The Browne Award



By Captain Howard Browne

In 1978 four old comrades in Newport, Rhode Island, decided to hold a dinner and invite a few likely friends. I heard about some young Marine officers at Quantico who watched the movie, Zulu, and dry-fired their weapons at the screen in support of the beleaguered Gallant 24th.

This gave us the idea to have a formal dinner, impersonate the officers at Mess Night in so far as we could and rent Zulu and show it after the formalities of dinner were over. We held the dinner at the Commissioned Officers Mess at the Newport Naval Station, studied mess customs of the 24th and sent out formal invitations with instructions about deportment for those not up on the Victorian British Army.

The dinner was huge success. We expected a one-off, but attendees began asking “What are we going to do next year?” We couldn’t let our new fan base down. I had been a member of the VMS for about four years, so I said “Let’s call ourselves The Victorian Military Society” and make our purpose:

1. To dine in the almost forgotten ritual of the Victorian years

2. To rejoice in each others’ comradeship

3. To honor brave deeds

4. To break the back of the long Rhode Island winter.

We decided that there would be no officers, dues or members. One dined as a guest, thereafter next year was a member. Failure to reply properly to the invitation would cause one to be dropped from the list. The presidency and vice-presidency would be rotated among those best able to fill it.

We needed a distinguishing mark for members to sport at dinner. The VMS logo looked attractive. We killed two birds and salved our consciences by petitioning the VMS for permission to use their name as the designator for our group and to duplicate the logo in the form of a neck-piece to wear at dinner. Both petitions were granted. Rhode Island used to be the jewelry and badge capital of the US. I submitted a graphic of the logo and it was duplicated in dull pewter. We tried one in color, but it was too garish. A black ribbon commemorating the Queen-Empress’s death completed the insignia.

I ordered one hundred. When I moved from Newport I had about twenty spare medals. I sent them to the Society to use as they pleased. In reply I was honored to be told that they were going to use them as prize for the best article in SOTQ for a year. And, they were going to call it “The Browne Award.” I was pleased that, having done so little, I was rewarded so much. I asked only that the prize be in honor of my two cousins, both Victorian Soldiers.

So, the Edward Pennefather Wade Browne and Cornwallis Wade Browne Prize was founded. Long may it live!

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