W 3396 Leading Seaman Revell Ernest Brownie – Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (NZ Division)

Revell Ernest Brownie was born in Christchurch on 19th November 1914 the eldest son of Florence Ann (nee Lye)
and Ernest Cecil Brownie.[i]  Revell’s sister Doreen Florence Euphemia Brownie was born in 1917[ii]. Two brothers
Douglas Arthur (1920) and Desmond George (1925) were also born in Christchurch.

Revell, Doreen and Douglas all attended Junior classes at Sumner District High School[iii] prior to the Brownie family moving to Pukerua Bay in 1928.The younger children would have attended newly established Pukerua Bay School but Revell,  at 14, would have attended either Wellington College or Wellington Technical College.

On 30th May 1933 Revell enlisted in the Wellington Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as W 3396 Ordinary Seaman (OS) Brownie. The initial enlistment was for three years but this was followed up with re-enlistments in 1936 (1year), 1937 (2 years) and 1939 (2 years). By 1940 OS Brownie was a Leading Seaman and had qualified as a Petty Officer and was qualified in minesweeping, gunnery and gunlaying[iv].

                                                                      With the outbreak of World War Two, New Zealand Reserves were mobilised. Revell                                                                         was called up on 4th March 1940 reporting to HMNZS Philomel as Leading Seaman                                                                         Revell.  Leading Seaman Brownie was in the first batch of New Zealand Naval                                                                                   Reserves, to be ‘Lent Royal Navy.’[v] The loan of these Reserves was in response to                                                                           the British Admiralty call to the New Zealand government for more sailors to man                                                                           the increasing number of warships being bought into service. Revell’s service                                            record                             notes he reported to shore base training establishment HMS Victory on 17th May                                                                             1940 then to HMS Neptune on 17th August 1940.

                                                                       It was intended that New Zealand would provide a crew for HMS Neptune and this                                                                           Leander-class light cruiser would serve alongside the New Zealand squadron, HMS                                                                         Achilles and HMS Leander. HMS Neptune was originally due to sail for New Zealand                                                                         in May 1941 but the loss of cruisers during the Crete campaign meant
                                                                       HMS Neptune was attached to the Malta based Force K.

                                                                                 Leading Seaman Revell Ernest Brownie                                                                  

Leading Seaman Revell Ernest Brownie posing beside 'B' Turret, HMS Neptune 

At the end of 1941 HMS Neptune was based in Alexandria, Egypt and sailed to
disrupt Axis Convoys in the Mediterranean. On 19th December 1941, HMS Neptune
hit enemy mines off the coast of Libya and sank. Only one of the crew of 764 survived
this incident. The loss of the HMS Neptune was New Zealand Navy’s worst disaster
with 151 of the crew being from New Zealand.

Revell’s mother Florence received a telegram on the 29th December 1941 reporting
her son missing. While the sinking was reported in New Zealand papers in
January 1942 it was not until reports of prisoners of war were provided by the Italians
that the full extent of the loss was known in New Zealand. In 1944 the Brownie family
was able, along with many other NZ families, to note their loss[vi]

              BROWNIE:- In loving memory of our son and brother,
              Leading Seaman Revell Ernest Brownie who was lost
              on HMS Neptune ;
                              Others he saved
                              Himself he could not save
                               Greater love hath no man than this.
              Inserted by his parents, sister and brothers
              Desmond and Douglas (Overseas)

Revell Ernest Brownie is remembered on: Panel 10, Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Service, New Zealand Naval Memorial, Devonport, Auckland and at the Levin RSA.

Leading Seaman Revell Ernest Brownie will also be commemorated on the Porirua Memorial Wall at Te Rauparaha Park, Porirua.

Ernest Cecil Brownie was conscripted in 1918. 90467 Private Brownie entered camp on 21st October 1918 but with the November Armistice was demobilised and returned to Christchurch a month later.

The Brownie family lived in Pukerua Bay until 1938 when Ernest and Florence moved to Levin and opened a diary[vii]. It is possible that Revell moved to Petone where he is registered in the 1938 Electoral Rolls. Ernest and Florence  later returned to in the mid 40’s to Petone, Wellington. 

426908 Douglas Arthur Brownie served in the Air Force in WW2.

Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Files
NZ Births, Deaths & Marriages
HMS Neptune Association
Paperspast Online

LS Brownie beside B Turret, HMS Neptune 1941; HMS Neptune Association
Leading Seaman Revell Ernest Brownie; HMS Neptune Association
HMS Neptune: cite

[ii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 90467 Private Ernest Cecil Brownie
[iii] Junior Fancy Dress Party Sumner District High School, 3rd August 1925, Christchurch Press
[iv] NZ Defence Department Archives; W3396 Leading Seaman Revell Ernest Brownie
[v] NZ Defence Department Archives; W3396 Leading Seaman Revell Ernest Brownie
[vi] Roll of Honour, 19th December 1944, Evening Post
[vii] Julian’s Diary, 12th May 1938, Horowhenua Chronicle

HMS Neptune sails from Alexandria Habour 1941