b. 11/04/1883 Oakley, Buckinghamshire. d. 26/06/1944 Oxford.
Edward Brooks (1883-1944) was born at Oakley, Buckinghamshire on 11th April 1883. His father, Thomas, was a general labourer and later a woodman and allotment holder. His mother was Selina nee Siviter, who worked as a nailer before marriage. They married on 13th September 1875 at St Thomas, Dudley, Worcestershire. They had a large family with twelve children born between 1876-1899.
Edward was educated at Oakley Village School. He left home aged 13 to work at the Huntley and Palmer biscuit factory in Reading. When it was discovered that he was underage, he was employed without wages, but received a suitable weekly tip. Later he worked for Messrs Knowles & Sons, a building firm in Oxford that still exists. He enlisted into 3rd Grenadier Guards on 9th January 1902, and he was a member of the guard of honour during one of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s visits to Britain. Having served three years in England, he transferred to the Reserve on 8th January 1905, until discharged on 8th January 1914. He returned to work for Messrs Knowles & Sons.
He married Elsie May nee Danbury on 12th March 1910 in Bicester, and they lived in Oxford. They had five children – Doris, Harold, Stephen, Nora and Barbara. Edward enlisted in 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on 19th October 1914 and was promoted to Lance Corporal the same day. He was then promoted to Sergeant on 13th May 1915, and was initially employed as a rifle and drill instructor and also taught members of the Headington Miniature Rifle Club to shoot. Edward went to France on 24th May 1916 and was appointed Company Sergeant Major on 29th July.
On 28th April 1917 at Fayet, near Saint-Quentin, France, Company Sergeant-Major Brooks, while taking part in a raid on the enemy’s trenches, saw that the front wave was being checked by an enemy machine gun. On his own initiative he rushed forward from the second wave, killed one of the gunners with his revolver and bayoneted another. The remainder of the gun crew then made off, leaving the gun, whereupon the company sergeant-major turned it on the retreating enemy, after which he carried it back to Allied lines. His courageous action undoubtedly prevented many casualties and greatly added to the success of the operation.
The VC was presented by King George V outside Buckingham Palace on 21st July 1917. He returned to Oxford, where he was received by the Mayor and Corporation at the Great Western Railway station before being driven to Headington, where he was presented with a framed illuminated address and monies donated from the neighbourhood.
Edward returned to the front, but was admitted to hospital in December due to rheumatism. He was evacuated to England and was treated at Southern General Hospital, Oxford until 22nd January 1918. He was posted to 4th Reserve Battalion on 15th January 1919 and was discharged in May with 20% disability for myalgia. He worked at the Morris Minor Works in Cowley from December 1919 for 25 years in the Sub-Assembly Department. Later he was a works fireman and finally worked in the stores when he turned 60. He was presented to the Prince of Wales during a Royal Visit to the factory.
Edward died at his home, 42 Morrell Avenue, Oxford on 26th June 1944 and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Oxford. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 and George VI Coronation Medal 1937. His medals are held by the Royal Green Jackets Museum, Winchester, Hampshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL GREEN JACKETS MUSEUM, WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: ROSE HILL CEMETERY, OXFORD, OXFORDSHIRE. PLOT G-2, GRAVE 119
Kevin Brazier – Brooks VC Grave
Thomas Stewart – Brooks VC Medal Group Royal Green Jackets Museum, Winchester.
Terry Hissey – two images from Brooks Barracks, Abingdon, Oxfordshire.