World War One was horrific. Captain James Brooke didn’t give a shit. He was brave, standing strong in the face of enemy fire which came regularly in his direction. He continued to lead his troops under fire and in danger.
Who Was He?
Lieutenant Brooke VC (he was promoted to Captain after his death) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at the First Battle of Ypres during World War One. This man was worth spending some time on to find out his story.
I was reading True World War I Stories and there are some horrific accounts of battle. Just reading the first few pages nailed home the differences in war between today and a hundred years ago. There are so many World War One heroes that I read a little bit about.
Men were fighting for six weeks without a shirt on their back. Going days without food was not unusual, even while marching many miles everyday. It’s hard to even read about and I think they deserve so much more respect than we give them for fighting in those times.
The story I was reading about was from Sergeant J F Bell from the 2nd Gordon Highlanders. The end of October was approaching, it was 1914 and it was the First Battle of Ypres. Bell says how enemy forces outnumbered the British by 7 to 1.
A trench was home right now, like for so many others. A German attack drove Bell and some fellow troops from their trench. Lieutenant Brook collected any uninjured men and took them up to the site. This included cooks, transport guys and anyone who was previously injured as long as they could fire a weapon.
Brooke led the guys with an attitude of a winner and an immense lack of fear.
Lieutenant Brooke was (outwardly) quite unperturbed, walking about the firing line issuing orders as if on a barrack square.
Not many would be so relaxed in this environment. Bell has served under him for nine years. Bell tells him the enemy would love to take him out and it would be disastrous to lose him at this time.
Brooke chose twenty men to help him. The enemy had driven them from a trench and they planned to take it back.
After losing some vital trenches the British had regrouped to fight back and Brooke led two attacks on the German trenches under fire from both rifles and machine guns. They regained one of the trenches at a crucial time under his leadership. He then held the trench with his troops to prevent the German onslaught.
Bell sent the message back to HQ that they required reinforcements if they were to defend against another attack. The enemy killed Brooke after he had already made his way back under fire to bring support back to the trench.
As the media reported at that time….
By his marked coolness and promptitude on this occasion, Lieutenant Brooke prevented the enemy from breaking through the British line at a time when a general counter-attack could not have been organised. Having regained the lost trench, he went back to bring up supports, and while doing so, was killed.
Brooke was one of countless heroes from World War One. It’s something I will be looking to learn more about in the near future. The True World War I Stories book seems great although I am early on in the book.