Band Sergeant Frank Allen Brewer

 

 

Frank Allen Brewer (above, standing) was born on 9 January 1868 at Dharapuram, Madras, India, the first of three children of Royal Engineers sergeant-major William Brewer and his wife Amelia (nee Allen). His mother died in India when he was just six years old.

By 1883 he was living in England. On 13 October, at the age of 15 years and nine months, he enlisted at Manchester in the York and Lancaster Regiment (No.735). His enlistment papers state he had a "dusky complexion" and describe him as a "half caste (Madrassee)". When he reached the age of 18 he was promoted from the rank of 'boy' to private. In 1887 he was promoted to bandsman, and then lance corporal. On 12 October 1895 he completed his twelve-year engagement and left the military. All of his service had been in the UK.

On 6 September 1895 he married Cork-born Minnie Kenney at Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. Over the next two decades the couple had five children. In that time they lived variously in Liverpool, Belfast, Cork and Scotland, Brewer working as a musician. By 1911 they were living at 169 McClure Street, Belfast.

Brewer enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 24 April 1913 (No.838). Joining-up with him was his oldest son, sixteen-year-old Cecil Kenny Brewer. Although aged 45 at the time, Brewer stated he was 29 years and 10 months old and that he was born at West Gorton near Manchester. He did not include Cecil on the list of his children, presumably because if he was 29, he wouldn't have had a 16 year-old son.

On 16 June 1913 Brewer was promoted to sergeant and put in charge of the regimental band. He was mentioned favourably in a report of the Ballymena Observer on 30 October 1914:

In the camp at Antrim the second concert was given by the A and C Squadrons of the North Irish Horse in one of the huts, and was a great success, being attended by hundreds of people. Sergeant-Major S. S. M. Scammell was in the chair. Colonel Maude and officers of the N.I.H., as well as the Rev. the Vicar of Antrim (Rev. M. H. S. Collis, B.D.), were present, and the gentry of the neighbourhood were well represented. Sergeant Green, who organised the programme, arranged a capital evening's enjoyment. Those who took part included Privates Wilson, Lindsay, Lowry, Beattie, J. B. Harvey, Messrs. Thompson, Jackson, Hall, Clelland, Pollock, and Bally Gowan (violin). Sergeant Brewer, Private Weiner, Private Jones and Private Hungerford, were among those encored, some of them frequently and enthusiastically. The items were largely songs and recitations, with gramophone selections. Mr. Alex. Mitchell was a capable piano accompanist. The National Anthem concluded the evening.

Keen to see action, Brewer voluntarily reverted to the rank of private so that he could join D Squadron, which departed for France via England in December 1914. The squadron camped at Cople, Bedfordshire, awaiting embarkation orders for France. However during training there it was found that Brewer was badly short-sighted. A Medical Board on 18 January, which also discovered his true age, found that he was "quite unable, for example, at any distance to see the Bull's Eye on a target, even when aided by glasses." It was recommended that he be discharged as permanently unfit for military service.

Brewer returned to Antrim, where on 2 February 1915 he was discharged under Paragraph 392 (xvi) of King's Regulations. His character on his service file was marked as "very good" (though this was later crossed-out).

Brewer died at his home at 70 Donegall Pass, Belfast, on 20 April 1933. He was buried in the Belfast City Cemetery.

 

 

The images above show Brewer at the regiment's annual camp in mid-1914, and in late November 1914. The full pictures can be seen here and here.