Distinguished Conduct Medal, GV, 1914-15 Star, British War & Victory Medal, 2nd Lieutenant W.R. Brookes, Royal Flying Corps, former Corporal in 10th Canadian Infantry.
D.C.M. named: “81103 Cpl W R Brookes 10-Can Inf”
1914-15 Star named: “81103 Pte W R Brookes 10-Can Inf”
WW1 Pair issued by Air Ministry, named: “2/Lieut W R Brookes RFC”
William Ralph Brookes was born in Erith, Kent, England on 17th May 1892. He was a Mechanic by trade and was living in Ottawa as the war broke out.
He was living at 52 Gordon Street, Ottawa, Canada when he attested for service at Winnipeg for the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 14th December 1914.
He joined the 10th Battalion Canadian Infantry and landed in France on 26th April 1915, being promoted soon after to Corporal on 1st June 1915.
He had proved his Bravery already earning the D.C.M. less than a month after landing in France, his award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal was announced in the London Gazette on 11th March 1916 page 2739, awarded for Festubert between 21st to 22nd May 1915 with the following citation:
“For conspicuous gallantry, he led a party under excessively heavy fire in front of the trenches to bring in an officer who had been severely wounded. The attempt was successful, and the wounded officer brought back to a place of safety.”
The action took place during 10th Bn’s unsuccessful attack on the German positions at K5 Redoubt, they suffered 18 officers and 250 ranks as casualties.
He was later wounded in action by shell fragments in the right leg on 21st October 1915 whilst manning the front line trenches at Kitchener’s Wood, St Julien.
War Diary from this day:
“At 1700 moved into trenches, relief effected without difficulties but enemy very aggressive all night with Trench Mortars and Rifle Grenades. One Trench Mortar and one Rifle Grenade fell into our trench causing several casualties on both occasions, with 1 officer and 7 ranks wounded.”
This ended his service in France with the Canadian Forces, being admitted to NO 13 General Hospital in France on 21st October 1915, and invalided home aboard Hospital Ship Anglia, arriving in Nottingham to Hospital on 28th October 1915, being transferred to the Hillingdon Convalescent Hospital
9th November 1915.
During this time he remained in England stationed at Shorncliffe until he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 26th February 1917.
His first Victory 29th July 1917:
HQ Royal Flying Corps France Communique dated 29th July 1917
“2/Lieut T A Doran and 2/Lieut W R Brookes, 23 Squadron, whilst on offensive patrol attacked two Aviatics east of Polygon Wood at 0850 and destroyed one.”
10th August 1917 Offensive patrol combat report by 2/Lieutenant T A Doran 23 Squadron RFC
“While leading a formation on offensive patrol, I saw 5 enemy aircraft south of Houthulst Forest with an escort of about 10 enemy aircraft.
I dived with 2/Lieutenant Brookes to attack one of the two seaters, the others (our) formation remaining up to protect us from the scouts above.
All the 2 seaters at once made off east, but I overtook one and attacked from above, firing a long burst of about 50 rounds, finishing the burst at 50 yards. I drove the enemy aircraft down to about 1,000 feet, he was going in a straight glide when he suddenly turned completely over on his back and fell apparently quite out of control. At that moment I was attacked from behind by one of the hostile scouts who had got between me and the rest of my formation, but made off as soon as I turned to fight”.
15th August 1917 offensive patrol combat report by Captain Baker, MC, 23 Squadron RFC area of Zillebeke-Brixschoote-Houthulst Forest-Poelcappelle (shortened version).
“Two formations of four Spads working in conjunction, left the aerodrome on offensive patrol at 0715 Immediately on crossing the lines the formation led by Lieutenant O’Grady encountered a two seater escorted by a formation of 8 enemy aircraft. The two seater retired east and the hostile formation engaged as they dived to protect the two seater. The two seater escaped.
The large formation at this time was being engaged by Captain Baker and three Spads, preventing them from joining the others who were engaging Lt O’Grady’s formation. All 8 of our Spads were engaging the enemy formation who were by now being re enforced, Our machines were forced back to the Salient where they re-formed. Early in the fight Lieutenant Warman had to retire with a gun jam and being engaged by 3 enemy machines only escaped by firing his Very flares at them.
Lt Brookes also had to return owing to pressure trouble.
The 23 squadron machines now 6 in number returned to the attack. A dog fight ensued with 23 Squadron expending most of its ammunition returned to base having probably shot down two enemy aircraft.”
The following day, 16th August 1917 2/Lieutenant Brookes is recorded on his service record as having been wounded and admitted to hospital in France.
It was December 1917 until he was passed fit to fly again but he did not return to combat duties being appointed an aircraft delivery pilot 3rd December 1917, be embarked for Canada 30th January 1918. His service record also records he was further injured flying in Canada 24th June 1918. William Ralph Brookes died in Ottawa, Canada