My Brave Company Commander

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by Joe Brown, Dec 26, 2014.

  1. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    My first time in command of a Rifle Platoon was when I had been posted as a newly promoted Lieutenant to the 7th/9th Royal Scots.

    I reported that cold November morning to Company Headquarters to be interviewed by my new Company Commander. I had met him in the Officers Mess and was well aware he was a Regular Officer as opposed to the great majority of my fellow officers who were either pre-War Territorial or held an Emergency Commission as I did.

    The interview did not go well. He fired question after question about my experience, asking about the courses I had undertaken at Battle Schools, Leadership and weaponry. The answer to each probe and very pointed questions were invariably 'None, Sir!' This brought a terse but straight-forward comment: 'Brown, your are not going to be much bloody use to me!'

    Having been put completely in my place, he then got up from behind the desk and walked over to the Company Order of Battle prominently displayed above the fireplace. Every man of the Company was listed. He pointed to the two other officers commanding 16 and 17 Platoons and told me the extra duties they had been allotted and then pointed to 18 Platoon beginning with the Sergeant and spoke about every man in what would be my command.

    He ended this part of the briefing by pointing to the Company Second-in-Command and said he was responsible for the pay and administration of the Company. He then pointed to himself at the top of the Order of Battle and with an appropriate theatrical pause said in clear distinct tones 'I Command the Company!'

    He told me the Platoon Sergeant would be waiting for me in the Company Orderly Room but before I could leave he said: 'One more thing Brown', and remember him 'growling' as he said it, 'never seek popularity, because I don't!'

    I loved every minute I was in his Rifle Company and in command of 18 Platoon and felt truly fulfilled as a junior officer as part of a team of four other officers that got on well together with just the right amount of rivalry between our Platoons in the Rifle Company. I felt it was what I had been trained to do. It was my destiny.

    However after six months the Battalion Commander had selected me to be his Battalion Intelligence officer and that came as a shock. I saw my Company Commander and said I would be sorry to leave his Company and when he questioned whether I truly meant this, he then went off to see the Commanding Officer. Later than morning he said that the CO was adamant, he wanted me at Battalion Headquarters.

    In our first battle, my former Rifle Company was in the thick of it. All approaches to the German Command Post in Flushing were completely dominated by 20mm and MG fire. On hearing two Platoon Commanders had managed to get into the concrete precincts of the Garrison Headquarters, he told his CSM to keep his Company HQ in a nearby pillbox and said he must be with these two junior officers to give them the leadership they should expect from a senior officer and at his first attempt to ascend the embankment that surround the enemy positions he came under deadly fire and as he fell mortally wounded his last action was to push his Company Runner who was close by him out of the way of the fire and thereby saved his life.

    I weep at such bravery and at the loss of such a fine, courageous man.

    I have knelt many times beside his last resting place in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Bergen Op Zoom and at the graves of the 21 other Royal Scots that include five of the first Rifle Platoon I commanded, and when I did so last November knowing it may be my last moment beside them, inward tears overwhelmed me.

    Joe Brown
  2. Lotus7

    Lotus7 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for sharing Joe, very moving
  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Thanks for posting that on the forum.

    Your respect and loyalty towards your Coy commander reflects my father's feeling towards his.

    Major Fisher-Rowe, who had been a veteran of 1940 actions in Boulogne and Hook of Holland was killed near Hommersum in February 1945 along with another much loved company commander Major Kennedy MC (veteran of Norway, Tunisia & Italy), in what was billed as a minor mopping-up operation before the next main event. Dad said very little about that day's tragic events but often praised the man who, when informed he would be placed on a waiting list for the Grenadiers - family tradition - immediately presented himself to the Micks and was accepted - something he said he had never regretted. He never hid behind ceremony with the NCOs he had trained up but he expected high standards in other areas, particularly from his platoon commanders. When one Lt. failed to set a good example he was sent "as far away as possible" from his sight.

    Such men who led from the front did not need to seek popularity, it likely came with the example they set - of looking after the men under their command.
    Drew5233 likes this.
  4. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member


    Wonderful recollections.
    As a mere sprog, born in the 1960s, with no military experience I value your accounts more that you could imagine.
    More please when you are ready.
  5. No.4CommandoBairn

    No.4CommandoBairn Well-Known Member

    Tremendously moving, Joe. Thank you for telling us about that brave man.

    I sincerely hope I'll meet you again in Flushing and hopefully, next time, we'll have more time to talk.
  6. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    Many thanks for this posting.

    Honest and completely compelling accounts such as yours provide the indisputable evidence that records true bravery in action.

    Lest we forget !

  7. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    A fine piece, Joe, thanks as always for writing.

    With command goes reponsibility. I have heard that the motto of the Israeli infantry officers' school is "Follow Me." Your company commander was a fine example of that spirit.
  8. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member


    Many thanks for posting this

  9. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Kennedy MC commanded C Coy 1 IG at Anzio. His exploits in the wadis are stuff of legend and he just loved killing Germans. His great love was horse racing but killing Germans came a close second. After the disbandment of 1 IG, their losses at Anzio were crippling, he moved over to 3 IG as was killed by a sniper.

  10. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day joe brown ww2 brave company commander,thank you for sharing this very moving story of the brave men you served with,may you and your family have a great new year.regards bernard85
  11. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    Thanks for that wonderful account, Joe. I'm back at Bergen Op Zoom in February; in fact whenever I go there now I think of you and the Royal Scots buried there.

    Hope you had a good Christmas and have a Happy New Year.
  12. Deacs

    Deacs Well i am from Cumbria.

    Thank you for posting Joe, very touching and very moving it brought a lump to my throat.

    My granda's Captain is also buried in Bergen-Op-Zoom cemetery.
    I was brought up knowing all about Captain John Holland Saunders of the 80 Assault Squadron RE, and what a great man he was from the story's that my granda told me.

    Best wishes Michael.
    dbf likes this.
  13. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Lotus7, dbf, Mike L, No4CommandoBairn, Ron Goldstein, TTH, Recce_Mitch, minden1759, Bernard85, Paul Reed, Deacs:

    Thank you for your very kind comments.

    For the record, the name of my Brave Company Commander: Major Gerald Arnaud Chater, The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment). Aged 35, the Son of Surg. Rear-Admiral H. J. Chater and Mrs Winifred A. Chater.

    When I was demobilised in March 1946, was invited by my War-time Colonel to re-join the former Battalion now re-established in the Territorial Army and appointed Signals Officer. When the strength of the TA Battalion increased the Colonel decided to raise ‘D’ Company as part of the Battalion establishment and invited me to take command.

    The Colonel and I had been together in the hard-fought battle to capture the German Command Post in Flushing during which Major Arnaud Chater was heroically killed in action. In asking me to command ‘D’ Company he was honouring the Memory of Arnaud Chater by appointing one of his former War-time Platoon Commanders to head ‘D’ Company’s Order of Battle as its commander. In the short time I commanded I always took special pride in ordering the Company’s Piper to play ‘Dundee’, our Company March-Past ‘The Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee’, and when its proud melodic tune burst forth I felt that once again I was marching beside Arnaud Chater with his memory and his proud spirit wonderfully alive.

    When the Colonel retired I was appointed Second-in-Command to the new commanding Officer. As my newspaper management career was ‘taking off’ and demanding more time as my responsibilities increased as well as now a proud father of two very young but active children I had to retire from my part-time soldering and with great regret never Commanded the 7th/9th (Highlanders) Battalion. However, I still look after the interests of the War-time and Post-War Veterans of the Battalion, having recently sent them a 10-page Newsletter reporting on the Seventieth Anniversary of the Liberation of Walcheren. In truth, for us the War-time Veterans a bit of our lives was buried there in November 1944 with our 21 Brother Royal Scots that lie beside the grave of Major Arnaud Chater.

  14. Bluebell Minor

    Bluebell Minor Junior Member


    Thank you for posting this poignant thought provoking tribute to your late Company Commander and the response it brought

    There must be many other "unsung heroes" whose wartime actions as leaders of front line soldiers were held in the highest of esteem by their immediate subordinates at the time but were totally unknown to the wider public. You have ensured that aleast one man will retain a small place in recorded history
  15. Lotus7

    Lotus7 Well-Known Member

    Like wise, thank you Joe for your posting.
    Joe Brown likes this.

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