The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (QX4215) Sapper Gilbert Brookes, 2/13th Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers, 2nd AIF, Second World War.

Place Africa: Libya, Tobruk
Accession Number AWM2016.2.298
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 24 October 2016
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Description

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (QX4215) Sapper Gilbert Brookes, 2/13th Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers, 2nd AIF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

QX4215 Sapper Gilbert Brookes, 2/13th Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers, 2nd AIF
KIA 23 June 1941
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 24 October 2016

Today we pay tribute to Sapper Gilbert Brookes, who was killed in action on active service during the Second World War.

Born in Townsville on 11 August 1921, Gilbert Brookes was the son of James Stewart Brookes, a veteran of the First World War, and Alice Brookes. Growing up, he attended Milton State School on the south coast of New South Wales, and Petrie Terrace Boys School in Brisbane. Later he began work as an apprentice cabinetmaker.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, the Australian government announced the raising of an all-volunteer force for overseas service: the Second Australian Imperial Force. Brookes was among the first wave of volunteers when enlistment stations opened, joining up in Brisbane on 20 October 1939. Just 18 years old at the time, he enlisted underage and against his mother’s will, telling recruitment officers that he was 20 years old.

Brookes was marched into Ingleburn camp and posted to the 2/13th Field Company of the Royal Australian Engineers. This company would later form part of the 7th Division’s engineers and was attached to the 18th Brigade.

In June 1940 Brookes’s unit embarked for overseas service, sailing in a convoy that included the famous ocean liners turned troopships Queen Mary, Mauritania, and Empress of Canada. He disembarked at Gourock, Scotland, before travelling to Salisbury Plain for training. During this time Brookes paraded before King George VI as he visited all of the Australian units stationed in Britain.

In late 1940 and early 1941 Brookes’s brigade was transferred to the Middle East. In March it took part in the attack on the Italian stronghold of Giarabub, an oasis in the Libyan Desert that had been fortified and garrisoned to form the southernmost Italian frontier post.

A few weeks later the brigade formed part of the British and Commonwealth garrison that occupied Tobruk. Holding Tobruk was vital for the Allied defence of Egypt and the Suez Canal, as it forced the enemy to bring most of its supplies overland from the port of Tripoli, crossing 1,500 kilometres of desert and diverting troops from the advance.

Tobruk was subject to repeated ground assaults and almost constant shelling and bombing. The British and Australian navies provided the garrison’s link to the outside world, with the so-called “Tobruk ferry” carrying reinforcements and supplies in, and the wounded and prisoners out. The siege of Tobruk would last until the end of 1941.

On 23 June 1941 Brookes was killed in action during the heavy fighting at Tobruk. He was 19 years old. His body is buried in the British and Commonwealth war cemetery at Tobruk.

Sapper Gilbert Brookes’s name is listed here on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Sapper Gilbert Brookes, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (QX4215) Sapper Gilbert Brookes, 2/13th Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers, 2nd AIF, Second World War. (video)