AS a young lad Albert Ralph Brooks had always wanted to live the life of a soldier and in the end it was the death of him.

When he died in Flanders on October 21, 1914, the 19-years-old had already been in the army for four years. In fact he tried to enlist before he was old enough, presenting himself at the recruiting office when he was still 14.

However, as a report in the Evesham Journal of November 28, 1914, recorded:"He was told he was big enough, but not old enough and therefore sent away for about 18 months. Young Brooks spent the intervening time in assisting his step-father Mr Sam Cosnett making those patent fruit-picking ladders for which he has required quite a name."

Mr Cosnett had married Albert's mother Susan and the family lived at the top of Newlands in Pershore. As a lad Albert worked for Mr A W Smith, Chemist of Pershore, but his mother said: "'A soldier’s life for me' was the burden of his talk and the evident great desire of his heart."

The Journal report added: "On the expiration of the time waiting, he became a soldier in the King’s Own Riffles in the same regiment in which Mr H C Porter of Birlingham was then a Lieutenant. About a year later, he transferred to the Oxfordshire Light Infantry (the old 53rd) of which, singularly enough, another local officer, Col H Davies son of the late General H F Davies of Elmley Castle was commander. In this regiment, in which he died, Private Brooks attained great proficiency in shooting. Some two years ago when General Davies went to see his son, he brought back a message which he straight away delivered to Private Brooks’ Mother 'that her son during the short time he had been a soldier had gained honours which a man would be proud to have after 20 years’ service'.

"This message was delivered by the Rev. Hawkes Field, then master of the Pershore Troop of Boy Scouts to which the young soldier formerly belonged. Private Brooks won numerous money prizes for good shooting and in 1913 secured possession of the cross guns. His latest success in this all-important feature of military service was the winning of a beautiful silver watch for the championship in Class B. He sent this proud trophy home to his Mother who now possesses it. Private Brooks fought in some of the earliest engagements of the war and while his letters to his Mother were cheerful and encouraging, as it was his kind intention they should be, those to his Aunt Mrs T Brooks of the Newlands revealed he was experiencing tremendous hardships."

Albert Brooks died after being shot in the head as his company attacked a German position. In a letter to his parents, Lance Corporal H J Hastings, one of his colleagues, wrote: "At about 11 a.m. on the morning of the 21st October we advanced to attack a German position. Our `A' Company was in reserve to `C' Company, and therefore was about 300 yards behind the firing line. We forced our way in rushes for about half a mile, losing a man here and there, but sustained no serious losses. Then we came to several hedges, which had to be broken through. I have some recollection of your son here with the rest, breaking gaps with our rifle butts and bayonets, then I was through, and gradually the company massed behind another hedge which the Germans raked with rifle fire. Here our losses began to get heavy. I, with one or two others, were bandaging the wounded and we came across your son. He was shot through the head, but still alive. We bandaged him up and then had to leave him for others. Shortly afterwards we advanced to reinforce the firing line and I was amongst the first to go. Next I heard that he was dead and had been buried by a Sergeant Jeffries, of this Company. This sergeant was killed two weeks later. Arthur was a nice young fellow, rather reserved with the majority of the Company, but fairly popular. My chief impression of him now is of a curly black beard he had grown while on the retirement and re-advance, although so young. It seems a cruel and horrible thing that so many of us are killing and being killed in a quarrel we did not begin, and of which we have but little knowledge.''