Sam Browne

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Samuel Browne, 1897
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Samuel Browne, 1897

General Sir Samuel James Browne VC, GCB, KCSI (3 October 1824 - 14 March 1901) was a British Army cavalry officer in India and the Near East, best known today as the namesake of the Sam Browne belt.

He was born in Barrackpore, India, the son of a surgeon in the Bengal Medical Service. Browne joined the 46th Bengal Native Infantry as a subaltern, participating in action at Ramnuggar, Sadoolapore, Chillianwalla and Gujarat. In 1849 he was made a lieutenant and tasked with raising a cavalry force, to be designated the 2nd Punjab Irregular Cavalry and later incorporated into the regular force. He would command this unit for the next five years. Later (1904) the unit would be re-designated as the 22nd Sam Browne's Cavalry (Frontier Force) in his honour.

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Browne led the 2nd Punjab in several engagements, and was decorated for action during the Bozdar Expedition in 1857, being promoted to captain. Browne won the Victoria Cross on 31 August 1858 at Seerporah, India. In an engagement with the rebels, Captain Browne, whilst advancing upon the enemy's position, pushed on with one orderly sowar upon a 9-pounder gun and attacked the gunners, preventing them from re-loading and attacking the infantry who were advancing to the attack. In the conflict which ensued, Captain Browne received two sword cuts, one on the left knee and one which severed his left arm at the shoulder, but not before he had cut down one of his assailants. The gun was eventually captured and the gunner killed.


Sometime after this incident he began to wear the accoutrement which bears his name, as compensation for the difficulty his disability caused with wearing his officer's sword. Later the wearing of the Sam Browne belt (q.v.) would be adopted by other officers who knew Browne in India, but it was not to come into common use in the British Army until after his retirement. Browne's original belt is now on public display in the India Room of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

In 1878, as commander of the Peshawar Field Force during the Second Afghan War Browne brought 60,000 troops to the Khyber Pass, capturing the key fortress of Ali Masijid which commanded its entry and afterward proceeding through the pass and capturing Jalalabad. Browne was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath for this action.

Browne was promoted to general in 1888, and awarded the Order of the Bath's Grand Cross in 1891. He retired from the army in 1898, relocated to Ryde on the Isle of Wight and died there at the age of 74. His remains were cremated but there is a memorial marker dedicated to Browne in the Ryde town cemetery, as well as plaques at St Paul's Cathedral and Lahore Cathedral.

Reference

The Medal

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the National Army Museum (Chelsea, England).

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