Today we remember the 101st anniversary of the death of Bourne man, Sergeant George Alfred Brooks, “C” Battery, 165th Brigade Royal Field Artillery.
Killed in Action 11th March 1917.
George was born in Headington Oxfordshire on 6th March 1881, to James Brooks, a coachman, and his wife Elizabeth Patman.
James and Elizabeth were married in Chelsea in 1874, James being from Oxfordshire and Elizabeth being born in Quadring Lincolnshire.
Thier first daughter Edith was born in Folkingham and the other 4 were all born in Oxfordshire.
James passed away in 1884 leaving Elizabeth and her young family living in Oxfordshire for some time before moving back to Lincolnshire in the late 1890s., living in Terrace Yard, North Street Bourne by 1901.
George was a career soldier originally Joined the 4th Lincs ‘Militia’ in 1896, at the age of 15, leaving them in 1897. When he joined his mother was living in North Street Bourne although George was born in Oxfordshire.
There is a George Alfred Brooks, born Oxfordshire, serving with the Derby Regiment, lisited in the Police Gazette as an absentee from the militia. There is a gap in the research between 1897 when George left the Lincolnshire Militia and 1900 when he attested to the regular army with the Lincolnshire regiment.
George attested to the 3rd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment on 24th February 1900 this being a reserve battalion, George was then posted to the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire regiment in May. George saw his first taste of overseas action being involved in the South Africa Campaign.
August 1901 saw George transferred to the 42nd Brigade Royal Field Artillery and the on to the 69th Brigade in October 1901.
On 1st April 1904 George extended his service to complete 8 years with the colours, still being with the 69th Brigade Royal Field Artillery and then attaining a promotion to acting Bombardier in July 1904.
In 1905 another promotion saw George attain the rank of Bombardier. Later that year saw him taking his equitation at Rawl Pindi on 26th April for promotion to Corporal on 29th January 1906, extending his service to complete 12 years with the colours.
Whilst serving in India George met Esther Jane Leeder, who was born in Bellary India in 1887.
They married in Campbelpore India on 1st January 1907.
In 1907 Esther gave birth to their twin boys, Frederick James and George Richard.
A reorganisation of the Army in may 1908 saw George become part of the 2nd Ammunition Column before another posting in February 1909 put him once again under the 69th Brigade.
Sadly for the young family the twins died in March 1908 whilst in India.
In 1909 the family was extended again with the birth of George and Esther’s son Cecil Alfred whilst on the posting in Rawl Pindi.
George was promoted to a sergeant in December 1909 and posted to the 67th brigade before his final posting to the 38th Brigade in October 1910.
George was discharged from the army on 11th March 1912, having completed his 1st Period of 12 years.
George’s postings were February 1900 to May 1900, Home Service.
May 1900 to October 1901 South Africa.
October 1901 to February 1912 India.
February 1912 to March 1912 India.
George’s original records ended in March 1912 after his discharge, his last posting being with the 38th Brigade Royal Field Artillery.
After leaving the Army the family moved to England where George’s Mother and Sister were still living in Bourne.
The family was now 5 children with the youngest two Harry and Esther, being born after 1913.
We can assume that when leaving the army George would have been put on the Army Reserve list and then recalled to the Army after the outbreak of war in 1914.
Currently there is little detail about George’s call-up after the outbreak of war and all we can say for certain is that at the time of his death in 1917 he was posted to the C Battery 165th Brigade Royal Field Artillery.
During the war the batteries were regularly moved between brigades making it difficult to follow a given person or battery throughout the war. The Royal Field Artillery was the largest of the artillery arms of the army and were responsible for horse drawn medium calibre guns and howitzers deployed close to the front line and reasonably mobile. The RFA was organised into brigades.
The 165th Brigade was originally part of the 31st division and received orders in November 1915 to move to France. This order was superseded in December and the Division was shipped to Egypt.
In March 1916 the divisional artillery was shipped to France and arrived via Marseille.
By early 1917 the 165th Brigade was in the field in The Somme around Bayencourt. The HQ was at Bayencourt and the batteries were in positions on the Herertune Plain. On the 6th March the batteries advanced to occupy positions behind Rossignol Wood, the HQ moving to Herbuterne.
During the 11th the HQ and batteries were shelled, the Casualties on this day were listed as 2nd Lt Lovett-Thomas of C Battery was killed and 1 other rank wounded.
Sergeant George Brooks was killed as a result of the enemy shelling on the 11th March 1917. He is buried in the Heberturne Military Cemetery.
The Grantham Journal on 31st March 1917 carried the following story,
THE LATE SERGT. BROOKS.-
During the past week, Mrs Brooks of Hereward Street, Bourne has received the following letter from Battery Sergt Major A Payne with reference to Sergt Brooks whose death in action we recorded last week. The letter was written on March 15th and says:- “It is with very deep regret and sympathy from myself and sergeants of the Battalion I inform you of your husband’s death which occurred on 11th March 1917. He was killed in action and I can assure you that he will be sadly missed by both officers and men of the Battalion. If there is anything I can do for you in the way of fixing up his affairs, I shall only be to pleased to have a line from you. Trusting you will try and bear up and be brave like a soldier’s wife should be.”
After George’s Death Esther left Bourne and returned to India, with three children Cecil, Esther and Harry.
George was awarded the following campaign medals;
The British Medal
The Victory Medal
The 15 Star
South Africa Medal 1899 with Clasps
“Orange Free State”
“S Africa 1901”
In memory of Lieutenant George Alfred Brooks, 68459, “C” Bty, Royal Field Artillery who died on 11 March 1917.
Remembered with honour, Hebuterne Military Cemetery.