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James Browne arrived at Silverwood from Wigan Lancashire, like my father he was born in Ince Lancashire, a little suburb near Wigan divided into Lower Ince and Higher Ince. In 1901 James can be found listed as a Colliery Labourer at Wigan age 22. His sons John and Robert also worked at Silverwood for a while, John in Landsale and Robert was a Fitter.


The two articles below tell the story of the family, as told by the author Patrick Anthony Kilgallen. [ Please read copyright at foot of page ]

There is also a wonderful tribute included to the late Peter Bryce, whom I remember from my days at Thrybergh

Contributed by  RAF Cosford Roadshow
People in story:  Nora & Patrick Kilgallen and John Browne.
Location of story:  Silverwood, Nr ROTHERHAM, YORKSHIRE.
Background to story:  Civilian
Article ID:  A2734166
Contributed on:  11 June 2004

The Browne family lived in the Deputies' terraced house at Silverwood Cottages, across the road from Silverwood Colliery. James had helped sink the shaft, and eventually moved his wife Lavinia and son Harry from Wigan into the new house in 1906. They had six more children at Silverwood: Lesley died in childhood, Joe followed, then Nora (1912), John (1914), Thomas and Robert. The 1928 General Strike shut the colliery, and split the family. Harry went off to London, and Joe began a long career with the Nottingham Police force. By 1939, James & Lavinia were both in poor health and housebound; daughter Nora was back from a life "in service" in London, and now lived at home with her younger brothers John, Thomas and Robert. When war broke out, Nora married her fiance, miner and Coldstream Guard Reservist Patrick Kilgallen, before he went off with the BEF in September 1939. She stayed at home. He survived this campaign and was rescued from Dunkirk. So it was thanks to those 'little ships' that I -- Patrick Anthony -- appeared on the scene on 6th June 1941. Much of Dad's "home" service involved Blitz clearance work on Merseyside. Thomas went off to America as an RAF cadet on the ARNOLD SCHEME; Robert went with the REME to the North African desert and Palestine. John had a heart problem, so was "excused boots". He was our only breadwinner.
Dad went to North Africa with Monty's Eighth Army, then went on to help take the seige guns on Pantellaria, before invading Sicily and landing on the Italian mainland at Salerno. On the night of 29/30 January 1944, he as killed by a huge shell from the German rail-mounted artillery piece known by our troops as "the Formia Express".
When the telegram came, John broke off his engagement and declared his job was now "to look after Nora and Tony" - a promise he kept til his death in 1994!!
His war consisted of very long days; working split shifts (6.00am til midday, then again 6.00pm - 10.00pm) in the colliery. This pattern left his afternoons free to tend the pigs and chickens, or to cycle around Yorkshire looking for scarce medicines and fresh fruit for the family. Compared with many War Widow stories, however, our life was not too difficult. We had a home, and the fuel to heat at least one room and our large kitchen range. Our cellar, which acted as our air-raid shelter, always had hams hanging from the ceiling. some of these were for exchanging with produce from the neighbours, whose gardens were growing different crops. Some specialised in fruit, others in vegetables. Where was I through all this? In a box under the concrete slab which supported the meat safe. When the steelworks of Sheffield were under attack by the Luftwaffe, we were usually disturbed too. We didn't know at the time that a secret machine in a Sheffield hospital was 'jamming' the enemy's radar, causing the confused crews to drop their bomb loads at random before heading home with their fuel running low.
Visitors to the house included a cockney Bevin Boy who was billeted on us, but disappeared after a few days "with 12/6 of our housekeeping money". (You didn't mention 'Bevin' again in our house after that!!) On a happier note, Tom would bring members of his crew on visits. He was now the pilot of a Lancaster, and based not too far away in Lincolnshire. In fact, he could fly a Lanc before he could drive a car. When he did get his car, he became a pal of the band at the large Army camp in nearby Ravenfield Park. The Americans could get petrol, Tom had the car, and we 'adopted' the trumpeter and the pianist!!
The former was a Glaswegian, Peter Bryce, who'd lost his wife and child in the Blitz. He adopted "Grandma" and sent us regular pictures of his regiment's progress through Rome. The pianist was the well-known BBC musician, Gerald Moore. We still have a portrait of him at the Glasgow Empire organ, signed "Best Love, Gerald". The war ended, but the family were not free of pain. Within a year, Nora and John had lost both parents. Now it was just Mum, Uncle John and Me against the world!!
It must have affected me, for (at age six) I asked Mum one day:
"Why don't you smile like other Mummies do?". I don't remember saying it, and Mum only told me of it a few years before she died in 2000. I was very upset, but she made me feel better by adding that I'd shaken her into "getting on with life". This we did. I was lucky to have the support to get me to University and a career as a Physics teacher. I have a wonderful 40-year marriage, three wonderful sons (one a PATRICK, one a JON) and two gorgeous grandchildren, Charlotte Elizabeth and Andrew PATRICK. That's a pretty good legacy! Thanks MUM, DAD & UNCLE JOHN!!

Shirt Box Under the Sofa by RAF Cosford Roadshow
Archive List > British Army
Archive List > United Kingdom > Sheffield and South Yorkshire
Archive List > World > Italy
Contributed by  RAF Cosford Roadshow
People in story:  John Browne, Peter Bryce, Nora and Tony Kilgallen
Location of story:  Ravenfield, Nr Rotherham, Yorkshire
Background to story:  Army
Article ID:  A2780101
Contributed on:  25 June 2004

Shirt Box Under the Sofa

Most homes will have a repository for the old family treasures. For this war-baby, these were to be found in Grandma's button tin on the sideboard, and in Uncle John's old shirt box under the sofa. This cellophane-lidded, battered-flat container held a motley collection of studio portraits and snapshots - many of which, alas, had lost their stories.
Some, however, held a special fascination for this young lad. There were several pictures of my 'Uncle Peter' during his travels around war-torn Europe - all of them inscribed to us, 'his family', at home in Silverwood Colliery housing, Near Rotherham.
Kindly uncle
I remember Peter Bryce as a kindly 'uncle', married to my mother's cousin, but it would be years before I found out exactly how he'd first come into our lives. His broad Glaswegian accent suggested that he might not be a natural-born 'Tyke' like me, so it prompted me to ask Mum how we had come to meet him. This is the story she told in 1999, long after Peter's death.
During the war, there was a large army camp on the nearby Ravenfield Park estate. It had a band which boasted the BBC pianist Gerald Moore and several American GIs. Peter was its trumpeter! The Yanks could get petrol, and in our house could be found the keys to my Uncle Tom's new car when he was home on leave from flying his Lancaster bomber. So it was that we often played host to our very own wandering 'Glen Millers'!
Trauma of the Glasgow blitz
Peter was serving with a Scottish regiment, and was recovering from the trauma of losing his entire family in the Glasgow blitz. The picture Mum painted was of Peter entering his burning street, and seeing a door frame silhouetted against the flames. 'Standing' in the frame was the body of his wife still holding their dead baby.
A family adopted
His regular visits to our home resulted in him doing us the great honour of adopting us as his new family. Many of the pictures he sent from Sicily and Italy were dedicated to his 'dearest Grandma' - THAT WAS MY GRANDMA, but I don't think that I minded too much at the time.
A poignant image
This photograph shows Peter (kneeling left) with three pals at Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome's Vatican City. It's particularly poignant to me now, for it was on the road to Rome that my father - Lance Corporal Patrick Kilgallen, Coldstream Guards - was killed by an artillery barrage during the night of 29-30th January 1944 in the second Allied push against the defesive Gustav Line through Monte Cassino. The photo was taken that summer, after the capital's liberation.

On the back of the photograph, he's written: 'To my dearest sister and the best pal a guy ever had. I hope you like this Nora, it's really a fine place. All my love to You and Tony. Your loving Brother, Peter XXXXXXXXXXXX'

('Sister Nora' was my Mum - his 'best pal' was her brother John Browne - and I'm the 'Tony', then aged 3.)

Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. 


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Stanley Horton remembers the Browne family and writes.

Having just read the article on James Browne it was nice to see the names of Nora, John, and Robert. John was my boss when I worked in the Landsale at Silverwood, He was not only the boss he was a good friend and a perfect gentleman. Robert also was a nice man I used to see him a lot at the pit when he worked as a fitter, I also met Norah on numerous occasions she was a very nice lady. John and myself along with some others used to go playing snooker at the Woodman Inn on Saturday evenings ,John Browne, Robert Browne, George Trickett Arnold White, Stan Horton, Ralph Warrington, and sometimes Tony Kilgallon himself
I worked in the Landsale at Silverwood !968 to 1975. I could not have worked with a better set of lads. I have now retired and I now live in Barnsley since 1975. I still used to go and meet John Browne to watch Rotherham United play.

Stan Horton



 If anyone can give me a contact for the above author Patrick Anthony Kilgallen I would appreciate it.

John Doxey




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