Elliott Harvey BROOKS
Eyes hazel, Hair dark, Complexion fresh
The Brooks of Jamestown
In the writing of this story we are indebted and acknowledge the support of David Brooks, nephew of Arthur Brooks, and of our kindred organisation, the FFFAIF. David’s full article, The Brooks Brothers, appears in the FFFAIF magazine - Digger, Volume 49, December 2014 (p 39ff)
Sons of Frederick and Mary Brooks
Sons of Thomas and Laura Brooks
Of four grandchildren of Richard and Jane Brooks known to have served in WW1, and all from Jamestown, South Australia, three survived and Arthur perished at Fromelles. This is not to say that survival meant a lifetime without the demons of memories for those that returned. The four cousins (two sets of brothers) are pictured below.
This is a story primarily of Arthur. He was born on 8 July 1890 in Jamestown, South Australia and his mother, Laura Jane, passed in 1895. It is unknown if a relative supported the children while Thomas carried on the family business in those early years. It is known however that Thomas remarried in 1901 to Scottish born, Annie Ferguson, and there were two more sons born to that marriage.
In 1915, Arthur’s older brother, Joseph Brooks, was already serving at Gallipoli and his brother Arthur and cousin, Elliot, (nicknamed Scotty and Bronco, respectively) were serving in the 17th Light Horse Militia. Along with about nineteen other Jamestown young men, the two cousins enlisted in August 1915 and were allotted consecutive service numbers. In his attestation papers, Elliot declared his 4-year service with the militia but, for reasons unknown, Arthur did not, claiming to have no prior military experience. Researchers suggest that Arthur may have been avoiding the legislative provisions that prohibited militia units serving overseas – apparently a prohibition that many ignored, including Arthur.
The two cousins spent time in the 27th training Battalion before leaving Adelaide on HMAT A7 Medic and arriving in Egypt in March 1916. Three weeks later they were both transferred to the 32nd Battalion.
They arrived in Marseilles on 23 June and were quartered at Morbecque for ten days before moving onto Fleurbaix. At this time Elliot was hospitalised. It is fair to state that Elliot has an extensive record of hospitalisations and would carry the scar of war for the rest of his life. We can only surmise what hell he had endured. Suffice to say, he married, although late in life, and on occasion preferred to sleep alone in a tent, and displayed death-facing follies for years. Today, we recognise that he was suffering from PTSD.
Arthur “Scotty” Brooks was one of the many casualties at the Battle of Fromelles on 20 July 1916, reported missing immediately after the battle – fate unknown.
From documents on army personnel records it seems that the first notification family received that something was amiss for Arthur came via a cable from a mate in September and other letters to local families to say that Arthur and other local lads were missing or had been killed on 20 July 1916 in France.
His father desperately sought information through YMCA and Red Cross channels and also by the following personal letter to Melbourne Base Records.
The army cabled a reply within a week to advise that:
no official report to any effect received here concerning your son.
Investigations commenced but the outcome took many months. Confusion and doubt arose from the outset as some reports indicated that Arthur had been killed and others that he was wounded and hospitalised in England. Unfortunately, it seems that this confusion was compounded as his cousin Elliot was mistaken for Arthur by one comrade giving evidence. Elliot had been evacuated to England around this time, was in the same Battalion, was similar in build and had a similar service number. Elliot gave evidence in May 1917 and clarified the confusion.
Sadly, though, it was not until March 1917 that Thomas Brooks was officially advised as next of kin that his son, Arthur, was missing and it was September before he was officially notified that Arthur had been killed in action on 20 July 1916. More than twelve months living with the uncertainty of not knowing must have taken a dreadful toll. In fact, in a letter written in 1921 by Joseph, the eldest son, he asked authorities to direct all correspondence related to his deceased brother to him as:
it upsets the old people a great deal when they get anything in ref. to their late son.
For those soldiers who did return to Jamestown (mainly members of the 32nd Battalion), they built their own “shed” as a meeting place, called the DMob shed. In all likelihood it was to become a safe place for those like Elliot who continued to battle their demons long after the war. It was a space for returned servicemen to support each other as they attempted to fit back into the peacetime world and also to remember those like Arthur ‘Scotty’ Brooks who did not return. The shed is still in use by community groups today.
To the current day, Arthur is still remembered and honoured by family but he still lies in an unknown grave. DNA donors were located in 2014 but no identification has been made to date.
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