The Men from Hyde – Albert Ernest Brooks

Albert Ernest Brooks was born in the third quarter of 1896 in Winchester. His father, Richard had begun married life as an Assistant Superintendent for a Life Assurance company and at the 1891 census was living with his wife (born Southampton) and two small children – Harold aged 3 years born 1888 in Maidenhead and Frank born 1890 aged 1 year at 52 St Catherine’s Road, Chilcombe. To help with the expense of a young family they had an 18 year old boarder.

By the 1901 census the family had grown. Albert was 4 years of age, 3rd of 4 boys born to Richard and Laura. Richard had left the Life Assurance business and is described as a bread baker from Oxford. The newest addition to the family was Edward, a baby of 2 months. The younger three boys were all born in Winchester. At this time they lived at 28 North Walls.

Albert’s family appear again on the census of 1911. They had moved next door to no 27so we know nothing more about his growing up except that he probably attended school in Hyde. Albert signed up in Southampton to the 9th Hampshire Regiment, in October 1915.This was a cyclists’ regiment. His service number was 29472. Perhaps Albert had a keen interest in cycling which prompted him to volunteer. However, the cycle regiments did not serve abroad and he may have been disappointed when he was transferred to the 2nd/9th Battalion. By this time his family had moved to 3 Edgar Road, his last home, where the family remained until his death.

His unit moved to France probably March 1916.and he entered a theatre of war with the 14th (1st Portsmouth) Battalion. Albert survived the advance by night from Vlamertinghee that the Hamsphires made during the Battle for Ypres. He was lucky to come through a situation where the war Diary reports: ‘There were dead men and horses strewn all along the roads, all of which were being heavily shelled’.

Albert’s next serious action the Battle of the Somme on 1st July when the Hampshires pushed the Western Front a short distance forward. On 3rd September 1916 Albert was required to take part in the push forward from Hamel at the Eastern End of the Somme offensive. He was killed in action and his body never found.

A quarter of a million British soldiers were blown to bits over ten months in a five-mile stretch of the Front to the North, North-East, and East of Verdun. Attacks were hugely expensive in terms of lives lost while the gains made were not reinforced or supplied adequately and frequently retaken. Some commentators consider that a fatal mistake in planning was made on the first day of the Somme offensive.  British troops were required to take 3 rows of German trenches. Had they taken and adequately held the just first line, they may well have had overall success.

This was a major front for the French who suffered the worst firepower of the War so far. The majority of French troops ‘a fait Verdun’ (‘did’ Verdun). A memorial ossuary at Douaumont contains the bones of 1.3 million French dead.

His brother Harold Herbert, who signed up in 1916, despite being married, spent most of the war in Mesopotamia. He survived the war.

Albert’s death is recorded Anglo-French Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval Somme, France and at St Bartholomew’s and St John the Baptist.

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