemy having joined the SS, and because he was involved in murdering another Dane earlier in the war. However, he had nothing to do with the murder of Captain Brownscombe apart from being a witness. He provided the name of the perpetrator and an account of what had happened. This man was caught in the early sixties and convicted."
According to the Roll of Honour published by the Society of Friends of the Airborne Museum (Jan Hey 1999 and 2011) Brownscombe was given a field burial in the grounds of the Municipal Hospital at Arnhem. He was buried by the Reverends Daniel McGowan and Alan Alexander Buchanan
The murderer of Brownscombe, Karl-Gustav Lerche, who served with the Waffen-SS Propagandastandarte 'Kurt Eggers', twice changed his name after the war in an attempt to avoid retribution, but he was finally caught and stood trial as a war criminal at Munich in 1955, where he was sentenced to 10 years' hard labour.
Picture: 23-09-2012
Sources: Website CWGC, Red Berets and Red Crosses, Website www.pegasusarchive.org, Website www.marketgarden.com, By Land, Sea and Air and Roll of Honour

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