John Henry Brook (1917-1942)

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An ongoing project to commemorate and research the lives of those who appear on war memorials and rolls of honour in the local area, who served in the military, or whose deaths were linked to conflict.

Biography

John Henry Brook was born in 1917 in Marsden, the son of David Brook and his wife Ann (née Moorhouse).

At the time of the 1921 Census, the family resided on Peel Street, Marsden, where David Brook worked as a newsagent. By 1939, the family had moved to 28 Mill Moor Road, Meltham, where David worked as a chemical labourer.

He was educated at Marsden Council School and attended Meltham Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.

He served in the Merchant Navy and survived the sinking of the Lochavon[1] on 14 October 1939.

He married Winifred Armitage in 1941, and they had one known child:

  • John Brook (1942-?)

John Henry Brook died on 17 January 1942 when the S.S. Culebra[2] was sunk by U-boat U-123 in the Atlantic. He is commemorated on the Meltham War Memorial.

Extracts

Huddersfield Examiner (21/Oct/1939):

HOW THE LOCHAVON WAS SUNK

Meltham Man One of the Survivors

A Meltham man, Mr. John Henry Brook, of 28, Millmoor Road, was one of the crew of the Lochavon, rescued by a British destroyer after the ship had been torpedoed by a U-boat on Saturday.

The Lochavon, one of the most modern Diesel-engined ships in the world, was owned by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. She was launched only twelve months ago.

In an interview with an “Examiner” reporter at his home on Thursday Mr. Brook said that the Lochavon was acting as commodore ship of a convoy of two British boats and two French boats.

ORDER TO ABANDON SHIP

“On Saturday I had just gone on watch as the fifth engineer of the boat,” he said, “when the torpedo struck us. We immediately took a list to port, and I ran up on to the starboard deck. The submarine must have dived immediately she fired the torpedo for we saw no sign of her. The list to port was so heavy that the order came immediately to abandon ship. The life-boats were lowered and the crew of sixty, and six passengers, got into them and pulled away.”

A British destroyer came on the scene in answer to our SOS within a short time, but she did not take us on board at the time as she went to hunt the submarine.

After between eight and nine hours in the boats the destroyer returned, took us on board and landed us at an English port on Sunday evening. I, together with all the others, lost all my possessions and when I landed the only clothes I had were those I stood up in. I was unable to return home until I had been fitted up with a uniform in London.”

UNLUCKY FRENCH SHIP

Mr. Brook said that one of the French ships, the Breton, which was sunk at the same time, was far more unfortunate than they were. When the crew of the Breton were taking to the boats they were heavily shelled by the U-boat and he thought that about forty-seven people were either killed or drowned. “The shelling was terrible,” he said.

Mr. Brook mentioned that when the lifeboats pulled away from the ship she had not sunk. He thought that there was a possibility that she could have been sailed stern first to land and there grounded, but there was always the possibility that the submarine was still in the vicinity.

Mr. Brook has been in the Merchant Service only since last February. His first boat was the Alcantara. He is a native of Marsden and formerly attended the Marsden Senior School, but his family came to live at Meltham about six years ago. He was formerly employed at the British Dyestuffs Corporation works in Leeds Road.

Though he has been home only a few days Mr. Brook is waiting anxiously for the letter which will tell him to join another ship.

Huddersfield Examiner (14/Ma/1942):

Meltham Man

News has been received by Mr. and Mrs. David Brook, of 28, Millmoor Road, Meltham, that their eldest son, Fourth Engineer John Henry Brook, who was serving on a merchant ship, must be presumed lost.

A letter from the owners of the vessel states that the ship is long overdue.

Engineer Brook was one of the crew of the Lochavon, one of the most modern Diesel-engined ships in the world, which was torpedoed by a submarine shortly after the outbreak of the war. On that occasion he, together with other members of the crew, was picked up by a British destroyer.

Engineer Brook was a native of Marsden and formerly attended the Marsden Senior School. His family left Marsden for Meltham a few years ago. He was formerly employed at the British Dyestuffs Corporation Works in Leeds Road.

Huddersfield Examiner (19/Dec/1942):

Presumed Drowned: Ship Overdue

Fourth Engineer-Officer John Henry Brook, of the Merchant Navy, who was reported missing in March this year is now officially presumed drowned. The news was received by his wife, who lives at 45, Broadlands Meltham.

Fourth Engineer-Officer Brook, who was twenty-four years of age, had been in the Merchant Navy since February, 1938. He was torpedoed six months after the outbreak of war while returning from the West Indies. After being in an open boat for nine hours with other members of the crew he was rescued by a destroyer.

The last ship in which he served had been overdue since January of this year and did not reach her first port of call.

Fourth Engineer-Officer Brook was educated at Marsden Council School, and on leaving was employed as a mechanic at Smith’s Garage, Marsden. Later he went to I.C.I. (Dyestuffs) as an engineer and was there until he joined the Merchant Navy. He attended Meltham Wesleyan Church, where he was a member of the choir. His parents live at 28, Mill Moor, Meltham. He leaves a son three months old.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

  • Fourth Engineer Officer JOHN HENRY BROOK
  • Merchant Navy
  • died: 17 January 1942
  • age: 24 years
  • record ID: 2795963

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Notes and References