Thomas BROOKES
Rank: Private
Number: 54700
Unit: 10th Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 13 November 1916
Age: 31
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Nothing is known of Thomas' early life except that Regimental records published after the War show that he had been born in Manchester. In 1914, he married Agnes Mary Hooley at St Thomas' Church, Stockport and they are thought to have lived at 6 Small Street in the Higher Hillgate area of town. He enlisted into the army in the town; his service number suggesting this may have been as late as early 1916.

The village of Serre had been an objective of the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July. Over four months later, it was still in enemy hands in spite of repeated attacks. Yet another major assault was planned for 13 November. Four battalions would attack in this sector - the Fusiliers on the right; 2nd Suffolks on the left with battalions of the Gordon Highlanders and the Royal Lancasters in support. Before taking up their final positions on the evening of the 16th, the men were given hot tea, a cheese sandwich and a tot of rum. It was a dark, wet and foggy night.

As they went "over the top", mud would become the greatest problem. The Regimental  History records "The ground, a mass of shell holes, was so heavy that men sank up to the middle of the calf, in some places to above the knee and had to continually pull each other out of the mud. The mist and mud combined to destroy the cohesion of the attack; men were inclined to bunch; parties lost touch and arriving in the German trenches found themselves isolated."

In spite of these difficulties, the Fusiliers had got across No Man's Land with relatively few casualties. They forced their way into the German front line and carried on, taking the second and third lines but the Germans were strong in their fourth line and launched an effective counter-attack which stopped the advance. All the officers of the two leading waves had been killed. The next two waves were able to hold the German third line for an hour but the counter-attack then forced them back. The next waves suffered badly from German machine gun fire between the first and second line of trenches and lost all but one of their officers. The final two waves had few casualties but could not get beyond the German front line.

By 8.30am, it was clear the attack had failed and orders were given for the men to withdraw back to the British line but it was early evening before darkness had enabled many of the survivors to get safely back across No Man's Land. 288 members of the Battalion were dead, wounded or missing. Amongst the missing were Thomas and another local man, John McFarlane. Their bodies were never found and identified.

   
           
   
     
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