Tributes paid to Second World War hero and charity stalwart Andrew Brown

Loved ones of a second world war hero who died aged 92 have paid tribute to Andrew Brown after suffering from cancer and Alzheimer's disease

Andrew Brown showing Princess Diana around the Shaw project in Cramlington
Andrew Brown showing Princess Diana around the Shaw project in Cramlington

A Second World War hero who became a charity stalwart in the North has died at the age of 94.

Andrew Brown was one of the last remaining glider pilots to survive the Battle of Arnhem and Operation Market Garden in September 1944.

Mr Brown, also known as Drew, died on March 24 after suffering from cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Born in Blinkbonny in the Borders in November 1919, he had tough upbringing.

His father, Leonard, was a First World War invalid who died leaving three small children, Drew, Nancy and Lena. The war pension ended with Leonard’s death, so his widow Mary worked long hours washing, cleaning, picking turnips and potatoes to keep her family from the workhouse.

After leaving school in Coldstream, Drew worked as a Bothy Boy in the gardens of stately homes at Ford, Lennel and Musselburgh.

At the outbreak of war in 1939, he served with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers before transferring to the Glider Pilot Regiment.

In September 1944, flying a Horsa glider carrying a jeep and five soldiers, Mr Brown took part in Operation Market Garden, Field Marshall Montgomery’s plan to secure the strategically vital bridge crossing the Rhine at Arnhem.

Mr Brown and his men were trapped near Oosterbeek, hoping and praying that help would arrive. “We were completely surrounded,” he recalled, “being shelled all the time, and because of the breakdown in intelligence, we watched as 90% of our supplies went over our heads and dropped straight into German hands”.

After suffering terrible casualties, including the defeat of Lieutenant-Colonel John D.Frost’s battalion at Arnhem Bridge, Field Marshall Montgomery acknowledged his plan had failed and ordered the rescue of British 1st Airborne. By crawling through woods down to the Old Church at Oosterbeek, Mr Brown was among the lucky few who escaped back across the Rhine in a ferry boat on the night of September 26 1944.

After the war he met his wife Janet MacLarty and they married in 1955 before having three children – Kath, Len and Don. and Drew pursued his career as a horticultural advisor for the Ministry of Agriculture by accepting promotions in Yorkshire, Bedford, Hampshire, Cambridge and finally Newcastle, until his retirement in 1982.

Drew, a Newcastle United fan, lectured in Landscape Gardening at Newcastle University and played a key part in setting up the horticultural centre at the pioneering Sheltered Housing and Workshops Project in Cramlington, Northumberland, in the 1980s, which provided homes and employment for people with disability.

He proudly led Princess Diana on a grand tour of SHAW on her visit in 1989.

He held strong Christian beliefs throughout his life and was heavily involved with St James and St Basils Church in Fenham and later Jesmond Parish Church.

He is survived by two of his children, Kathleen and Len, and by his granddaughters Isla, Maeve, Grace and Flora.

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