Michael Brown was born on 25th October 1891 in Kirkdale, Lancashire, one of four children to James and Julia Brown. James was a sailor who died when Michael was just a boy. While Julia tried to make ends meet by taking in washing, it must have worried her when her son then fell into a sea-going life when he left school.
Michael enlisted in the Royal Navy on 19th February 1910, by which time he was already a seaman in the merchant fleet. His service records show that he was 5ft 4.5ins (1.64m) tall, had bark brown hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion. He also had a number of tattoos on his forearms, including a shamrock and a cross.
Recruited as a Stoker 2nd Class, Michael served on a number of vessels in the lead up to the outbreak of war, including the scout ship HMS Patrol, which served from Harwich Harbour, Essex. It was here that he gained promotion to Stoker 1st Class in February 1911.
When not at sea, Stoker Brown was based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. When war broke out in 1914, however, he was in the middle of a three-year stint on board HMS St George, a cruiser that went on to guard the Humber Estuary on the east coast of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
By the spring of 1916, he was back in Chatham and from this point on, remained firmly on dry land, with assignments in Kent and at HMS Victory, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth, Hampshire. By the summer of 1917, though, Stoker Brown returned to HMS Pembroke once again.
The naval base was particularly busy and cramped at that point in the war, and temporary overflow accommodation was set up in the barracks’ Drill Hall. This is where Michael came to be billeted.
On the night of the 3rd September, the German Air Force conducted the first night time raid on England. Chatham came in the firing line, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Stoker 1st Class Brown was among those to be killed. He was just 24 years of age.
Michael Brown was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.