Serjeant Donald Forrester Brown was the first member of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to be awarded a Victoria Cross on the Western Front.
Born on 23 February 1890 in Dunedin, New Zealand – where he was a farmer – Donald volunteered for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) on 19 October 1915.
He joined the New Zealand Division in Egypt in January 1916 before he was sent to France with his unit – the 2nd Battalion, Otago Infantry Regiment.
Donald was awarded his Victoria Cross for his actions during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette – part of the Somme Offensive.
An extract from the London Gazette, dated 14th July, 1917, records the following:-
"For most conspicuous bravery and determination in attack (south-east of High Wood, France, on September 15, 1916), when the company to which he belonged had suffered very heavy casualties in officers and men from machine gun fire. At great personal risk this N.C.O. advanced with a comrade and succeeded in reaching a point within 30 yds of the enemy guns. Four of the gun crew were killed and the gun captured. The advance of the company was continued until it was again held up by machine gun fire. Again Serjt. Brown and his comrade, with great gallantry, rushed the gun and killed the crew. After this second position had been won, the company came under very heavy shell fire, and the utter contempt for danger and coolness under fire of this N.C.O. did much to keep up the spirit of his men. On a subsequent occasion in attack, Serjt. Brown showed most conspicuous gallantry. He attacked, single handed, a machine gun which was holding up the attack, killed the gun crew, and captured the gun. Later, whilst sniping the retreating enemy, this very gallant soldier was killed."
Donald is buried in the CWGC Warlencourt British Cemetery, France.
Credit: J.R. Byrne, New Zealand Artillery in the field, 1914–1918, Whitcombe & Tombs, 1922