Private Robert William Brooks


Robert William Brooks was born on 20 April 1901 at 13 Ballyclare Street, Belfast, the first of two children of 3rd Dragoon Guards trooper (later shipyard labourer) Robert William Brooks and his wife Margaret (née Pratt). When he was born, his father was serving in South Africa in the Boer War. By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at 62 Leopold Street, Belfast, with his parents, his sister having died when she was just three months old.

Brooks enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 16 August 1917 (No.2659). He gave his occupation as apprentice fitter, his address as 29 Ballyclare Street, and his age as 19 years 278 days (he was in fact just sixteen).

On 29 August at Antrim he was deprived of three days' pay for being 'absent from 10 P.M. 26 8 17 till apprehended by Military Police at Belfast at 11.50 A.M. 28.8.17'.

Soon after this his true age was discovered, and on 5 September 1917 he was discharged 'having made a mis-statement as to age on enlistment, soldier under 17 years of age at date of application for discharge' (paragraph 392(vi)(a), King's Regulations). His military character was recorded as 'fair. ...No opportunity of judging character during his 21 days service.'

By 1921 Brooks was living at the North Camp, Newtownards, employed as an RIC Special. He married Maud West Johnston in St James's Church of Ireland Parish Church, Belfast, on 4 July that year.