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After Major G. Hamilton Browne found himself in London in 1908 in quite distressing circumstances, so it has been said, he decided to sit down and put his pen to paper, and write a series of what he called, "Campfire Yarns", a colloquialism which was as common in the Antipodes as Shakespeare was in England.
However, over time, the contemporary view is that his tales are "not to be believed", or a complete fraud, according to whose point of view is being put forward. There is no doubt that he lived in New Zealand, and fought in the Zulu Wars and later wars in South Africa, even serving with my second cousins Col. Arthur Durnford and Col Anthony Durnford.
However, when he sat down and penned his first "Campfire Yarns" he actually presented a very good account of the Maori Wars, in New Zealand. Perhaps his publishers looked for angles to ensure the books sold, and from the time they were released, until after his death, copious stories of his life were written. Not once, did he ever intimate he was involved in all the battles, particularly in New Zealand. That point seems to have been lost over time and less than 5 years after the release of his first book, he was dead from senile decay.
Not many however, ever it seems, searched in detail, for the truth, instead on many occasions, his fiction became fact. Those campfire yarns, were marketed as "With the Lost Legion in New Zealand" released in 1911 and "A Lost Legionary in South Africa" in 1912, followed by "Campfire Yarns of the Lost Legions" in 1913. He had planned to write another of his time in South Africa in 1891. The books sold for 12/6d.
Many who left England, became "lost" in another world thousands of kilometres away, did so for a reason. Often they boarded a ship as one name, and often disembarked with another. Family disagreements were a common factor.
Was Hamilton Brown
any different? He was in fact, from a very aristocratic Irish family. What was the catalyst that saw him travel half way around the world, and live in New Zealand and South Africa for more than 30 years?
George's reluctance to elaborate on his extended family, suggests some attempts at trying to distance himself from his relatives. At the time of writing his thoughts he was around 60, entering that period of his life, when old memories often become a bit clouded.
He married 1st January 1909, and afterwards stories were printed indicating he married a lady who pined the loss of her lover, in the Zulu Wars, whose life was saved by Browne. What a yarn, and it was believed. She would have been 10 year old at the time of the Zulu Wars, not the age to have a lover!
Researching Browne's family has been quite an eye-opener.
There are still some puzzling aspects of his life, time to pose questions, and look for answers. In his book, "With The Lost Legion in New Zealand", he paints quite a romantic picture of his character's early life. Just how much of that swash-buckling duel battling, hero's early life was based on Browne's own life? The answer is quite a lot.
As a Family History researcher, we look for facts, not fiction, and when that research collides with Military History, often some amazing facts will be revealed. Facts which then can change perceived long held perceptions. In order to follow those facts, often it becomes necessary to broaden the parameters and search records and stories of the day.
That is precisely what has occurred when preparing a Biographical Narrative Compilation of George Hamilton Browne.
By careful examination of many of the passages in his yarns, it is possible to attribute some of the personal antidotes which he has included, to factual events. For other stories particularly where he used Richard Bourke, as his character, finding some common links with people who knew George in New Zealand and South Africa was the aim.
The photo of he and his family in South Africa was taken in1890, and is included in his third book. [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
One cannot understand the hardships that his wife and children must have encountered, in camp life.
Much of the preconceived perceptions of his life, stem from written newspaper articles, and press releases, written over 100 years ago, many taken out of context. Today it is possible to research much more thoroughly than before, and the resources, including Wikipedia, which is not gospel, genealogy sites, census, newspaper archives and shipping records. All require cross checking for clarification. Often family stories can be gleaned from the contents of wills, many can be found in archived media resources.
My personal interest was due to his being a contemporary of my second cousins, and knowing the public perceptions of one of them required answers, so to was the public perception of Hamilton Browne. Did either of those two cousins sit around a campfire and share stories with him? No-one knows.
In the Preface to his book, published as "With the Lost Legion in New Zealand" he wrote:
"EVERY Johnny not a professional novelist has, I suppose, some reason besides making money when he sits down to write a book, for, as far as I can see, there is deuced little pleasure to be gained by the author while occupied in doing so, especially if, like myself, he should have passed some forty years of his life on the frontiers of the Empire, and, with the exception of writing an occasional letter, has never, during that time, taken a pen in his hand. My reason is that during the last three or four years, since broken health and bad luck drove me back to civilisation, such as it is in England, I have frequently been knocked end-ways by the woeful ignorance of all classes of Englishmen, not only of the history of the various colonies that form the Empire, but also of the struggles of the men in acquiring and holding the same. Again I have noticed no one ever gives the colonial irregular troops the least credit of having fought and suffered in the Imperial cause, nor does anyone in this country seem to be aware of the debt the Empire owes to the men of the Lost Legion.
Not long ago I dined at the same table with a big city pot, who after dinner gassed inordinately about OUR Empire, laying a great stress on the "our," as if he had been a prime mover in the settlement of every country contained in it. New Zealand was the country under discussion, and amongst other twaddle he discoursed on the wonderful progress WE (a very big "we") had made in those islands. During a pause in the conversation I humbly asked him: "How did England acquire this fruitful country?" With a disdainful smile he condescended to inform me Captain Cook found it and gave it to England. "But," said I, "surely in my young days I remember a lot of fighting going on there." "Oh yes," he replied, "there was some trouble out there, but WE" (a big "we" again) "sent out our soldiers, who soon put a stop to that, and then WE" (a huge "we" this time) "developed the country until it is one of the gardens of the world." Still with due humility I asked if he were a New Zealand colonist, and was not astonished when he replied: "Good gracious me, no; I have never been in the country, and except to occasionally visit the Continent, I never leave England."
This and many other instances determined me to jump into the breach, and try if a yarn, even written by such a duffer as myself, can educate some few of my countrymen, and let them know what sort of a life the men of the Lost Legion led during the wars that took place in New Zealand from i860 to 1871, which wars eventually pacified the North Island, and were fought without the assistance of a single Imperial soldier.
Moreover thousands of novels have been written with plots founded on the splendid achievements of our gallant army and navy, then why should not one be penned about the deeds of the Lost Legion, the men who have not only rolled out the map of the Empire, as the deft hand of a cook rolls out a lump of dough, but who have also held that ground until properly settled by their own countrymen.
Innumerable and unknown are the graves of the Lost Legionaries, slain as they have been by the bullet, tomahawk and assagai of their savage opponents, or cut down by hunger, thirst and the malarial fevers of the lands into which they have penetrated.
And now if I need any further excuse for inflicting this badly written (for I claim no pretensions to literary skill) yarn upon you, let me inform you that in the main the facts are all strictly true, and that the men I have tried to depict lived, starved, fought and died in the very manner described in this volume.
So now that we are inspanned let's trek."
From his own words:
This and many other instances determined me to jump into the breach, and try if a yarn, even written by such a duffer as myself, can educate some few of my countrymen, and let them know what sort of a life the men of the Lost Legion led during the wars that took place in New Zealand from i860 to 1871, which wars eventually pacified the North Island, and were fought without the assistance of a single Imperial soldier.
It is a yarn, written in a way to educate those English who had limited and perhaps clouded vision of what was happening miles from Britain's borders.
How many people have read this book? How many have just skimmed it? How many have actually read the preface? Because if it had been read, there would not be a misunderstanding.
Writing a firsthand account of a situation that occurred 40 years prior would not even be possible., especially written as he did, including conversations between people.
What he did do, was to introduce to the British Public an entree into the role of the British in the period of the New Zealand Wars, and followed that by an account of his time in South Africa.
Semi-autobiography, was the description of the second book.
Prior to his books being published, he was liberal with his comments about an illustrious life, but when the first book was released, it was written about a factious character, Richard Burke, but based no doubt on stories which he gleaned from living and associating with men who had fought in those battles.
In the same way that he describes his story, as a yarn, was much of his childhood, as written in "With the Lost Legion in New Zealand", also an elaboration? Clearly he does give some indicators which provide clues to his life.
George Hamilton Browne did not need to write of all the men of the Lost Legions, he could have simply opened the family chests and written of his noble and illustrious ancestors. As was the custom, well heeled families made certain that they knew who had inherited their "blue blood".
Did he simply try to separate his blue blood, from that of the men he served with?
His brother, when he died in 1946, left a virtual fortune to Kathleen Mordaunt. A lady he referred to as his grand-niece. Kathleen Mordaunt was the daughter of Geoffrey Henry Browne-Guthrie and his wife Lady Olwyn Verena Ponsonby. Lady Olwyn was the first cousin of Lord Chelmsford, son of the General.
It was never my intention to add George Hamilton Browne as a research project, but when so many family associations and links kept emerging, my interest was highlighted.
Who was Georg Hamilton Browne?
Georg Hamilton Browne was the fourth son of Major George Browne, and his wife Susanna Mary Hilton. He was born in 1851 in Bonn in Germany.
That cannot be correct, perhaps some would be thinking at this stage, but it is true.
In fact he had an older brother born in 1844, named George Hamilton Browne, who was born in Cheltenham and christened there in 1845. Previous researchers have not discovered these facts.
Now the true "Georg Hamilton Browne" is revealed, it is he, whose exploits have been discussed far and wide, since his arrival back in London in 1902, and the publication of three books.
Those with an interest in Military History of the Victorian times, particularly in relation to the Zulu Was of 1879, will no doubt be aware of a larger than life character who played a crucial, but not active part in the Battle of Isandlwana on 22nd January 1879, and of his exploits in the many other wars of from then until 1890's. In this period of his life he served with two of my Durnford cousins.
Long standing perceptions of this man's abilities have perhaps been formed due to statements written by the New Zealand Government in a Biography. which insinuated that he was an "impostor",
Unfortunately once these "labels" get attached to a person's history, that tag never seems to be removed, unless a more plausible explanation for past experiences can be found.
For the purpose of historical information he will be referred to as George Hamilton Browne.
His series of campfire yarns, have over time, been taken out of context, which is quite unfortunate.
He did though deliberately not include any stories of his family, which lends itself to assume that he had no dealings with them. That is quite incorrect. His own son enlisted in World War I, and despite shell shock, survived. He later lived at Brighton.
No doubt there was contact with his siblings, as in 1929 Mrs George Hamilton Browne attended the funeral of her aunt.
Georg Hamilton Browne, was born in 1851 and would have been known throughout his early life as G.H. Browne. Just one of hundreds of thousands of G.H. Browne's over the world.
The inclusion of Hamilton as a middle name was a family tradition. Each of his siblings were given the same middle name. Generally it was an acceptable form of recognition, either from the names of someone who was influential in their family, or a grandparent, or perhaps as a benefactor.
Within the Browne family the changing or addition of a family name was well used. Often due to the instructions left in a will of which they became the beneficiary.
For anyone to intimate that Georg Browne had no military experience, is quite incorrect. He came from a very distinguished Military family. He was educated Malvern College and Cheltenham, then spent a year at Sandhurst. The idea of being from "down and out", emanated from press reports in August 1908.
But there is one quality that he had, he was a story-teller. A teller of "yarns". Campfire yarns.
It would seem that many who read his yarns, have formed the opinion that he was writing of his factual experiences. In his first book, "With the Lost Legions in New Zealand", he clearly writes in his preface that he was not writing about his own experiences, and he created a character, Richard Bourke.
In his third book, "Campfire Yarns of the Lost Legions", he expands further and relates his adventures and experiences with the Maoris who lived around his home, as well as his love of sitting around the campfire in South Africa, and spinning yarns, with his friends.
His life was not easy to follow, and there are periods where records are impossible to find. But his stories often give a small clue about his early life, and that of his family, and it is just a matter of trying to sort through which yarn, in order to paint a picture.
Timeline of the Life of George Hamilton Brown
1851 Born in Bonn Germany (4th son of Major George and Susan Browne)
1861 Living in Manchester with his grandparents and brother Arthur
1863 Attended Malvern College
1865 Attended Cheltenham College
1870 Attended Sandhurst
1871 Sailed to New Zealand to work on a property
1872 Landed in Picton (January)
February 1872 Involved in a boat capsize in Picton
1872 Enlisted in NZ Constabulary
1875 Won Shooting prize
1877 Left NZ
1878 Arrived in South Africa
July 1879 Married in South Africa and had 6 children, 3 survive
1878 - 1892 Served in Military in South Africa
1880 Mother dies in Londonderry
1887 Father Major George Browne dies in Londonderry
1887/8 Two children die in Kimberley SA
1902 In London Injured with fractured skull
1904 His wife Dolphina died
1904 In London - suggested he write a book of his yarns
1905 Son George graduates
1908 Supposedly "destitute" on London streets - Media around the world
January 1909 Marries Sarah Wilkerson
1911 Releases first book
1912 Releases second book
1913 Releases third book
1914 Son enlists with the Canadian 9th
January 1916 Dies in Jamaica Funeral with Military Honours
April 1916 Son buried by a shell in France - Shell shocked
1917 Son discharged
Current Biographical Information From New Zealand Archives
George Hamilton-Browne, who posed as a hero of the New Zealand wars, was born in Ireland, probably between 1848 and 1851. He claimed that his father was George Browne, a major in the 44th Regiment; his mother's name is unknown.
As a young man he drifted to New Zealand, enlisting on 16 July 1872 in the Armed Constabulary. After a period of undistinguished service as a trooper, in what was essentially a peace-keeping force, he was discharged at Taupo in October 1875. For a year or so he had no permanent employment. In early 1877 he became the publican at Te Wairoa, Lake Tarawera, for a short time before leaving, in debt, for South Africa.
By 1879 Hamilton-Browne was in Natal and participated in the Anglo-Zulu war, commanding a battalion in the irregular Natal Native Contingent, apparently on the strength of his claimed experience in New Zealand. He proved to be a passably competent commander, but his attitude to his troops was brutal and contemptuous. He was a spectator of the British defeat at Isandhlwana, where his men were too starved and exhausted to fight. Later, he briefly commanded what was to become the nucleus of the Natal Horse; he then saw further service in Bechuanaland (Botswana) and Mashonaland, and in Matabeleland in the 1890s. (Perhaps those statements are out of context)
Falling upon hard times, in 1908 'Colonel' Hamilton-Browne, as he styled himself, sought a pension from the British government, on the basis of active military service in New Zealand from 1866 to 1871. He claimed, in English newspapers, to have obtained the New Zealand War Medal and a captaincy in the Armed Constabulary Field Force. (The newspapers made the claim)
George Hamilton-Browne's alleged achievements prompted a New Zealand government investigation in late 1908 and early 1909, which found evidence of his serving only after hostilities had ceased. Several colonial officers recalled him as a dispatch rider in the Taupo Armed Constabulary. One speculated that he might have obtained his New Zealand War Medal when one of his companions, Henry Brown
, died: by adding an 'e' to the name on Henry Brown
's medal, he would have been able to produce apparent evidence of his war service. Hamilton-Browne was not granted a pension, but the publicising of his financial plight resulted in his marriage on 1 January 1909 to a wealthy woman, Sarah Wallis Wilkerson. She believed that during the Anglo-Zulu war he had saved her fiancé, who had later died in the Sudan. It is possible that Hamilton-Browne had been married before, as he described himself as a widower on the marriage certificate. (She would have been 10 years old in 1879)
Although his initial claims were rejected, Hamilton-Browne wrote two books about the wars in support of his assertions: With the lost legion in New Zealand (1911) and Camp fire yarns of the lost legion (1913). The former seems to be a participant's detailed account of the campaigns against Titokowaru and Te Kooti.
Its fictionalised hero, Richard Burke, is a young Irish gentleman who, after early training as a British officer, becomes a colonial scout, eventually gaining a commission in the Armed Constabulary. Burke participates in every important action of the period, the military career portrayed approximating the actual one of Christopher Louis Maling of the corps of guides.
The book itself relates a plausible and often exciting tale, and is written in a bluff, robust style. The narrator, Burke, criticises any leader, such as Lieutenant General Duncan Cameron, who is not aggressive enough for his taste, and praises Colonel G. S. Whitmore and Lieutenant Thomas McDonnell, who are. In his later book Hamilton-Browne abandons the 'Richard Burke' pseudonym and identifies himself as the narrator. (In his second book he clearly wrote of his own experiences)
Since his entire service was after the cessation of all hostilities, his tales of combat, though accurate in general terms, derived from bar and barrack-room reminiscences, probably improved by some research on a visit to New Zealand in the late 1890s, during which he was convicted of forging a cheque and placed on probation for a year. (Totally incorrect, the person in question was a young man, not a 48 year old veteran living in South Africa)
George Hamilton-Browne died in Jamaica, probably in 1916, leaving Sarah Hamilton-Browne destitute. It is not known when or where she died. There seem to have been no children of the marriage. (Her life is easy to follow, she remarried and died in a nursing home)
While Hamilton-Browne was clearly an impostor, his influence as a writer on the New Zealand wars was enduring. Some of his principal contemporaries, including Gilbert Mair and Christopher Maling, were swift to challenge the truthfulness of his books. However, their condemnation was often overlooked, and Hamilton-Browne was still being cited as an authority as late as 1959.
[Note: Many of the stories in this book appear to have been taken directly from T. W. Gudgeon's accounts. According to the Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Hamilton-Browne did not enlist in the Armed Constabulary until 1872, when the wars were over. He was later a publican at Te Wairoa (the "Buried Village" near Lake Tarawera.]
Some comments on the New Zealand Archives:
Clearly they have not understood the Preface of his book, nor spent any time at all in researching this man. The character in his book was one "Richard Burke". A fictional character, but one who he was able to weave into the fabric of many of the different battles that he wrote of.
His knowledge of those battles is unique. Certainly they can be read about, in many modern day books, but were there really that many in print in 1911?
Not only in his Preface but on Page 184 he writes:
"I HAVE previously asserted that this yarn is not meant to be a history of New Zealand wars, nor do I wish to harrow the tender hearts of gentle readers, should I be fortunate enough to secure any, by stories of savage bloodshed or by describing gruesome details of war to the knife. Yet, taking into consideration the astounding ignorance of most well-educated English men and women concerning the history of the principal colonies that now form the greater portion of the mighty British Empire, I think I may be pardoned for recounting a few scenes of the events, battles and hardships, willingly endured by the men who actually won those colonies and rendered them habitable for a civilised people. Nor do I think the men, rough, wild, undesirable ne'er-do-wells as they mostly were, who recklessly risked their lives for that purpose, should be entirely forgotten.
These scenes are not imaginary ones, evolved from my own brain, but real occurrences; and the men, whom I am trying to describe, actually lived, fought, drank, and were killed in the way I relate; alas, would that I had a more gifted pen and a more artistic touch to depict them, their reckless lives and their hard deaths.
However, as my pen is neither artistic nor gifted, nor even a particularly good one to write with, I must jog on as best I can, in the same way my gallant O. C. did, when, short of men and with plenty of malignant, backbiting enemies in both Government and district, he made head against the hostile Hau Haus."
If any source for mis-information is to be highlighted - it is confounded by writers and editors of the Newspapers of the times, who, at times could perhaps not distinguish his art of spinning a yarn, with the true facts!
George Hamilton Browne Lineage
Georg Hamilton Browne was born in 1851 the fourth son of Major George Browne and his wife Sarah Hilton. George died 11th July 1887, in Londonderry and his beneficiary was his son William Lecky Hamilton Browne.
Grandparents John Hamilton Browne Esq 1763 - 1848
Jane Matilda Lecky 1779 - 1857
G. Grandparents Thomas Browne 1741
Elizabeth Hamilton 1740
William Lecky MP 1746 - 1823
Hannah McCausland 1751 - 1826
GG Grandparents George Browne 1647 b 1776 (born Suffolk) d Londonderry
Mary Hogg 1723
Alexander Lecky 1709 - 1748
Jane Hogg 1725 - 1767 The Hogg girls were sisters
GGG Grandparents David Browne 1623 (Hawkedown Suffolk)
Mary Moorehouse 1625
Col William Hogg
Thomas Lecky 1673 - 1710
Charity Ash 1683 - 1735
His Irish family began with King James at the Siege of Derry.
The Family of George Hamilton Browne
His father George Browne gained the rank of Major in the 44th Regiment. He had served in the 36th Regiment, and he held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for County Derry. He held the office of Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) of County Derry. He lived at Comber House, County Derry, Ireland
He married Susanna Mary Hilton on 7th March, 1844. Manchester Cathedral
He was in the 44th Regiment of Foot, and stationed at Barracks.
Susanna was the daughter of Thomas Hilton, a merchant banker and a cotton merchant.
His father was a Lord lieutenant in Londonderry, and the owner of extensive land holdings. He died in 1887, and the extent of his wealth can be gauged by reference to the lands he owned. His mother died October 1880, in Londonderry[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
They had 11 children, and of interest, is that they had two sons named similar. George and Georg.
1. George Hamilton (1844-)
2. John Walter L'Estrange Hamilton (1846-1880)
3. William Lecky Hamilton (1848-1900)
4. Sidney Hamilton (1850-)
5. Georg Hamilton (1851-1916)
6. Arthur Hamilton (1852-)
7. Ernest de Sylly Hamilton (1855 - 1946)
8. Lt Col. Cecil Hamilton (1856-1927)
9. Florence Mary Hamilton (1858-1920)
10. Eveline Susan Hamilton (1860-1922)
11. Constance Liza Hamilton (1862-1949)
George served in the 36th Regiment and the 44th Regiment, and later around 1850, was living at Comber House, Londonderry.
According to the Cheltenham College Register compiled in 1911, there are entries for three of the Browne boys.
CHELTENHAM COLLEGE REGISTER 1841—1910
EDITED BY ANDREW ALEXANDER HUNTER BURSAR OF CHELTENHAM COLLEGE
LABOR OMNIA VINCIT LONDON G. BELL AND SONS, LTD. 1911
Browne, Arthur Hamilton, son of Major George Browne, late 35th Foot, Comber House, Londonderry, Ireland ; born 19th November, 1852. J0M—6M. Price. Left June, 1869.
Browne, George Hamilton, son of Major George Browne, late 35th Foot, Comber House,
Londonderry, Ireland; born 9th January, 1851. Sandhurst M — Civil M. Price. Left June, 1869. Shooting XI, 1867. Football XX, 1868. Went to South Africa in 1877. Major (retired) of Colonial Forces. Served in various campaigns in New Zealand and South Africa for which he was awarded medals.
George attended Sandhurst. Confirmed by their records, entering as Cadet Browne in 1869 and leaving in 1870
Browne, Ernest de Silly Hamilton, son of Major George Browne, Comber House, Clandy, Londonderry, Ireland; born July, 1855. Cricket XI, 1870-71; Captain, 1872-73-74. Foot-ball XX, 1871-72; Captain, 1873. Fives Champion, 1872-73-74. Racquet Champion, 1873-74. Senior Prefect, 1874. A well-known Lawn- Tennis Player, and winner of numerous prizes. Is a landowner and agent.
By 1878 he was in South Africa. At some point his name is hyphenated to Hamilton-Browne
He married Dolphina Johanna Spolander (1856 - 1904) on 25th June 1879, and they had the following children.
1. Cecil Alec Henry Hamilton-Browne 1880 d 1880 Beaconsfield Kimberley SA
2. Arthur Charles Nichols Hamilton-Browne 1881 d 1943 died in England
3. Hannah Henrietta Hamilton-Browne 1884 d 1887 Beaconsfield Kimberley SA
4. Frederick Saville Francis Hamilton-Browne 1889
5. George Francis Harry Crewe Hamilton-Browne 1893 1977
6. Violet Hamilton-Browne
Dolphina died on 26th May 1904 at Cape Town
Her lineage was through Andreas Spolander who arrived in South Africa from Sweden. He married Levinia Catharina Heynegin in 1817. They had around 11 children. He had 2 children with his first wife Christine Getruida Hendricks, who died in 1817
Andrea was a Swede who was employed for a time, as an undertaker with the European Burial Society
His medal and service according to reports.
New Zealand wars 1866 - 77 Medal
Acted as commandant of irregular forces in the
Gurkha, Galecka and Zulu Wars 1877 - 9 Medals and clasps.
Besuto and Timbuki wars 1880-1 Medals and clasps
Commander of squadron Warren's Expedition 1884
Adjutant of the Diamond Fields Horse 1885 - 91
Mathonsland Rebellion 1886/7
Dinizulu's Rebellion 1888
Mashonsland Volunteers 1891/5 Clasps
Matabele War 1893 - Medal
Raised Umtali Volunteers and commanded line of communication
Commanded Marandells's Field Forces 1896/7 Medals and clasps
That means he should hold 4 Medals relating to his time in South Africa, as well as the New Zealand Medal, from where ever it came. However, on his 1879 photograph, he wears only 4.
George Browne's ancestors were nobility, and his ancestors included Members of Parliament, Lord Lieutenants, JP's, Aldermen, City Officials, Magistrates, authors and military men, who served for hundreds of years. He would have been very aware of his rich family heritage, as class distinction was prevalent in those times.
His immediate family include:
George Hamilton Browne born 1844 probably died prior to 1851
John Walter l'Estrange Hamilton Brown
Attended Eton, Officer of the 9th Lancers, transferred to Royal Horse Guards 1865. Inherited the estate of his father in 1889
Capt William Lecky Hamilton Brown
Captain in the Royal Navy, and of the Australian Station.. Awarded the Silver medal of the Royal Humane Society in 1871.
Ernest de Sylly Hamilton Browne was a world Tennis identity, playing many championships. being No 4 in the World 1882/83/85
Lt Col Cecil Hamilton Browne Lecky Grenadier Guards, Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, High Sheriff of County Derry.
Sister Florence Mary Hamilton Browne married Colonel John Cumberledge Cautley
His maternal uncle was Captain Thomas William Hilton, served in the Indian Army He married into the Combyn family, another with strong Military links.
The 65 Regiment served in the First Taranaki War of 1860/61, and returned to serve in India. They were sent to Ireland in 1867 to suppress the Fenians, and returned to India in 1871.
He was not the only author in his family, William Edward Hartpole, as cousin wrote "History of England during the Eighteenth Century".
(Unfortunately given the name Browne, no confirmation of his other brothers is available)
Content of His Yarns
If George did not serve in New Zealand, just how did he manage to write such details about the period of the Maori Wars? It was not from his own personal experience, but he did have a wealth of knowledge from his associations with many friends.
Friends like John Godolphin Burslem, D.C.V. Moodie, Baden Powell and Frederick Russell Burnham
In fact, George, quoted passages from D.C.V. Moodie, in his book. Moodie wrote, "Battles in South Africa Including the Zulu War " - Moodie (Hardback, 1879). Today it is a rare book.
In December 1879, in Adelaide, Mr Moodie, put on an exhibition of artefacts taken from the Battlefield, and introduced to the public, his Zulu friend, Ugende.
Ugende had been Col Anthony Durnford's groom, who later became the groom of George Hamilton Browne.
In 1902, George returned from South Africa, to London and was found unconscious on the street. He was taken to hospital, and cared for.
In 1904, George was back in London, spinning these "yarns" in a billiard room. One newspaper correspondent enjoyed the stories so much, he recommended George write them into a book.
In 1908 there appeared in the press a story of his being "down and out". The content of that story may or may not be anything other than to attract attention to himself. No doubt he was busy writing those yarns. Then he married, to a lady of independent means.
That is not the case. She was a school teacher, living with her widowed and spinster sisters. Her "love" could not possibly have been saved at Isandlwana, as she, at 10 years of age, might be a little young to have such a suitor. Her eldest brother became a chemist, and remained in England, two of her brothers went to Canada and US as farmers.
After the release of the first book. that same correspondent, felt that his influence may have had some bearing on the compilation of yarns.
George set out to do one thing, to let the Englishman know just how difficult it was serving their country in places like New Zealand and South Africa. He perhaps was present at a gathering in 1904, when this subject was first discussed.
Given his age, it would be impossible to write stories in the first person, remembering lines and discussions, as he wrote. He did though achieve his aim. He wrote a series of yarns, which people believed! One hundred years later some still cannot distinguish a yarn from fact.
In 1916, he died, in Jamaica, of senile decay, in a nursing hostel. He was given a funeral with full Military Honours. The funeral of Colonel Hamilton Brown, who died at the Nursing Hospital on Friday last, took place at UpPark Camp on Saturday morning past, when the mortal remains of the gallant Colonel were laid to rest with full military honours at the Garrison cemetery.
The funeral was attended by Brigadier-General Blackden and Mrs Blackden, as well as a good may of the officers of the Garrison.
The W.I.R. supplied the firing squad and escort, with the Rev. P.R Richardson, Acting Chaplain to the Forces officiated at the grave.
The ceremony was a very impressive one.
The Gleaner Monday 31st January 1916
George's son enlisted in World War I, and was gassed. He returned to England in 1917 and gained employment in Brighton. Two sons lived in England, one remained in South Africa.
Comparing Yarns with Facts of his own Early Life.
In Book 1 "With the Lost Legions in New Zealand" he introduces the character Richard Bourke.
This amazing man could not possibly have packed all those occurrences into his life before arriving in New Zealand and fighting in the Zulu Wars, and winning a medal.
No doubt a great many of those experiences arose from his own involvement or knowledge of events in that period of time, particularly in relation to the Maoris.
However, the details of the early Wars during that 1864 period could only have been gleaned from extensive reading, or from the personal experiences of some who participated.
In his second book, he certainly was in South Africa. He did serve in the Diamond Mines, and in fact, two of his children lay buried somewhere in Beaconsfield Kimberley.
Almost all can be linked with a part of his own life. Except perhaps for duelling and serving in Rome, and then both of those events have been not only subject to newspaper reports, but perhaps also from someone who was able to relate a tale. For those memories to be so strong in his mind, he must have had a virtual book of his friend's stories.
His brother was a very respected member of the Navy, perhaps though, the reason for his finding himself serving in the Colonial outposts had more to do with a family rift, and the fact that his younger brother inherited his father's estates in Londonderry.
In 1908 when he was back in England, supposedly destitute, so many of his immediate family were still alive. Brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews. All people of wealth, particularly the family of both his uncle Thomas'.
His siblings in Ireland would probably have choked on their morning cup of tea, when they read the stories attributed to him, and involved their father! Perhaps it is the reason that his World famous brother chose not to use the "Hamilton" in his name.
He had cousins whose father owned substantial property in Jamaica. Could they be the reason he travelled there in 1915, and died in January 1916?
Writing as Richard Burke - "WITH THE LOST LEGION IN NEW ZEALAND"
PART I CHAPTER I WHY I JOINED THE LOST LEGION
1. I, RICHARD BURKE, at least so I am told, for although present myself I cannot claim a vivid recollection of the fact, was born shortly before the middle of the last century. My father was a major in H. M. army, having the reputation of being a very smart soldier, and was also looked upon as being one of the best sportsmen in the service, as he was justly famous, not only in the saddle, but also as a shot, a fisherman and a general good all-round man. (Fact)
2. This, together with being descended from a very ancient Irish family, made him popular both in the service and in society. My mother was a member of an old Lancashire county family, most of whose men-folk had for generations worn the Queen's scarlet, so that from both sword and distaff side I inherited the longing to be a soldier. (Fact)
3. My paternal grandfather, who had been a distinguished cavalry officer during the Peninsular War, was a big county magnate, and on his death left two large estates, my father inheriting the old family demesne and mansion situated in the north of Ireland; and now I think I have told you quite enough about my family belongings. (Fact)
4. I was the fourth son, and from my earliest youth was looked upon as the unlucky member of the family, being always in hot water. At a very tender age I took a delight in watching my father's regiment at drill, and the first licking I ever got was for a breach of military discipline, the crime being that while under lawful control of my nurse I had committed mutiny by direct disobedience of orders, and had aggravated that crime by conduct unbecoming a soldier, insomuch as by crawling through a drain I had broken away from my escort, who, being portly, not to say fat, was quite unable to follow me, and in direct defiance of her repeated orders had betaken myself to the barracks, where I was subsequently discovered and arrested while playing at soldiers with the barrack children. (Fact)
5. Keep me out of the barracks they could not, and when I was seven years old I am certain that had I possessed sufficient strength I could have gone through the drill as well as the regimental fugleman. It was therefore, at the age of seven, I was sent to a private school in Derbyshire, kept by a dear old rector, the squire of the parish being an old service friend of my father. This worthy old gentleman was also a great sportsman, and took charge of my education in all branches of field sports. Young as I was, I was most anxious to acquire strength, so that I became a devotee to all gymnastic exercises, especially boxing; consequently when I reached the age of thirteen I was a good horseman, shot and swimmer, while, being naturally a robust boy, I had acquired the muscle and strength of a lad at least four years older than I really was. (Malvern College)
6. At this time a maternal uncle who had served many years in the H.E.I.C.S. cavalry returned home and took up his quarters with us in Ireland. He was a noted swordsman and shikaree, who, having distinguished himself greatly during the Indian Mutiny, had retired as colonel when the company's service was merged into the Imperial. (Fact)
7. Although an Englishman, he was a great respecter of, and authority on, the ancient pastime of duelling, and he quickly instructed us boys in the strict etiquette of the duello. It was now quite time for me to choose a profession, and after a long confab it was decided I should go into the artillery, so I was despatched to a public school that has been very famous for passing young fellows into the service, especially into the scientific branches. (Cheltenham)
8. There I remained over four years, gaining far more laurels in the playing fields than in the lecture-rooms, for although I worked hard in a desultory way, still my best efforts were given to the playground and the gymnasium. (Fact)
9. This being the case my father determined to send me to Lausanne, so as to perfect myself in French, science and mathematics, an idea my uncle fully approved of, as there resided at that place a most noted maitre d'armes, who he thought would be the very man to put a polish on my swordsmanship. At Lausanne I stayed for some months, working hard by fits and starts and enjoying myself thoroughly, and here I was joined by my eldest brother, Jack, a gay and giddy subaltern in a crack cavalry regiment. Together we started on a trip through northern Italy, and while at Milan I had the opportunity of putting into practice the precepts my uncle and the celebrated maitre d'armes had taught me.
10. It happened in this way. I was called out by an Italian nobleman of sorts, who objected to some small attentions I had paid to a Tyrolese chantress in a cafe. Him I easily defeated, wearing him out by my better training and then administering a pin-prick on his forearm, whereon he insisted upon embracing me and we became great friends. Towards the end of the trip, however, I had a misunderstanding with a French artillery cadet at Strasbourg, who, as I was too self-confident, ran me through the arm. He also embraced me and we became good friends.
11. After the completion of our trip I returned to London, where I really worked hard, and I had no doubt I should have passed into Woolwich all right, when on the eve of going in for my last paper I was poisoned by a fiend of a woman, whom I was perfectly innocent of harming, and so, not having qualified for the requisite number of subjects, I was spun.
12. In a fit of disgust I enlisted in the R. H. A. as a driver, and for a few months soldiered in the ranks at Aldershot, but, just when I had had enough of it, I was discovered by my father's cousin, who had assumed command of the camp, and who promptly had me discharged. Saying good-bye to my comrades necessitated my imbibing too much beer, so I reached my father's town house full of beans and benevolence, where, with my usual bad luck, I ran foul of two very big military swells, who in my exuberance of spirits I astonished and quite unintentionally insulted. (A G. Browne did in 1863)
13. Next afternoon, by my father's orders, I attempted to apologise to the mighty potentates, and should have most likely been forgiven had not my infernal bad luck still stuck to me, for just at the moment that the tomahawk was being buried, I handed my father a vile squib cigar which I had placed in my case for the benefit of my eldest brother, who I considered had been too handy with his toe while assisting me to bed the previous night, and which I had completely forgotten. The debacle that ensued was too much for my nerves, and I fled from the house.
14. In my agony of mind I remembered an appointment with my brother and made for his club, a very fast one, where I told my pitiful story. He and his wild friends were delighted with the yarn, and a council was promptly held to discuss what was to become of me. At this council one of them, a Roman Catholic of very high rank, suggested I should join the Papal Zouaves, at the same time offering me letters of introduction to the big-wigs at the Vatican. (GHB was an Anglican)
15. These I gratefully accepted, and in less than a fortnight became a sous-lieut. in that cosmopolitan corps, in which I thoroughly enjoyed myself. However, it was not for long, as at the end of five months I was summoned home to present myself at the examination for a direct commission.
16. On my return to England I took up my residence with my uncle at Brighton, and while there came in contact with the celebrated Gipsy Lee, who told my fortune, and that so truthfully I think I may be forgiven should I repeat her prognostications.
19. You will pass your examination high up on the list, but will never enter the army. You will wander over the world, through lands I have never heard of, but you will never go to India. You have already been a soldier; there is blood on your hand, and there will be much more, for, although you will never join the army, you will take part in many wars and fight in many battles. You will suffer much, you will experience hunger, thirst, cold and poverty.
You will pass through many dangers, from fire, from water, from savage men and beasts. You will lose many friends through war and sickness, but though often hurt you will live a long life of disappointment. Others will make fortunes round you, but you will remain poor. (fact)
20. Women will be your best friends and your worst enemies, and you will be robbed of your birthright by your own brother. Many times you will have grasped the cup of good fortune, only to have it dashed from your hand. Yet you will meet every disaster with a laugh, and will learn nothing. Still keep up your heart, for, although you will live a rough, hard life, you will live a long one. The end is hidden from me, but remember there is often a burst of sunshine at the end of a cloudy day." (fact)
25. The duel made some stir, although Touchais made rapid progress to convalescence, but as there was no hope of being allowed to join the service, by the advice of my uncle and one or two very senior officers I determined to go out to New Zealand, where plenty of fighting was going on. This I did, and in a very few days, with plenty of money in my pocket, and a bundle of letters of introduction, I bade farewell to my uncle and brother, and, accompanied by my servant, set sail for the antipodes. (Went to work on a property)
Perhaps points 17 18 and 21- 25 Were what he intended, a yarn. Touchais is French for touched.
He left Cheltenham in 1869, attended Sandhurst in 1870, boarded a ship in 1871, and arrived in New Zealand in January 1872, so perhaps he travelled around Europe, with some of his close family or cousins from the Cheltenham area.
George was not an imposter, he was from a very long standing Irish family of wealth.
Through no fault of his own, other than by his place of birth, and under the terms of a grandfather's will, he was not the only one of four siblings to not inherit their parent's estates.
His brothers were long serving Officers in the Military. One went to Eton.
His youngest brother was a remarkable tennis player, the best in Ireland's history.
Currently the New Zealand Government has taken the matter onboard.
The family spent years at their Ancestral home in Londonderry. His brother Cedric, who had no descendants, died in 1927, and the last of his sibling did in 1949. The house appears to have been sold after 1927.
This is a shortened version of the story, as to gain some background knowledge a some information regarding the Maori Wars, and its similarities to Zulu Wars, is quite interesting. No doubt, he and those who served in SA as well as in the Maori wars noticed the similarities as well.