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Sergeant Edward Brookes, 1/7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, celebrated his 36th birthday in the trenches on 1st May 1915. By May 11th he was dead.
At home Edward left his wife Florrie Brookes nee’ Beesley and two children Lillian and Lewis Edward thereafter known as Ted. What follows are the personal recollections of his daughter Lillian Brookes.
In the same regiment with James and Edward was another slight relative who lived in Spon End, Coventry. He was in the middle of a letter home and wrote telling his wife "They have just brought Ted Brookes in. He’s been shot, go and tell Mrs Beesley". She showed Elizabeth Beesley her letter and she rushed over to Craners Road to tell her daughter.
Lillian Brookes – I came out of Frederick Birds School at 12o’clock and was on my way home when I saw my aunt Harriet Magson (nee’ Beesley) talking to a neighbour. She called me over and gave me a kiss and said “you poor soul”. I told my friend I was walking along with how strange this was, as we weren't a kissing type of family.
When I arrived home I was surprised to find my Gran there and mother scrubbing the floor like mad. Gran said "Lilly, your dad’s been killed" and I remember going out to the toilet and crying.
When I had recovered myself a bit I went back. Gran said "Florrie you’d better come home with me." We stayed at Gran’s for a week, but my brother Ted and I began to get on her nerves. We would play with the brass fire ornaments, giving them a little push. Gran would say "Florrie can’t you stop them!" so mother decided to take us home.
It was over two weeks after we knew father was killed that we received the official letter.
Edward Brookes is buried at La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery. The cemetery is located just over 10 kilometres south of Leper in Belgium. The cemetery resides in a peaceful rural setting and contains 336 burials from the First World War.
(The War Diary of Sergeant Brookes can be found here)
On 17 June 2009, Harry Patch celebrated his 111th birthday. At the time, he was the last living British Tommy that had fought in the trenches of the First World War. Now that direct link with the past has gone. From his vivid memories of an Edwardian childhood, through the horrors of the battles of Ypres and Passchendaele to working on the home front in the Second World War and fame in later life as a veteran, The Last Fighting Tommy is the story of an ordinary man's extraordinary life.
As we mark one hundred years since the beginning of the Great War, this powerful account of a life defined by those four devastating years remains as important and relevant as ever.