Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Private Albert Ellis Brock, 1st Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment, took his own life. He had been discharged from the army four months earlier due to his combat-damaged arm. His ensuing depression was exacerbated by his ill-treatment as a prisoner-of-war, and abuse received on returning home for not being in uniform.
One of a family of seven children, Private Brock had worked for the London and North Western Railway Co. at Crewe as a boy labourer, from when he was fifteen in the year 1900. He joined the army in January of 1904, and served twice in India. He arrived in France on the 16th of August, 1914.
On the 24th of August, Private Brock fought with Captain Dugmore during the rearguard action by the Cheshires at Audregnies, he was badly wounded in his right arm. Shrapnel had shattered both the radius and ulna, and the wound became septic, taking four-and-a-half months to heal. He had been taken prisoner and spent two months in hospital at Wiheries in Belgium, before being sent to a prisoner-of-war camp near Cologne. .
In August of 1915, Private Brock was released in a prisoner exchange and was hospitalised on his return home. The medical report stated that the bones in his arm had healed in malposition with damage to the nerves and circulation, and with movement very restricted. In effect, he could not use his arm at all.
On the 31st of December he was officially discharged from the army, deemed unfit for further war service, home service, or light duties due to the nature of his injury. He was not issued with an armlet which would have signified he had been wounded in action, and suffered abuse from people who did not know about his damaged arm and his internment, which increased his depression and despair. Private Brock hanged himself from the staircase of his home.
In June of 1916, Private Brock’s death was discussed in Parliament, and this led to the award of the Silver War Badge, beginning that September, to all discharged servicemen. It signified that they were permanently unfit for further service due to injuries received in the defence of the empire, and were neither conscientious objectors nor cowards.
Private Brock lies buried in St. Matthew’s churchyard in Haslington, a street in the village was named in his honour, and he is remembered on the local war memorial.
Albert, from Haslington, Cheshire, was 31 years old and married with a two-year-old son.