b. 28/11/1887 Gorton, Manchester. d. 16/10/1974 Stockport, Cheshire.
DATE OF GC ACTION: 30/06/1918 Belloy-sur-Somme, France.
Victor Brookes (1887-1974) was born on the 28th November 1887 in Gorton, Manchester, one of four children of Robert and Jane Brookes. He had two sisters, Gertrude and Mabel and a brother, Cecil. His father was a steam engine fitter on the local railway. By 1911, Victor was working as a labourer, and it appears that prior to the outbreak of the Great War, Victor twice travelled to Canada (1911 and March 1912), and it is unclear whether he returned in between the two trips. On the outbreak of the war, Victor enlisted with the 7th Canadian Field Ambulance (Cavalry) and became a stretcher bearer.
Victor rose to the rank of Sergeant, and on 1st April 1918, he was the leader of the stretcher-bearers when Private Forrester was awarded a Military Medal. On 30th June 1918, Victor was called to the village of Belloy-sur-Somme on 30th June 1918. An RAF Corporal was trapped in a huge crater after a German aircraft had dropped a bomb. Carbon monoxide gas had formed at the bottom of the crater, leaving the man dangerously ill. Despite knowing the risks, two men (Private Arthur Johnson and Driver Alfred Horn) attempted to get the corporal out, but both were overcome with the fumes. Despite witnessing this, Brookes volunteered to go into the pit. Unsurprisingly, he was also overcome with the fumes and had to be dragged clear. The incident left two men dead and Brookes hospitalised.
On 8th November 1918, the London Gazette announced the award of four Albert Medals to Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Burt DSO, Sergeant Victor Brookes, Private Arthur Johnson and Driver Alfred Horn. Sadly, both Johnson and Horn’s awards were posthumous, and both men are buried in Crouy Military Cemetery. Whilst Victor was serving near Hangest-sur-Somme, he met and fell in love with the local postmistress, Yvonne Brunel, who in 1919, he married.
After the war, Victor chose to return to his roots in Gorton, Manchester and settled there with his new wife Yvonne. They went on to have two children, Allan and Yvette. Little is known about Victor’s life following his move to Gorton. What is clear is that when the Royal Warrant was changed in 1971, that Victor was unaware of the opportunity to exchange his Albert Medal for a George Cross. Victor passed away on 16th October 1974 in Stockport and was cremated at Stockport Crematorium.
Victor was recently “discovered” as a recipient of the George Cross, and his son Allan, chose to donate his Albert Medal to the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester, where it is now on display. Victor’s name is also on the George Cross Honours Board at the Union Jack Club in London, as recognition of his award.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM NORTH, MANCHESTER (ALBERT MEDAL).
BURIAL LOCATION: STOCKPORT CREMATORIUM, STOCKPORT, CHESHIRE (CREMATED).