21st Oct, 2016

A son of Pershore who didn't return

Evesham Editorial 17th Oct, 2014 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

TODAY (Tuesday) marks the 100th anniversary of the death of the second man listed on Pershore’s roll of honour.

Observer editor Rob George discovered more about the life of Private Albert Ralph Brookes, a young man whose future was cruelly cut short.

BORN in Pershore, Private Albert Ralph Brookes was serving in the 2nd Battalion Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry in Flanders.

But on October 21 1914, Pte Brookes young life came to an end when he was shot and later died of head wounds, he was just 19 years old.

Despite his tender years, Pte Brookes had already been in the Army for four years having enlisted in Worcester.

Son of Susan Cosnett who lived at the top of Newlands in Pershore with his step-father Samuel Cosnett, Pte Brookes is remembered on Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium, Panel 37 and 39 as well as Pershore Abbey’s War Memorial

While working for AW Smith, a Pershore chemists, Pte Brookes presented himself at a young age at the army recruiting office.

There, he was told he was big enough but not old enough and therefore went back about 18 months later.

Pte Brookes became a soldier in the King’s Own Riffles and about a year later, he transferred to the Oxfordshire Light Infantry.

It was during his time in the regiment where Pte Brookes became a hugely skillful shot.

So much so that Pte Brookes mother was told the young man had ‘during the short time he had been a soldier had gained honours which a man would be proud to have after 20 years’ service’.

The message from General Davies, Pte Brookes commanding officer, was delivered by the Rev. Hawkes Field, then master of the Pershore Troop of Boy Scouts to which the young soldier formerly belonged.

Pte Brooks won numerous money prizes for good shooting and in 1913 secured possession of the cross guns.

The infantry was dispatched to the front line soon after war was declared and on at about 11am on the morning of October 21, they advanced to attack a German position.

‘A’ Company was in reserve to ‘C’ Company and therefore was about 300 yards behind the firing line.

The infantry forced their way forward in rushes for about half a mile, losing a man but suffering no serious losses.

Company then massed behind another large hedge but came under heavy fire from the Germans.

L Cpl HJ Hastings wrote of the heartbreaking scenes in a letter to Pte Brookes mother after the conflict.

While bandaging the wounded, the company came across Pte Brookes who had been shot but was still alive.

“We bandaged him up and then had to leave him for others. Shortly afterwards we advanced to reinforce the firing line and I was amongst the first to go.” he wrote.

Poignantly, L Cpl Hastings ended the letter with: “I quite agree it seems a cruel and horrible thing that so many of us are killing and being killed in a quarrel we did not begin, and of which we have but little knowledge.”