Monday, 28 April 2014

Waratah - Colonel Percival John Browne; Miss Gracia Katharine Hope Lees

Colonel Percival John Browne, 49, was a passenger on the Waratah's last voyage. He held the rank of Colonel in the service of the 7th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry as well as Companion, Order of the Bath (CB). The third son of William James Browne of Buckland Filleigh Esq. Colonel Browne married Bernarda Gracia Lees, 26 April, 1892, daughter of Thomas Evans Lees and Bernada Maria Elisa Turnbull.

Bernada Gracia Browne (nee Lees) had a brother Sir Elliot Lees, born 23 October, 1860, who married Florence Keith, 26 July 1882. Sir Elliot Lees was educated at Eton College, Berkshire, England and held an MP position (Oldham) in the Conservative Government, between 1886 and 1892. He gained the rank of Major and Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel in the Dorset (QO) Yeomanry. A graduate of Christ Church, Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, 1889, with a Master of Arts (MA), Sir Elliot Lees held the office of Conservative MP for Birkenhead, 1894 to 1906. He was created 1st Baronet Lees, of South Lytchett House, Lytchett Minster, Dorset on 13 February 1897, and gained the rank of Major in the service of the Imperial Yeomanry and was decorated with the award of the Companion, Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) and the award of the Territorial Decoration (T.D.).
Sir Elliot Lees fought in the Boer War 1900, where he was mentioned in despatches twice. He also held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.).

Sir Elliot's daughter, Gracia Katharine Hope Lees was born 10 Jan 1890. It was agreed that Colonel Percival John Browne would take his niece, Gracia Katharine (hence initial K) Hope Lees, on a 'round the world' trip to help her cope with the loss of her father Sir Elliot Lees. Sir Elliot died 16 October, 1908.

The family tragedy that was to follow does not bear thinking. Katherine was just 19 years of age.
Colonel Browne, 49, must have experienced exquisite anguish confronting his own mortality and that of his young charge and a failed responsibility. Both perished with the loss of the Waratah. Katherine's lady's maid, Miss L Cooke perished as well. Colonel Browne's widow Bernada Gracia Browne (nee Lees) died in 1948.





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