Driver/Saddler Walter Brooke, Army Service Corps. Service number: T4/057537.
Walter was born on 21st May 1895 and his birth was registered in Keighley in the third quarter of that year. His father Asa was a machine shop labourer and his mother was Annie Brook.
Walter was 5 years old in the 1901 census and living at 8, Church Street in Keighley, with his parents, three sisters Martha aged 18, Mary aged 7 and Edith aged 9 months; and four brothers Samuel aged 17, Willie aged 15, Frederick aged 14, and Asa aged 10. Walter was probably attending Eastwood Board School at this time.
On the 5th March 1910, Walter was caught stealing and trying to pawn a pair of boots. His home address at this time was 33, Beck Street in Keighley and his punishment was to be bound over at a cost of £2 for 6 months.
Keighley News dated March 19th 1910:
KEIGHLEY BOROUGH CHILDREN'S COURT.
MONDAY. (Before Mr R N Smith and Mr J J Waterworth)
STORY OF A PAIR OF BOOTS.
A fourteen year old millhand was summoned for stealing a pair of lady's boots, valued at 5s. the property of Mr. Arthur Mitchell, boot and shoe repairer, Bradford Road, Keighley. Mr Mitchell stated that at 11:50 am on the 5th inst. defendant called at his shop and asked if he had an old boot he could give him. Witness said he had not, whereupon the lad left the shop. Shortly afterwards witness found that a pair of lady's boots had disappeared from the counter. William Chadwick, pawnbroker, High Street, said that at 12:20 pm on the 5th inst. defendant came to the shop and offered in pledge a pair of lady's boots. He asked for 2s. 6d. for them, but witness only advanced him 1s. 9d. Defendant said the boots belonged to his mother. Witness afterwards handed the boots over to the police. The defendant admitted the theft. Mr R N Smith: "What did you do with the 1s. 9d.? - Defendant - "I spent it in the football field." "How much did you pay to get in the football field?" - "A penny." What did you do with the other 1s. 8d.?" - "I spent it on peas and pies." - "Did you spend it all on yourself?" - No, I treated other boys." Defendant was bound over in £2 to come up for judgement within six months if called upon, and was also ordered to pay 10s. towards the costs of the court.
Walter clearly didn't take much notice of this because just a month later on the 19th April, he was caught stealing and trying to pawn a shirt.
His statement reads: "I ran away from my work with another lad and we went to gather rags. We saw a shirt in an entry and picked it up and went to the pawn-shop and when the other lad ran out the man knew and kept us till the police came."
At the age of 14 he was found guilty on April 25th at Keighley Borough Children's Court. Walter was sentenced to serve at Calder Farm Reformatory School until aged 19 years (this would be 5 years in total and he would have been due to be discharged around April or May 1915.)
The reform school records give a description of him at this time as: Height: 4 ft 6,1/2" height; Fresh complexion; Light brown hair and blue eyes.He had a stiff built (broad) figure and his religion was Wesleyan Methodist. Has worked in a mill as a bobbin setter.
Keighley News dated April 30th 1910:
KEIGHLEY BOROUGH CHILDREN'S COURT.
MONDAY. (Before Dr O'Connell and Mr Hartley Whitaker)
SHIRT STOLEN FROM A CLOTHES LINE
Two boys were charged with stealing a cotton shirt, valued at 2s. 6d., the property of Mrs Kilshaw, Bradford Street, on the 19th inst. Superintendent Birkhead stated that Mrs Kilshaw had been washing, and had hung the clothes on a line in the street. She had occasion to go into the house, and on her return discovered that the shirt was missing.
When arrested the youths were trying to pledge the shirt. - Constable Woodhall deposed that at four o'clock on the afternoon of the 19th inst. he was called to the pawnshop of Messrs Morley, Limited, East Parade, and there saw the two defendants. The manager handed him the cotton shirt (produced) and stated, in the presence of the defendants, that they had offered it in pledge. Witness asked the boys where they had got the shirt, and one of them replied that they had found it in a passage in Bradford Street. The lads were taken to the police station, where they admitted having stolen the shirt from a clothes-line in Bradford Street. The father of one of the boys stated that he was about "fast" with his lad. About six weeks ago he was before the magistrates, and in the meantime had not worked above two days. Superintendent Birkhead said this lad was before the court on the 14th of March for stealing a pair of boots, and was placed under the care of the probation officer for six months. The other boy was before the court on the 20th of January, for gaming with cards, and was also placed under the care of the probation officer for a similar period.
Miss Hedley, the probation officer, informed the bench that the boy under her care for gaming had behaved well while under probation but his home surroundings were of such an undesirable character that it would be in the best interests of the lad if he were sent away. With the other lad she had had a great amount of trouble. He had only paid two visits since March 14th, and on each occasion she had had to send for him. The bench ordered this lad to be sent away to the Calder Farm Reformatory School until he was nineteen years of age.
In answer to Superintendent Birkhead, the father said that the household earnings were 31s., out of which he had to maintain himself, his wife, and four children, one of whom was a cripple. The bench ordered the father to contribute 2s. per week towards the upkeep of his son while in the reformatory.
The other boy, whose record was not so bad, was placed under the care of the probation officer for six months, but was warned by Dr O'Connell that if he appeared again he would in all probability be sent away. The parents were ordered to pay 5s. each towards the costs. The manager for Messrs. Morley Limited, was thanked for having rendered assistance in the apprehension of the lads.
About a year later in the 1911 census, he was recorded as an inmate of the Calder Farm Reformatory School, Hopton, Mirfield, near Dewsbury. (108 inmates) He was now 15 and his personal occupation was 'Saddler' so he appears to have been learning a trade.
In 1912 he had a medical examination at Calder Farm which stated his weight as 8st 9lbs. He had faint tattoo marks on both forearms and was slightly bow-legged.
Walter left the reformatory school on 26th January 1914 after serving a sentence there of three years and nine months. He visited the school again in May 1914, staying for a few days which implies he had been of good behaviour and was trusted to live at his home address at 23, Mary Street in Keighley. At the time he was out of work owing to the engineers and foundrymen's strike which was in place for several months.
In September 1914 he was recorded working as a labourer for Keighley Corporation earning 5 shillings a day.
In November 1914 his uncle Ayrton gave information that Walter had worked one week at a foundry and earned 23 shillings, but he said the work was too hard and did not go again and that he was lounging around. He had tried to join the Army but 'failed through lack of inches', a reference to his height. He was also reported to have undergone an operation for a rupture and was now convalescing and would be able to join the ASC when fit.
Walter was living in Keighley on the 8th of February when he enlisted in Bradford with the Army Service Corps aged 19 years and 8 months. His medical details describe him as: 4 foot 11, 1/2 inches tall, 119 lbs weight, chest measurement 36 inches, with good physical development. Even though he had grown five inches in height over four years, he was still well below average height and certainly not tall enough to serve as an infantryman.
In April he wrote a letter to the reformatory school saying he was serving as a saddler with the 4th Company ASC, service number 054534, based at Park Royal, Willesden, N. W. London.
On the 16th May he embarked for the Mediteranean and on June 5th he entered war theatre (no. 3 - Egypt), with the ASC. His rank was that of 'Driver' and his trade was that of 'Saddler.'
At some point (no precise date given) he was found guilty of disobedience. This offence was heard in a field general court martial and Walter was sentenced to 84 days Field punishment number one.
[Note: This is a high number of days punishment for what appears to be a fairly minor offence and is more than his commanding officer was authorised to award, so we can surmise that the circumstances of 'disobedience' were important. For example, disobeying a order to clean a room is far more serious than disobeying an order to attack the enemy position just in front of you. Unfortunately the record is no clearer than stated above.]
His brother Asa Brooke was killed in late 1915. The article in the newspaper mentions Walter at the end:
Keighley News report 1st January 1916, Page 3:
"ONE OF THE MOST CHEERFUL OF FELLOWS"
Private Asa Brooke (24), of the first 6th West Riding Regiment, and of 36, Brunswick Street, Keighley, has died from wounds received in action in Flanders. The news of his death was received by his wife on Tuesday morning last in letters from Second-Lieutenant Arthur Driver and Privates Bailey and Riley. Writing under date December 22 from the trenches, Second-Lieutenant said "I am very sorry to have to inform you that our husband died in hospital yesterday after being wounded in the head on the 17th by machine gun bullets, and I wish to convey to you the deepest sympathy of all officers and men in his company." Private Bailey, writing on the 23rd, said: "We are all very sorry to lose him, as he was one of the most cheerful fellows we had in our company. No matter what kind of job we got sent on, he had a smile on his face. He was hit in the head by a machine gun bullet whilst he was coming out of the trenches in a field just behind the lines. Danny Riley, one of his best pals, was with him at the time, and Private Brooke is buried just beyond the lines in a village." Private Brooke enlisted in the Territorials immediately after was was declared, and went out to France in April last.
He was formerly employed by Messrs. George Hatterseley and Sons, and was well known in the town, especially in football circles, having won a medal in a competition a short time ago.
Private Brooke had recently been home enjoying a short rest, and had only been back at the front a week when he was fatally wounded. Two brothers of the dead soldier are also serving in the Army. Private Willie Brooke is now in the Charing Cross Hospital suffering from a bullet wound in the chest. He was a member of the 6th West Riding Regiment, and went out to France in June last.
Walter Brooke is a saddler in the Army Service Corps, and has been in Egypt a few months.
10th July. First attack of malaria in Salonica.
2nd December. Last malarial attack. He had 9 attacks in all, 2 of these were in hospital.
29th April. Transferred to Class Z Reserves. Home address: 23, Mary Street, Keighley.
He was awarded the 1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal for his war service.
Correspondence with Calder Farm Reformatory School after the war:
(Presumably this was part of the condition of his early release under some kind of probation)
On 7th July, Walter visited the reformatory school having been demobilised from the Army. At the time he was employed by Mitchell, Saddlers' of Keighley. He was suffering from the after effects of malarial fever.
On 18th August, he wrote to say he was still living at 23, Mary Street and that they were feeling the effects of the York Coal Strike.
On 10th March, Walter visited the school and informed them that he was employed by James Hargreaves, Coal Merchant as a coal filler.
On 27th June, Walter visited County Hall in Wakefield and reported that he was living at 37, Parker Square in Keighley and working for Dean Smith and Grace, machine makers of Keighley as a labourer, although he had not worked for four months due to the Engineer's strike and the firm still being closed.
Walter appears in the 1939 register as an inmate of Leeds Prison at Armley. He was 54 years old. We do not know why he was in prison, or the length of his sentence.
Walter died aged 83 years, registered at Keighley in December.
Birth, Marriage and Death records.
West Yorkshire, England, Reformatory School Records, 1856-1914
British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
UK, WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
Thanks to Nigel Marshall for explaining the level of Court Martial award and the severity of the sentence above.