Their bodies are buried in peace; but their names liveth for evermore.
Their Duty Done
A tribute to the men and women of the East Gippsland Region who Died as a result of their participation in World War One : 1914 -1919
5792 Private Alfred Augustus Brooks - Bairnsdale Killed in Action 3 May 1917
Born at Ulverstone, Tasmania on Australia Day in 1886, Alfred Brooks was one of eight children, his parents being George and Elizabeth. He perhaps epitomized the image of the rugged Aussie bloke. It seems he was a popular sportsman and an all-round good man. He grew up working in the bush and honed his skills with an axe working as a timber hewer and competing in woodchop events around the state in Victoria regularly. At Devonport, as a 19-year-old, he won a gold medal awarded by the Tasmania Woodcutters Association for the Light Woodcutting Championship. Three years later, in 1908, Alfred married Hilda Stevens and after the birth of their first child Zeata Alfreda in Tasmania, they settled in Bairnsdale where their four other children – Lyle, Hilda, Alfred and Roy were born. Alfred was well known throughout the district from his participating in many sporting events and continued with the woodchopping and sawing, at one time challenging W. Helmers of Bruthen at the Bairnsdale Hospital Carnival in 1913 for a £25 prize. Both of the men were choppers of considerable note in Gippsland and each were well regarded. But the grudge match never occurred as the weather turned bad and the carnival was postponed. When it was held, it was deemed too dangerous for the woodchop event to be held with the logs being wet and slippery. He was also a competent bicycle racer often winning at local events. On 15 March 1916 Alfred enlisted with the 21 st  Battalion and embarked seven months later from Melbourne on the Nestor on 20 October. He left behind four children under the age of ten and Hilda was heavily pregnant with their next child. The ship arrived at Plymouth on 16 November and he spent several months training at Lark Hill in England. Alfred developed pneumonia at the end of December and spent several days in hospital before sailing on the Arundel to Etaples in France on 6 February 1917. The 21 st  Battalion was deeply involved in the battle at Bullecourt. It was on 3 May that Alfred was killed by a sniper in No Man’s Land after they had “hopped over” in an attempt to hold the line which failed. It is thought that he lived for about five minutes before succumbing to his head injuries and as the death occurred in the fighting zone, there was no burial. Alfred never got to see his son Leslie who was born just weeks after he left Australian shores. When Roy was about six months old she had a photograph of her and the children taken which she sent to Alfred at the front. It was a photograph that he never received. The grief, and perhaps the anger, of the family can be seen in the death notice presumably placed by Hilda on behalf of her children which in part reads: Better far a hero’s grave in France than a shirker’s monument in Australia. Inserted by his little ones, Zeata, Lyle, Hilda, Alfie and Baby Roy. In 1919 Hilda married Jonathan Koch and had another son, John, who died as an infant. Some years later, in 1923, Hilda wrote to the Army seeking clarification of Alfred’s death as, like many of women at the time, she had been told stories of him surviving and returning to live in Australia under a false name. Alfred’s former employer, Anthony Brabet, had visited his son in Queensland and while there believed he saw Alfred and that he was using the name Alfred Williams. They responded that there was no reason to doubt the authenticity of the report of Alfred’s death. Four of Alfred’s cousins were killed during the war and he is remembered on the Bairnsdale Shire Honour roll. His two sons, Lyle and Roy, both served in World War 2 and returned home safely.
….. left behind four children and a heavily pregnant wife
Hilda with their children Zeata, Lyle, Hilda, Alfie and Roy. Photo courtesy EGHS.
The memoriam card that was circulated amongst Alfred’s family and friends. Photo courtesy EGHS.