Monday, 30 May 2011

Gordon Byron Brookes, killed in action.

Captain Gordon Byron Brookes 1880-1916, son of Warwick Brookes 1843-1929, the photographer of 350 Oxford Road, Manchester, was killed in action during the Battles of the Somme, in 1916. The action is detailed in the archives of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, and is as follows........

The brigade front line had been taken over by the 10th. Durham Light Infantry and the 6th Somersets who held the line of the Bulls Road (i.e. a portion of the Flers-Les Boeufs Road), and the 6th DCLI were ordered to support the two forward Battalions by moving up to Gap trench, which ran for some 1400 yds in a south easterly direction from the southern exits of Flers Village.
At 8.30pm the Cornwalls moved off from York Ally Trench and guided by a 2nd lieut A.M. Reep who had reconnoitred the route in daylight were settled in by 12.30am. Gap trench, however, in parts did not exist owing to the "crumping" it had received, and in other parts it was very shallow. The night was therefore spent in consolidating and digging in.
At 9.25am, (zero hour), on the 16th. The Battalion was ordered to advance over the open and occupy the line of The Bulls Road as the Durham Light Infantry and the Somersets were then advancing to the attack. The objectives of the 43rd Brigade were Gird Trench and Gird Support, both crossing the Brigade front in a north westerly to south easterly direction. These two trenches covered all approaches to Gueudecourt from the west. The village itself was not strongly held and when our guns bombarded it, appeared to be only very weakly garrisoned. The strength of the enemies’ defences, however, was in Gird Trench and its support line, as well as in the sunken roads and defences on both flanks of the village.
At 9.25am the Battalion advanced in one wave. The enemy, spotting the movement, immediately opened fire with machine guns and "whizz bangs", but unfortunately his fire was high and only slight casualties were suffered. The line of the Cornwalls was excellently maintained and the dressing well kept.
At 10.20am The C.O. sent a message to the 6th Somersets: “Enemy appear to have a machine gun barrage on our right flank. It seems useless to pour more men into it. Our artillery ought to be informed. Can you get on to them?"
But no reply was received to this message and at 10.30am, instead of advancing on Gird Trench in one wave (owing to the heavy machine gun fire and the big losses sustained by the DLI and Somersets), two companies of the Cornwalls advanced in waves of platoons at 100yds distance. These also suffered heavily, but reached the front line and intermixed with the DLI. Two Vickers gun teams sent up with the two companies suffered casualties also.
At about 11.00am the machine gun fire from the right was so severe that the C.O. of the Cornwalls suspected that the guards on the right could not have advanced. This supposition was correct, for it will be remembered that on the left of the 7th Cornwalls only a company of the 7th Somersets had reached the first objective, and on the left of that company of Somersets the Guards had not won through to the first objective but were some hundreds of yds from it. The machine gun fire from the right came from that portion of the objective not gained by the Guards, catching the troops of the 43rd Brigade, who were attacking Gird Trench, in enfilade.
But not being aware of this, Col. Stokoe sent out a patrol of two men to mount the crest of the high ground and ascertain if there had been any advance on the right of the 43rd Brigade. Both of these men became casualties and did not return. At 12.00 noon two more men were sent out and only one returned. He reported that there was no movement on the right and the machine gun fire very heavy.
At about 1.40pm the enemy made a small counter attack west of Gueudecourt but it was broken up by our artillery.
During the afternoon the Cornwalls reinforced the Durhams by single waves of platoons in extended order, but all suffered casualties on the way forward.
At 6.10pm orders were received to resume the attack at 6.55pm in conjunction with the remainder of the Brigade. The greatest difficulty was experienced in getting orders round in such a short time and to organize the attack, for units were intermingled and had become scattered during the day’s operations.
However, at 6.55pm the whole line advanced with the utmost gallantry but was again raked by violent machine gun fire, very heavy casualties being suffered. Of the Cornwalls, every company commander was killed or wounded and only two very junior officers remained in the firing line. The advance, after moving forward 200yds, melted away and the survivors crawled back to the "jumping off" line.
The Cornwalls, Durhams, Somersets (they were very much intermingled) now established a defensive line of all units along the Bulls Road: this line was reinforced by four machine guns.
Early on the 17th the 21st Division took over the line and the 6th Cornwalls, having been relieved at 5.00am, moved back to Pommiers Redoubt and later to Becordel and Ribemont. On the 22nd they marched to Sus St. Leger. Their casualties in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette had been very heavy: 15 officers out of 20 had been killed or wounded and the losses in other ranks were 294 out of about 550 who "went over the top".

Only the names of the following officers killed could be traced: Capt. G.B. Brookes, kia 16/9/16. 2/ Lieut. G. Armitage KIA 16/9/16. 2/Lieut. R.Fowler KIA 16/9/16. 2/Lieut.W.J.Hill died of wounds 17/9/16. 2/Lieut. A.M. Reep KIA 16/9/16.

The action was the battle of Flers-Courcelette which took place on 16th. September 1916.

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