SECOND LIEUTENANT WILLIAM KEITH SEABROOK
21ST SEPTEMBER 1917 AGE 21
BURIED: LIJSSENTHOEK MILITARY CEMETERY, BELGIUM
This inscription - "A willing sacrifice for the world's peace" - is a phenomenally magnanimous comment from the mother who had three sons killed on two consecutive days in September 1917: George Ross Seabrook and Theo Leslie Seabrook on 20 September and William Keith Seabrook on the 21st. But to whom does the word sacrifice refer? I think it has to be her son, William Keith Seabrook - and by implication her other sons - since they were the ones who volunteered to go and fight, who offered themselves willingly. There was no conscription in Australia so they were definitely volunteers.
An Australian Red Cross and Wounded Enquiry Bureau search was instituted within weeks of the brothers' deaths but it was never easy to find out exactly what happened to any one person in the heat of a battle, let alone three. Some reports say that all three brothers were killed by a single shell but others give more convincing accounts, like Private Cooper:
"T.L. Seabrook was killed by the same shell that wounded me, in fact I fell across him when I was hit. He was killed instantaneously. We were in a trench just this side of Polygon Wood, it was about 9 am."
Private Arnold gives slightly more gruesome details:
"Hit by shell head and stomach and legs. Died very soon after. He was badly hit. I saw him hit. Don't know whether he was buried. He was a friend of mine."
And Private Marshall gives a sequence to the deaths since it was whilst he was talking to George Seabrook that George:
"pointed out his brother Theo Leslie Seabrook's body lying on the ground. He had been killed by a shell. Informant states that another brother, Second Lieutenant William Keith Seabrook had been killed still earlier in the day, and that the Lieutenant had been his officer."
Neither George Ross nor Theo Leslie have graves and both are commemorated on the Menin Gate. William Keith, who had been wounded but not killed on the 20th, was taken to No. 10 Casualty Clearing Station in Lijssenthoek where he died the next day. All three brothers had been involved in the opening day of the Battle of Menin Road, the Australian Infantry Divisions' first action in the Third Ypres campaign.
Look up images of the Seabrook brothers on the Internet and you will find one of all three of them in uniform, presumably on the eve of their departure from Australia since they all left Australia on board HMAT Ascanius on 25 October 1916. And there is another photograph too, this one was found on William Keith's body, it is a photograph of his gentle-looking mother which has a bullet hole through the bottom left-hand corner