Today I remember Corporal Henry Alfred Brooks who was killed in action in Italy, eighty eight years ago today. This is his story:
Henry Alfred Brooks was born in Chailey about November 1895. When the 1901 census was taken, he was a five year old living at home in Balneath, Barcombe with his younger brother Ernest Edward Brooks (aged two) and his parents. His father, Alfred Brooks, born in East Chiltington, was a 26 year old brickyard labourer. His mother, Sarah Brooks, aged 27 had been born in Barcombe, as had Ernest. Later, a daughter – Daisy Margaret Brooks, born around 1902 – would complete the family.
According to Soldiers Died in the Great War, at the time of his enlistment Henry was living in Chailey although he actually enlisted at Brighton. This is confirmed by his surviving army papers which exist as a burnt document at the National Archives in London.
On 25th January 1915, aged 19 years and three months, Henry Alfred Brooks enlisted in the Army Vertinary Corps (AVC) at Brighton and was given the service number 4482. He was five feet six inches tall and weighed 148lbs. He gave his trade or occupation as “carter”. He was deemed fit and up to standard by the officer examining him and there was a recommendation which read that he was a “smart young man, intelligent and of good appearance.”
The following day his enlistment for the AVC was approved and he was duly enlisted a few days later on 1st February. The following month, Chailey Parish Magazine noted that he was serving his King and Country.
At some point prior to embarking for France, Henry was appointed acting sergeant. He embarked at Folkestone on 19th July 1916, disembarking at Boulogne. On 4th October 1916 he was appointed paid lance-sergeant while in the field but was deprived of this stripe on 9th May 1917 for being absent from his stable at 5.35am and for handing over his party without permission.
On 29th September 1917 he was transferred to the 9th York and Lancaster Regiment (70th Brigade, 23rd Division), although the reason for this transfer, given on his official papers, is obscured and damaged now. Chailey Parish Magazine noted in December 1917 that he was now a corporal with the Yorks and Lancs, Henry having been allowed to keep his NCO rank when he moved from the AVC.
In November 1917 the division moved to the Italian Front and it was here, on 15th June 1918, that 33870 Corporal Henry Alfred Books was killed in action. He is buried at Granezza British Cemetery (Plot I, Row D, Grave 10). The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commision’s Debt of Honour Register also notes that he was the son of Sarah Brooks of Gate Cottage, Balneath, Chailey near Lewes.
On 15th September 1919 on Army Form W. 5080 (a statement of the names and addresses of all the relatives of Henry Alfred Brooks then living), the following information was recorded:
Father: Alfred Brooks, Gate Cottage, Balneath, Chailey
Mother: Sarah Brooks [address as above]
Full Blood brother: Ernest Edward Brooks, Age 21 [address as above]
Full Blood sister: Daisy Margaret Brooks, Age 17 [address as above]
The information was declared correct by Sarah Brooks. Henry’s younger brother Ernest Edward Brooks also served his King & Country during the First World War.