I have completed the story of events as far as I am concerned during this Great War which is still bathing Europe in blood.
On the whole, whether serving at home, in training or at the Front, I had a very happy time with my regiment.
Although perhaps the more tragic incidents are related and remain in my memory, there are still the very many jolly hours to be accounted for which were spent whilst at the Front. There are one or two very outstanding experiences which I encountered I will always remember.
For instance, crossing the Channel on the way to France; my first entry into the trenches when I was on my own; the longer periods in the trenches during the winter; the first time of going through Ypres; the battle in which we were involved on the 16/17th June 1915, and above all the battle of Hooge on the 9th August 1915, with all its bloodshed.
The prominent points as regards fun and pleasure whilst around Armentieres were: - the chimney climbing incident and cycling in the dark under fire which was most exhilarating, the jolly times we had in Houplines and the spontaneous entertainments we used to have in the Chateau.
The chicken incident whilst at Ypres is the one which sticks in my mind, but none of these incidents I am sure will I ever forget.
I might here say a word about the nurses of the Volunteer Aid Detachment Hospitals.
When one takes up the paper it is not often that there is much stated with reference to these girls who do so much for the soldiers quite voluntarily. The newer members have uncongenial tasks, such as sweeping floors cleaning, dusting etc, and attending to all manner of men. The more advanced have the dressing of gaping wounds and attending to their disabilities.
The nurses at Walmer always had a smiling face and a cheery word for everybody. They were on duty at 7.00 am in the morning and often continued until late at night.
They looked after us in every detail in as perfect a manner as possible, and no one can say too much in praise of these splendid workers.
The hospital in which we were had been built as a residence for Sir Charles and Lady Sergeant, and when war was declared they resided in a smaller house and gave this fine building for the sick and wounded soldiers.
Sir Charles Sergeant is a justice in the law courts.
The grounds attached, which were all at the disposal of the men were very large and permitted such games as golf, bowls, etc.
The house was beautifully clean and furnished most comfortably and there are a good many men today will have to thank Lady Sergeant for their health, which they've recovered through her kindness and attention.
Perhaps it will not to be out of place here to quote a letter received by my mother from a Major Cohen, the second in command of the Queen's Westminsters, on my leaving the Regiment: -
Queen's Westminster rifles
I am just writing you a line to tell you that your son, Rifleman B J Brookes of our signals section, went down to hospital on August 9th, suffering from nerve shock as a result of heavy bombardment on that date.
He has not written to us, though no doubt he has to you.
I have no doubt from what our doctor tells me, that he will soon begin to get better as the result of rest and absence of a bombardment.
I should like to let you know that the section all miss him and hope he will soon get well, and I personally regret loss, even temporarily, of a useful and efficient member of my section.
(Signed) J Waley Cohen. Major.
Since the receipt of the above, I have of course, written many times to Major Cohen, as well as to the members of the signal section, but I regret to say, that since the 1st July 1916, none of my letters have been answered by my friends, for they are either killed or missing, as I have seen from the letters returned with this marked on them. My best chum rifleman G A Dear, I much regret to say is missing, and I fear that he is dead.
However, I will never regret joining the army so early in the war, nor my going to France and a spending the winter of 1914/1915 in the trenches, although conditions were so bad.
It has a certainly made me take a different view of human nature and life in general, and more than ever appreciate the benefits of HOME.
I am still in the army, and on my discharge from Epsom hospital as a patient, I was taken on the staff, and in gradual steps from Lance Corporal, Corporal, I have risen to the rank of Sergeant, and am in charge of the orderly room at this hospital which contains the over 4,500 troops, both British and colonials.
Whilst doing duty here, I was in attendance on the Commandant, (Colonel Kilkelly, C M G, M V O), when his Majesty the King visited the hospital, and I had the experience, which is by no means to be envied, of walking through the lines of troops behind the King and Colonel Kilkelly during his inspection.
I was also with colonel Kilkelly when Lord Roseberry opened up some new tea rooms in the hospital.
Towards the end of August 1915 the Canadian authorities took over the administration of this hospital, with Major L E W Irving, D S O, as Commandant.
As far as I can see, I will be here for "duration of war", but one never knows what will turn up and upset my calculations.
However, although it may not seem Noble, I must say I am quite willing to finish my soldier's career in this campaign, the beauties of the country around the famous Epsom Downs, having certainly had enough of active service at the Front during the 10 months I spent in Flanders.