GEORGE HENRY BROOKE

Rifleman 15420, 11th Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps

Died 24th August 1916 aged 21

No Known Grave Commemorated Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Son of Henry and Mary Jane Brooke

Lived 2, Wharton Street, Heckmondwike


George was born in Heckmondwike in 1895 he was the son of Henry, who came from Ashton-under-Lyme, and Mary Jane  Heeley who originally came from Holmfirth. In 1911 Henry is listed as a navvy at the sewage works working for the Urban District Council.  In the 1911 Census George is listed as having one sister still at home, Lottie born in 1891, a hopper minder, two brothers – Wilfred born in 1898, a piecener for spinners, and Willie, born in 1904, who was at school. Wilfred also served in The  Great War. In 1901 and 1911 the family are living at 2 Wharton Street, which was off Church Lane behind St James' Church.

Prior to the outbreak of war George had worked in the textile industry and by the time he enlisted he was working at Messrs J & M.S Sharp. He lists his occupation on enlistment as a miner. He was actively associated with Heckmondwike Parish Church and Sunday School.  He was also a drummer in the Church Lad’s Brigade. 

George enlisted on September 6th 1915 in Bradford. He was a Rifleman in the 11th Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps. He landed in France on February 11th 1916. He died six months later in August 1916. He was initially wounded in the arm but was killed by a shell on his way to the dressing station. 

He is commemorated on the Thiepval  Memorial in the Somme Department. The memorial is built in the area where George fought. From 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916 - George died in August 1916 and has no grave.

The local newspaper published details of how George was killed by an exploding shell after being wounded in action. His colleague Rifleman H G Stone wrote: “I thought it was my duty to write these few lines. He was wounded by my side in the muscle of the arm, and whilst on the way to the dressing station was killed by a shell. He was one of the best of chums, and I miss him very much as we have been together ever since we enlisted. I trust that God will give you sufficient strength to bear the burden of sorrow in your sad and sudden bereavement.” The article goes on to say that: “Rifleman Brooke was actively associated with Heckmondwike Parish Church and Sunday School, and on the occasion of his six day furlough last May to attend his father’s funeral. He was a drummer in the Church Lad’s Brigade.”

There was a memorial service for George on September 17 1916 at St James' Church.

An article describing the service says that George was killed by a shell and that his mother lived in Wharton Street. Joel Allott the organist played: The Funeral March by Eily, the Dead March in "Saul" and Chopin's Funeral March. Hymns were sung including "Jesu, lover of my soul", "Fight the good fight" and "On the resurrection morning." The Rev C E Hewitt read the lesson and the address was given by the Rev E H Shepherd. The burial service was read and towards the end of the service the "Last Post" was sounded.

His mother, Mary Jane, is recorded as having signed for his credit of 15 shillings and seven pence and for a war gratuity of £3 in December 1919. George’s father had died in May 1916. George was awarded the Victory Medal and the British Medal.
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