A CONTEMPTIBLE LITTLE ARMY
THERE'S NOT A JOY
THE WORLD CAN GIVE
LIKE THAT IT TAKES AWAY
The full inscription on George Brookes' grave reads:
Of the Great War
9666 Lance Cpl
Royal Warwickshire Regt.
26th August 1914. Age 25
There's not a joy
The world can give
Like that it takes away
26 August 1914
Known unto God
Lance Corporal Brookes was killed at Le Cateau three days after he'd arrived in France. The Royal Warwickshires left England on the morning of 23 August, disembarking at Boulogne where they were rapturously greeted with gifts and kisses by the French crowds. That evening they marched to Le Cateau, which they found chaotically crowded with refugees, troops and ammunition columns. From then until his death Brookes would have marched, skirmished, bivouacked and dug in. Private R.G.Hill's diary gives a vivid account of the Royal Warwickshires during these days. It's possible that Brookes was wounded on the 25th either in a disastrous, over enthusiastic and unauthorised attack or during the German's bombardment of their position. Hill recounts how the wounded at the dressing station were all captured that night. This would explain why Brookes was buried by the Germans under a wooden cross inscribed with the words, "145 Englische Krieger" 26.8.14.
It wasn't until October 1920 that his body was exhumed and identified by his cap badge, lance corporal's stripe and the service number on his trousers, although this was misread as 9606 instead of 9666. His bones were obviously intermixed with those of an unidentified soldier from the Lancashire Fusiliers. The bones couldn't be separated so the soldiers remain buried together.
The bottom of the exhumation form has the words "Dame Adelaide Livingstone informed". At the end of the war this remarkable American woman was appointed the Army Council head of the War Office mission to trace British soldiers reported as 'missing' in France and Flanders.
"In this capacity she travelled widely in Europe, managing a staff of officials from both Germany and England. Between 1920 and April 1922 she was assistant director of Graves Registration and Enquiries in central Europe, with headquarters in Berlin and with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. For her wartime services she was among the first women to be created DBE in 1918."
[Oxford Dictionary of National Biography]
Private William Henry Brookes was presumably identified by the work of Dame Adelaide's department.