1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

Harold George Brooks

Contributed by: Ninety Years of Remembrance, on 2008-11-01

Harold George Brooks
First Name Harold George
Surname Brooks
Year of Birth Unknown
Year of Death Unknown
Regiment Royal Engineers
Place of Wartime Residence Longfield, Kent

Harold George's Story

Harold Brooks was a Signalman serving with the Royal Engineers (Territorial). When war broke out he was sent to France to work on the Allied communications. He served with many different companies from the No1 Squadron RFC to the 16th Irish Division and the IX corps. We pick up his diary entries at Popperinghe in 1915, and then his post a farm building near Bailluel, where he describes the atrocities caused by gas attacks.

Officer [...] collapsed in the Grande Place from gas poisoning

30th April 1916

1.00am, a gas attack launched against the 24th Division front. Gas strongly felt in Bailleul. Great artillery activity, SOS being so promptly picked up that infantry attack was held up with great enemy losses. Admittance to one trench gained for short while, but were bombed out again. I was glued to the 'phone exchange' until the guns had practically ceased fire about 3.30am. Stayed up until 6am when phone activity died down. [...] Gas attack. Two Poles had been brought in - deserters from the enemy lines - stating great disaffection and also that a gas attack was prepared for first favourable opportunity. On April 29th in the evening two more deserters came in giving the time of the gas attack to take place at 1.00am in the morning. This proved true. Gas affects felt very strongly in some parts of the town. Possibly collected in the narrow alley-ways and tiny squares. Officer said to have collapsed in the Grande Place from gas poisoning and has subsequently died. About half a dozen - HQ men very queer for two days following. [...]

12th May 1916

Anti-aircraft exchange at the Aisle d'Alienees closed and amalgamated with the RFC No1 Squadron. Atkinson and I take up duty there. Have found a comfortable billet at No9 of the Douanne cottages. A matter of 3 francs 50 each has secured the run of a spotlessly clean cottage.

20th June 1916

[...] After the big gas attack at the beginning of May, which was felt so strongly in the narrow courts and alleys where it was held up, the civil and military people have made an issue of gas helmets to the town folk. It is not, I believe, so necessary to adults as to children, most of the gas being spent before it reaches us. It is amusing to see the tiniest of kiddies strutting about with their gas satchels slung over their shoulders. They are proud of them too, especially the boys, as they are much the same as those worn by their fathers and brothers. I think perhaps, too, that the girls are a little less proud, for is it not a bit extra decoration (doubtful I suppose?). [...]

26th June 1916

[...] I got back from the town about 8.30pm, and found the aerodrome very excited. 3 Nieuport Scouts had just gone up, followed by 2 Marane Parasols as escort. The evening was cloudy, but five German kite balloons were up in the distance. We watched the five machines until they were lost in the clouds. Two of the balloons were drawn in with feverish haste, having apparently spotted our machines. Suddenly the two balloons on the extreme right went up in a tremendous sheet of flame and slowly fell to the ground, burning. We thought that the third was to be a failure, as it was some seconds - seconds of intense excitement - before anything happened. Then a line of smoke seemed to shoot right through the balloon, hang for a second or two, and then it burst into flames and the balloon collapsed. One man was seen to get his parachute out, but the balloon was enveloped before he could get away. The enemy 'Archies' burst out with tremendous fury and we counted the minutes for the return of the machines. As each of the machines came in they had a great ovation of cheering and shouting.

Published by the BBC with permission from the Imperial War Museum. Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders. The IWM would be grateful for any information leading to copyright holders whose details are not currently known.

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