Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1915, Second Lieutenant William Alfred Cotterill Brooke, 1/8th (City of London), the London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) was killed in action near Vermelles on the Western Front.
The youngest son of a Master at Rugby School, he obtained a history degree at King’s College, Cambridge, and then took up a business appointment in London. He is remembered as being a brilliant and forceful speaker, and it was believed that he could have had a promising career in politics; he had already begun to make his mark speaking for the Liberal Party.
At the outbreak of the Great War Second Lieutenant Brooke was commissioned into the Post Office Rifles, and sent to France in April of 1915. Two months later he was in the trenches near Vermelles when he was killed by shell fire. A major in his battalion wrote: “He was beloved by all his brother officers, senior as well as junior, always bright, cheerful and self-sacrificing, a splendid officer whom his men adored.” One of his colleagues spoke of his charm and spirit, commenting that “He joined the battalion at Festubert at a time when we were in the middle of the sternest task we had yet had to carry out, and I shall never forget the high spirit which he showed under circumstances which might have tried the nerve even of an old soldier.” His older brother, the poet Rupert Brooke, had died at Skyros in Greece less than two months earlier.
Second Lieutenant Brooke is buried in the Fosse 7 Military Cemetery (Quality Street), at Mazingarbe in France. His name is inscribed on his parents’ grave in Clifton Road Cemetery, Rugby.
William, from Rugby, was 24 years old.