Surgeon Lieut. Colonel William Hamilton Broun (1854 – 1937)

William Hamilton Broun

(Collection bequeathed by Mrs Margaret Ann Broun in 1948)


Broun began life as Briggs. William Hamilton Briggs was born 1854 in Pembrey, Wales. He joined the army medical staff in 1875, serving as a surgeon in India, Afghanistan and Africa. He was employed as personal medical officer to Robert Bourke, 1st Baron Connemara, Governor of Madras 1886-1889.


William Hamilton Broun

The photograph above is a group portrait of Lord Connemara and the Viceroy, circa 1885. Briggs is listed as one of the sitters (third from the left, behind Captain Henderson). A description of the photograph is


Sir Steuart Bayley (1836-1925); Lady Dufferin; Lord Connemara (1827-1902); The Viceroy of India, Frederick Hamilton, 1st Marquess of Dufferin (1826-1902); Lady Susan Georgiana Bourke, Baroness Connemara (d. 1898); Lady Helen Blackwood and Lady Eva Wyndham Quin. They are amongst thirty-one sitters photographed outside a large house together with officers of the Indian Army.


Details of the photograph includes a list of the subjects. Briggs is there, and so too is his future wife Lady Susan Georgiana Bourke (born Broun-Ramsay).

William Hamilton Broun

RAMM would like to thank the Royal Collection Trust.


Briggs was a witness in the 1890 divorce proceedings of Baron Connemara from his wife Lady Susan Georgina Bourke. Due to this situation, Briggs was forced to retire from the army. He was reinstated in 1893 without loss of rank but retired again later the same year. In 1894, Briggs married Lady Broun and adopted the name of Broun by deed poll.


Royal Niger Company
Lady Broun died in 1898, leaving Broun a substantial amount of money. After the death of his first wife, Broun returned to Africa. He seems to have been involved with the Royal Niger Company in Northern Nigeria, 1899. He also travelled to East Africa in 1904, writing an article for the Royal Geographic Society. It is unclear whether these trips were part of employment or if he travelled under his own steam.


Broun returned to London, where he is recorded as living by the 1911 Census. In 1919, he married his widowed housekeeper, Mrs Margaret Ann McNair. They took several trips together, to Capetown, South Africa; Genoa, Italy and Kingston, Jamaica. In the later years of his life, he was a resident of Teignmouth, Devon and this is where he died in 1937 at the age of 83 years. His wife, Margaret Ann Broun, died in 1948 and bequeathed his collection to Royal Albert Memorial Museum.


Periods of employment and travel
Joined medical staff 1875
Jowaki Campaign, India 1877-78
Second Afghan War, Afghanistan 1878-80
Nile Campaign (Gordon Relief Expedition), Egypt and Sudan 1884-85     Abu Klea War, Sudan 1885
Personal staff of Governor of Madras, India 1886-1889
Initial retirement 1890
Reinstatement 1893
Second retirement 1893
Involvement in Northern Nigeria and British East Africa 1899~1905
Temporary employment during WW1 1915-1916
Travels with second wife to South Africa, Italy and Jamaica


Collection provenance
Much of the collection is of military provenance and can be traced to specific military events.


RAMM has a Mahdist sword and scabbard, a Mahdist rosary/necklace, weapons, medals and currency which can be traced to the Abu Klea War in Sudan, 1885. These were collected by Broun during the Gordon Relief Expedition. General Lord Wolsey and Sir Redvers Buller were sent by Prime Minister Gladstone to rescue General Charles Gordon who had become besieged in Khartoum, Sudan.


An amulet and mask in the collection come from Northern Nigeria.  The mask was given to Broun by officers of the Royal Niger Company (RNC), and was probably taken as part of a punitive raid. The RNC carried out raids in retaliation for African resistance to British rule. The amulet is recorded as being given to Broun by an African chief, possibly as payment or thanks for medical treatment

60-1948-95 Epa helmet mask

The object on the left is an Epa helmet mask that was taken in 1899 by the Royal Niger Company from a so-called fetish house in the town of Eruku, Yagba state.


Broun also collected objects during his travels in East Africa, 1904, which he wrote about for the Royal Geographic Society.


His report is geographical and scientific in nature and the trip was expedition was likely intended to map and explore the area. He was clearly interested in the material culture of the local people, and wrote about the relative sophistication of Wakamba implements and ornaments. As a doctor, he treated many of the locals and may have acquired some objects as payment or gifts. Others were given in exchange for food and supplies.



Broun, W.H. ‘A Journey to the Lorian Swamp.’ in The Geographical Journal, Vol.27, No.1 (Jan., 1906), pp.36-51