A forgotten hero: From the mines of Brownhills to the deserts of Egypt

As I’m getting g back on the blog bike (metaphorically and in reality) I’m picking up speed and getting down to more regular articles here which I think readers will appreciate.

Today I have an absolute gem from reader Isaac Marklew-Brown who’s researched and beautifully documented the story of a local soldier and hero of the late Victorian/pre Great War era that I had absolutely no clue about.

The Chester Road, Brownhills – where Thomas more than likely grew up to go on to great things. Imagery from Apple Maps.

This lovingly written, beautifully illustrated work lights up the life of a clearly brave and dedicated soldier in a time we don’t really think about – the many campaigns of the Victorian era are now fading into history, but in the service of The Empire many servicemen went to fight like Thomas Marklew, many giving their all.

I’m always more than happy to feature reader articles here and I’m very keen to cover the stories of local service – wherever it was. We have featured many such stories here over the years from Cecil Arthur Burton MM to the fascinating story of an Anzac from Norton Canes, to the more personal recollections of the toll of war. If you would like to add to the body of such work here pleaser do get in touch.

My huge thanks to Isaac who’s been very patient in waiting for me to get my backside into gear and post this up, and for shining a diligent torch into a corner of local history I doubt many folk knew about.

Anything to add? Please feel free: Comment here, mail me BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or tap my shoulder on social media.

Isaac wrote:


Thomas Marklew – By Isaac Marklew-Brown

Thomas Marklew was born in Brownhills on the 23rd March 1878 to Joseph and Mary Marklew. For a coal miner living on Chester road his life was about to get significantly more interesting and by the time of his death we would have travelled thousands of Miles with the British Army in their Imperial conquests and fought in many hard battles. 

He would go from seeing Staffordshire to the rich deserts of Egypt and the vast Mountains of South Africa. 

At the age of 18 years and 2 months he decided that the Mines of Brownhills and surrounding areas were not the best place to earn a living. He decided to Join the Grenadier Guards on the 23rd of May 1896 in London. 

After Thomas had trained he was sent to Gibraltar before embarkation to Egypt. He was part of the 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards who took part in General Sir Horatio Herbert Kitchener’s campaign for the re-conquest of the Sudan. After landing from river steamers at Khartoum they fought at Omdurman on 2 September 1898. At Omdurman Kitchener defeated the army of Abdullah al-Taashi, the successor to the self-proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad. Kitchener was seeking revenge for the 1885 death of General Gordon. Marklew was among the Grenadier guards who annihilated the Dervish forces. 

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

Here are the Records which show Thomas Marklew’s Participation in the Sudan. 

The following photos are from Egypt and the Sudan and are of Marklew’s unit the 1st Battalion the Grenadier Guards. 

Images generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

It would be only one year later in 1899 that Thomas Marklew would yet again be in heavy fighting. Thomas was now In the 3rd Battalion which sailed from Gibraltar in the Ghoorkha on 25th October 1899, and arrived at the Cape about 15th November. Along with the 1st and 2nd Coldstreams and the 1st Scots Guards they composed the 1st or Guards Brigade, under Major General Sir H E Colvile. From the Newspaper archives it has given a useful insight into this Brownhills man’s time in the Boer war and the reception he received after. In the letter we see how he says no man has ever received such heavy fire, how different that would be for the majority of young men in 1914-1918. 

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

These are Marklew’s records or participation in the boer war. His brother Joseph Marklew fought with him through the Campaign.

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

The Following pictures are of the 3rd Battalion the Grenadier Guards where Thomas saw a great amount of action. The soldier in the picture is not him although identical clothing.

Images generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

These are Thomas Marklew’s Service records which have been of enormous help.

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

Thomas Marklew’s Military career ended on the 22nd August 1908 after he had completed his 12 year service. I think it’s fair to say that this ex coal miner had seen his fair share of action for the British Empire and so far I have not seen any evidence of him in the First World War. It is clear to see why.

However, During the Second World War Thomas was an Air Raid Precautions Warden so he still was getting involved in some sort of Military involvement.

After his service he resided in Dorset with his Wife Annie Major Cluett and he worked in a Prison as a Guard/Warden Officer. He is buried in Motocombe Near Shrewsbury. He died on the 26th November 1953 after an action packed and exciting life in the British Army.

I hope this story does him Justice even though there is so much more about him. A local man who at the time in Brownhills was very respected.

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13 Responses to A forgotten hero: From the mines of Brownhills to the deserts of Egypt

  1. Joe says:

    Well done Isaac Marklew Brown, this is fantastic stuff!

  2. Glynis Parkes says:

    thank you for this wonderful research.

  3. David Marklew says:

    I wonder if it’s any relation, fascinating read. Thank you.

    • Isaac Marklew-Brown says:

      Hi David
      All Marklew’s are related I believe.
      Around 1596 the name changed from Marshall to Marklew
      And from that point there on the Marklew name was created.
      So there is a relation for you, you will share some Marklew blood.
      It may be a close relation or a very distant one.

  4. Steve says:

    Is Marklews close named after this gallant man

    • Isaac Marklew-Brown says:

      To be Honest Steve I am unsure, due to the large presence of Marklew’s in the
      Area I am not certain it was specifically him. Same with the Marklew Pond close by.

      • BrownhillsBob says:

        Marklews Pond is a former lay quarry. The Marklew family held the farmland there and are /said/ to have operated the last Tommy Shop in the UK from there, although evidence for the claim is scant.

        I think Marklew Close was named after a local councillor. That was certainly the tradition at that time, with Waine, Bailey and Humphries houses being named after councillors.

        Cheers
        Bob

      • BrownhillsBob says:

        There was indeed a councillor Daniel Marklew in BUDC during the war, a school teacher as far as I can ascertain. Let me dig more.

        Cheers
        Bob

        • Walsall Obs. 28 Sept 62

          SERVED FOR 27 YEARS ON COUNCIL

          One of the best known residents in Brownhills and second longest serving Councillor of Brownhills Urban District Council, Councillor Daniel Marklew died in Walsall Manor Hospital on Monday four days after an operation. He was 69. Councillor Marklew, whose home was 67, Great Charles Street, leaves a wife, one son and daughter.

          It appears he was headmaster of the Central Boys School for some years and a Trustee of the Memorial Hall. He was an independent councillor, and seems to have held a lot of respect

          Cheers
          Bob

  5. Reg Fullelove says:

    hi bob youare correct dan was a teacher counciller trusstee and a well respected man in brownhills he was a peoples man as isi the name marklew in brownhills its my priver ledge to say ve known the families well bless them

  6. Reg Fullelove says:

    re brownhills station any one remeber mr steers he station master he was anther prominent of old brownhills life my dad used to tell me the station house was once the only house in brownhills the rest were in ogley hay and stonell and jos harding shop was in three parishes what did you say like father like son ope your keeping well i have had lap top probles

  7. Adam says:

    Very nice Isaac MB, you are obviously very passionate about the British army’s
    History and preserving all that is stands for. Keep it up! I look forward to more of these.

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