Ben Brook (c.1889-1919)

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This page is part of a project by David Verguson to research the lives of those who appear on war memorials and rolls of honour in the Lindley area.

Biography

Ben Brook was the son of Thomas and Susannah Brook, of Dodworth, Barnsley.

He is remembered on the town memorial wall in Edgerton Cemetery and was buried in the Zion cemetery in the heart of Lindley, a grave which a long with many others, was lost when the cemetery was re-organised and turned into the green space and footpath it is now.

"B Brook" and the rank, number, unit, place of burial and the name and address of parents are all given by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. At first the connection with Lindley seemed difficult to establish.

Thomas and Susannah Brook were born in 1847 in Lindley (or alternatively, Outlane) and in 1871, before any children were born, lived on Thornhill Street, as Thorncliffe Street was then called, where Thomas worked as a spinner.

A year later they had a daughter, Emily and two years after that another, Alice. Before their next two children were born — Sarah in 1876 and Laura in 1878 — they had moved to Denby Dale.

In 1881 the family were in Thurlestone where Susannah worked as an oatcake baker — Thomas was absent on the night of the census but reappears later and the oatcake baking appears to be a family business. Ben was born in early1884.

Sadly, Susannah died in early 1887. Raising small children alone, it is not suprising that Thomas re-married: in the second half of 1890 he married Annies[1] Stott, in Huddersfield.

By 1891 Thomas was running the Dusty Miller inn in the centre of Thurlestone as well baking and selling oatcakes. His oldest daughter, Emily, has married and moved out, Alice and Laura work as domestic servants and Sarah is an umbrella frame maker. Ben, aged only five, is at school.

By the start of the 20th Century the family — Thomas, Annies and Ben — are living at 78 High Street, Dodworth near Barnsley. The daughters have either married and left home or are live-in domestic servants elsewhere.[2]

In 1901 and 1911, when the home address is given as 97 High Street, Ben is assisting in the family oatcake business. Annies died towards the end of 1911 and the death was registered in Huddersfield.

It is with Ben's wartime service that the complications arise.

On 3 November 1915, Benjamin Brook of 78 High Street Dodworth, born in Thurlestone, voluntarily enlisted in the 13th Battalion (Miners Pioneer), the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was said to be a "Dealer". His age was given as 29 years and nine months.

At his medical he was said to be 5' 3" tall, with a 38" chest, and weighed 136 lbs. He claimed to have served six years in the Yorks and Lancs Regiment, though this may have been in the Territorial Force or could have been after 1904 and before 1911. He was said to have chronic bronchitis though fit for Home Service.

Ben could not write but signed the form with his mark.

Exactly three months later on 3 January 1916, Ben Brook of the K.O.Y.L.I. was discharged as unfit for service, having a "fatty degeneration of the heart."

Did Ben re-enlist and be deemed fit for Home Service once again? His service in the Remount Depot at Woolwich, a unit specialising in acquiring and preparing replacement horses for the front line, one of a number across Britain, was certainly less stressful than infantry service.

Improbably, this seems to be the case. R.A.S.C. private B Brook (as described by the C.W.G.C.), parents Thomas and Susannah, fits with Benjamin Brook identified in the 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses. The "List of Soldiers Effects" — an account of the War Gratuity and other monies owed to dead soldiers — says it was paid to "Sis Alice." Which again fits with the Ben Brook of the 1891 census. Thomas Brook, the likely recipient of the payments had died in late 1915, probably just after Ben enlisted in November 1915.

The same document records that Ben died at the Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich, on 6 December 1919. It seems likely that his heart condition finally caught up with him.

The fact that Ben was brought back to Lindley for burial suggests that one of his sisters was by then living in or about Lindley. It was not Alice: she was a mother of eight children, still living in Thurlestone. No one completed the appropriate forms so he was not included on the Huddersfield Roll of Honour and is therefore not in Margaret Stansfield's book.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Links

Notes and References

  1. Sometimes spelt Anness.
  2. This was probably the case for Laura, who married in Wortley in 1905.