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King Alfred PH
The King Alfred Public House, Lisson Grove, Marylebone, London, where my grandfather was the landlord and my dad and his brother and sister were all born in the 1920s.

Far East POW Diary
Illustration by Dan Brown in his Far East POW Diary, December 1941 - December 1943

Snow Hill Station, Birmingham
The Clock, Snow Hill Station, Birmingham, where my mum and my dad first met.

My mum and dad (to be)
My mum and dad (to be), Winifred Doreen née Pearce and Daniel Ralph Brown, Sheerness, 1947

My mum and me
My mum and me in the sea at Sheerness, Isle of Sheppey, Kent, 1954

The Betrayal

No Betrayal

When I started researching my family in 1997 I knew the names of only four of my eight great grandparents. Today I know all eight of them, indeed I know all 16 great grandparents and 25 of my 32 2 x great grandparents.

My grandad and grandma Pearce had both died before I was born but I knew all of the brothers and sisters of my grandma Elsie Pearce née Raybould, and most of their children. These families provided aunts and uncles to look after me, and cousins to play with and spend time with.

I had been given three items that I knew were important and wanted to find out about. First, a sheaf of papers, some no more than scraps, collected by my father's sister and given to me by my cousin's wife. The most intriguing item was a copy of an Attestation of a Daniel Vousden into the Ninth Regiment of Lancers at Maidstone Barracks in 1852. Who was he? Second, a postcard from Chicago dated 1909, addressed to my great grandfather John Raybould in Cradley, "Old England", opening "Dear Cousin" and signed only "Maria". Who was she? And third, my father's wartime diaries and other papers, detailing his capture and enslavement by the Japanese in the Far East in 1942. What else could I find out about this time in his life?

I am pleased to say that I have answered these questions and many more. In fact I have discovered more than I ever thought posssible. Moreover, I have recorded many lives that may otherwise have vanished and so I believe I have marked their passing and not betrayed them.

From 'The Betrayal' by Brian Patten quoted in A Woman Unknown, Voices from a Spanish Life, by Lucia Graves.
Family Jigsaw

Ancestral Homes

The Black Country in the Midlands of England and London/Kent are my two ancestral homes but it was Cradley in the Black Country where I was born and brought up.

London came to the Black Country in 1945 when my father Daniel Brown was demobbed from the RAF in the Midlands. He had not much liked living in Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent before the War and so he did not return to live there again.

He lodged in Birmingham with the parents of his wartime air force mate, Fred Pugh. Fred's wife Lil worked in a Birmingham factory with a Cradley girl Winifred Pearce and a blind date for Dannie and Winnie was duly arranged under the clock at Snow Hill Station. Dannie stayed here after he married Winnie in September 1946 and I came along in 1950.

My eight great grandparents and me

My father's parents were Robert John Brown (son of Robert BROWN and Elizabeth Esther SPRINGALL) and Agnes Minnie Lucy Vousden (daughter of Daniel VOUSDEN and Agnes TURPIN). My mother's parents were Naaman Pearce (son of Charles PEARCE and Louisa PARTRIDGE) and Elsie Maria Raybould (daughter of John RAYBOULD and Mary Ann ATTWOOD).

In the jigsaw of my family (above left), I am in the centre and the eight pieces around are my eight great grandparents.

Childhood Holidays

My grandad and grandma Brown were well known to me, and their other four grandchildren were my only first cousins. However, I knew little or nothing about earlier generations of this side of my family, apart from a doubtful story told us by grandma Brown (née Vousden) that we were descended from Dick Turpin, the highwayman. I remember my grandad very well, but he died when I was six years old. Grandma survived him by eleven years.

I spent most of my childhood holidays in Sheerness, on the Isle of Sheppey, where grandad and grandma had moved to live in the 1930s. They were East Enders who had eventally left London for Kent. I knew that my dad and his brother and sister had been born in a pub in north London, and I had looked around Lisson Grove, Marylebone where the King Alfred PH had once stood, on several occasions during the 1970s whilst studying nearby at Central London Polytechnic. More recently I have tracked down the pub, met someone who knew my grandad while he was the landlord in the 1920s, and found out what happened to it.

My four cousins all lived on the island, until 1960 when my dad's brother and his family moved to South Wales. Cousin Bill lived a pebble's throw from Sheerness beach until his untimely death in 2008. After 1960 we spent some holidays in Bridgend, Glamorgan and there were beaches nearby at Porthcawl and Ogmore-by-Sea.

There were not many children in Cradley who had a seaside holiday every year. I was very lucky in this and many other ways.