The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3019) Private James Edward Blythe Brook, 28th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Albert Bapaume Area, Pozieres Area, Pozieres
Accession Number AWM2016.2.211
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 29 July 2016
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (3019) Private James Edward Blythe Brook, 28th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

3019 Private James Edward Blythe Brook, 28th Battalion, AIF
KIA 29 July 1916
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 29 July 2016

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private James Edward Blythe Brook.

James Brook was born in London in July 1891 to Benjamin Blythe and Martha Brook. His family moved to Northumberland when he was young, and he attended Tynemouth High Municipal School in North Shields. He was known as a good all-round athlete, and served an apprenticeship as a teacher. In 1913 he migrated to Australia, and by 1914 he was a theological student at St John’s College in Perth. He was a popular man both in college and throughout the district.

Brook’s older brother Nevill Benjamin Blythe Brook was killed in action while serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers in April 1915. Four months later James Brook enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He was posted to the 28th Battalion and began training in Australia before leaving for overseas service on board the troopship Medic in January 1916.

Brook first joined the rest of the 28th Battalion in Egypt, but was there for only a week or so before being sent to fight on the Western Front. Shortly after his arrival in France he came down with the flu, and spent several weeks in hospital recovering. He re-joined his battalion in June.

The 28th Battalion first saw serious action on the Western Front near the French village of Pozières. The village had been captured by the 1st Australian Division on 23 July, and Brook’s battalion participated in an operation to capture the strongly-held German trenches that bordered the village and threatened the advance. The men filtered into their jumping-off trench just before midnight, and launched the attack in the early hours of 29 July. Almost immediately they came under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire. Those able to cross no man’s land discovered that the Australian artillery barrage had not destroyed the German barbed-wire defences, and wave after wave of men were caught in the crowding and carnage. The attack failed, with heavy casualties.

One of those killed was Private James Brook. His body was discovered by Corporal Percy Blythe as the latter went from shell hole to shell hole, trying to collect his men. Brook had been hit by machine-gun fire, and Blythe pulled his body into the bottom of a shell hole and “laid him straight in a correct position”. It was the best he could do in a desperate situation, and he turned back to gather the rest of his men.

In Australia a “very impressive memorial service” was held at St James’ Mission Church in Perth. Newspaper reports noted a large turnout, whereupon the Reverend Dean Mercer, presiding:
"spoke in glowing terms and from personal knowledge of the good and great work accomplished by Mr Brook. He paid high tribute to the memory of his soldier-brother, and concluded a sermon that stirred the hearts of all by urging each and every one to do his duty as their late brother had, and to carry on the work in a great cause."

James Brook’s body was never recovered from the battlefield, and today he has no known grave. He was just 26 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.

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

Dr Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

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