Geoffrey Brown R.I.P.

Most readers of this blog will probably not have heard of Geoffrey Brown, who died on local election day this year, but he was a remarkable man.

Geoffrey was my Deputy Chairman (Political) while I was Chairman of St Albans Conservative Association. Despite the fact that he had seconded my opponent for the position, when I was elected he gave me three years of loyal and extremely hard-working support.

Which was rather a change-around from our first meeting: after he finished his army career and became a history teacher at St Albans School in 1973. On the morning of his first day as a teacher I was twelve years old and was a member of the second form history class which was the very first one he taught.

Geoffrey joined the army during World War II as a private soldier while he was still a teenager. He was serving in in Sheriff Thompson's Airlanding light artillery regiment, part of the 1st Airborne division, when that unit took part in the battle of Arnheim.

After the war he remained in the army, working his way from the ranks up to the rank of Captain, an achievement of which he was extremely proud. After twenty years in the army education corps, he took a degree at Cambridge before becoming a teacher.

One story he used to tell of his time at Cambridge was the time a tutor was making statements about the battle of Arnheim which he did not consider to give a true picture of the battle, so he challenged him.

"What's your basis for that view?" asked the teacher

"I was bloody there!" replied Geoffrey.

The boys at St Albans School used to tease him about his obvious pride in his military past - on one occasion when he instructed a class to meet for a lesson the following day by the front gate rather than in the usual classroom, someone joked "Formed up in three ranks!" - and they actually did it. He took the salute with a smile and took the joke in good humour, which I'm fairly certain that one or two other teachers with military commissions would not have done.

Geoffrey was a long-standing stalwart of the Conservative association in St Albans in general and Verulam ward in particular. He didn't usually take any high-profile public roles - the occasions when he stood as a council candidate were in wards where we had no great hopes of victory. He was the sort of party activist who most members of the public have never heard of, but without whom democratic politics would be in danger of collapse and who do far more to improve the quality of local services than most people will ever realise.

It was ironic in the extreme that his death should have come on the day of an election to St Albans City and District Council, the result of which would have given him a great deal of satisfaction.

He leaves a widow, a daughter, and a son, Tony Brown, who was Conservative parliamentary candidate for Lincoln in 1997.

He was a very cheerful, positive and kind man, and almost everyone who knew him will miss him.

Rest in Peace.


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