Grave restoration project will commemorate WWI heroes

Keith Brooks at his grandfather's grave at Rose Hill Cemetery         Picture: OX66794 Ed Nix

Keith Brooks at his grandfather's grave at Rose Hill Cemetery Picture: OX66794 Ed Nix Buy this photo

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

VICTORIA Cross hero Edward Brooks’ Oxford grave will benefit from a £100,000 nationwide restoration project.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced the funding for the Victoria Cross Trust on Thursday.

It is one of several schemes which will raise the profile of Company Sergeant Mayor (CSM) Brooks, of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, and mark the centenary of the First World War.

Although his grandson Keith never met him, he still appreciates the bravery that the medal he used to play with as a child represents.

Mr Brooks, 67, who lives in Horspath, said: “I am proud of him.

“It is nice that people remember him at long last. When I have seen things on TV about the Victoria Cross I’ve never seen him mentioned. It’s nice that people are taking an interest in what he did.”

Sgt Major Brooks earned his Victoria Cross by capturing a German machine gun at Fayet in France on April 28, 1917, and turning it on the enemy.

He was one of only two soldiers in that regiment to win a Victoria Cross in the First World War.

His medal, now kept in a bank vault in Winchester, is worth about £150,000.

The Oxford Times:

  • A photograph of Edward Brooks, his medals and the German machine gun that he took on the battlefield, which is on show at The Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum

Sgt Maj Brooks was mustered out of the Army in 1919 and took a job on the production line of Morris Motors at Cowley.

He stayed with Morris until shortly before his death in 1944 at the age of 61.

He and his wife Elise had six children, including Mr Brooks’ father Harold. All their children are now dead, but six grandchildren survive.

In 2009, the Ministry of Defence named the Territorial Army’s Edward Brooks Barracks in Abingdon in his honour.

Oxfordshire county councillor for Rose Hill, Gill Sanders, said: “I think it would be lovely to look at his grave and see what could be done to make people realise why and how he won his cross.”

The Victoria Cross Trust will survey 74 graves of Victoria Cross recipients, including that of Sgt Maj Brooks at Rose Hill Cemetery, to see where funding is most needed.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “An entire generation of men fought for Britain’s freedom in the First World War and all fought valiantly.

“But for hundreds of those men their bravery was of such an exceptional nature they were bestowed with the highest military award, the Victoria Cross.

“As these men were honoured then for their extreme bravery on the battlefields, they should be honoured still.”

Sgt Mjr Brooks will also be honoured with a commemorative paving stone in the village of his birth – Oakley, near Thame.

THE MEDAL

THE Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration awarded for valour in the face of the enemy to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and British Empire former territories.

The VC was created by Queen Victoria on in 1856 to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War.

Since then, the medal has been awarded 1,357 times to 1,354 recipients.

Only 14 medals, 10 to members of the British Army, and four to the Australian Army, have been awarded since the Second World War.

  • Do you know of a WWI grave that needs attention? Call the newsdesk on 01865 425500

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