Bloodiest month for town ends with a second tragedy for the Brook family

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The First World War was the first in several hundred years, if ever, to engage the entire population of the country.

The incidence of losses, however, was not something distributed evenly.

Research by the Tynemouth project shows of 145 men killed or died in the month of July, 1916, about eight per cent were recorded on the Roll of Honour printed in 1923.

That month stands alone in the severity of the losses borne by the community.

However, the impact of an average daily death toll of four or five of the town’s men was tempered by the fact that many died on a single day –the bloodiest day of losses ever for the British Army – on July 1, 1916; when 19,240 were killed and a further 36,000 were wounded.

Large numbers of these men (78 died from Tynemouth Borough) would be reported as ‘missing in action’ and their deaths not presumed or confirmed until the spring of 1917.

One of the last casualties of July 1916 was James Edward Blythe Brook,

Killed in action on the 29th, he was the brother of Nevill Brook (KIA – April 27, 1915, see News Guardian April 4, 2013).

James was studying for the priesthood at St John’s Church of England Theological College in Perth, Western Australia, when he learned of his brother’s death in the second battle of Ypres.

He was determined to ‘take his brother’s place at the front’ and left college to enlist in the Australian Imperial Forces in October 1915.

The Christ Church Parish magazine noted that their father had been a collector of excises for the government but had returned to London with his family (except Nevill) in 1910 .

“We are also deeply pained to have to record the death of Nevill Brook’s brother, Corporal James E B Brook, of the Australian Infantry, who was killed in action on July 29 and who was studying for the ministry at St John’s, Perth, when he enlisted in order to take the place of his brother who was killed at Ypres last year.”

A former pupil of Tynemouth High School, James was recorded in the School’s Record of Service, from which the photograph featured here was taken.

The next in our series of talks will be given by Alan Fidler at the Low Lights Tavern and will take place at 7.30pm on Tuesday, August 20, featuring the origins and deployment of the Royal Naval Division – in particular the Collingwood Battalions.

Tickets, free, are limited, and can be obtained from the Low Lights Tavern, Keel Row Book Shop, Fenwick Terrace, Preston Road, and the project workroom.

Anyone with information on this week’s casualties or anyone killed or died as a result of the war is asked to contact the project.

The workroom at Room B9 Linskill Community Centre, Trevor Terrace, North Shields is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday for visitors and for anyone interested to learn more or on how to get involved.

This week’s casualty list gives details of men from the former Tynemouth Borough who were killed or died in August 1915.

Shannon, Thomas, Private, 2nd Battalion NF, KIA 29th, Mill Hill, Low Lights, wounded at Mons, had served 12 years in India and in South African war, buried Kemmel cemetery, Belgium.

Swann, William, age 22, Private, 9th Battalion POW (West Yorks) Regiment, KIA, 9th, 3 Cross Camden Lane, son of William and Isabella (nee McValia), a barman, Helles memorial, Dardanelles.

Taylor, Andrew, age 21, Private, 8th Battalion NF, DOW, 10th, 30 Front Street, Cullercoats, a miner, Helles memorial.

Weeks, Frederick, Jesse, age 33, Private, 8th Battalion NF, died, 19th, 14 Low Lights, Fish Quay, labourer at Tynemouth Gas Works, enlisted November 4, 1915, son of George and Elizabeth (nee Brown), Helles memorial.