Brooke Knowles Willis
Private, Lincolnshire Regiment
Brooke Knowles Willis was one of 10 children born to William and Catherine Willis. William and Catherine were both Deaf and Brooke lived with his grandparents Alfred and Sarah Bayley at 49 Upland Road, East Dulwich. Brooke was a pupil at Alleyn’s from 1910 until 1915 when he appears to have moved back to live with his parents at 44 Henslowe Road. Despite not coming from a particularly academic family, Brooke had a talent for learning and was an intelligent individual. He did well in his school career at Alleyn’s, earning him the respect of his fellow tutors and students. He was still studying at the school when the First World War broke out in August 1914 but was incredibly eager to join the war effort as soon as possible. He did have a job arranged with Thomas Cook Ltd but he does not appear to have taken up this employment.
According to his family, this enthusiasm saw him sign up originally when he was underage; he was found out eventually, but not before he had been deployed to France. After returning home, Brooke waited until reaching the correct enlistment age before signing up to the Army once again as a Private with the 10th Lincolnshire Regiment. He served overseas with the 10th on the Western Front and saw action in France and Flanders during wartime. In April 1918, he was serving in Belgium when the German Army launched their Spring Offensive, an intense full frontal attack across the entirety of the Western Front intended to end the war. In Belgium, this attack was intended to capture Ypres and would later become known as the Battle of the Lys. The battle produced a high amount of casualties on both sides and, unfortunately, Brooke became one of these when he was killed in action on April 17th 1918, at the age of 19. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial but does not have a grave as his body was never found.
With thanks to Richard Godfrey, Brooke's cousin once removed, for providing most of the information in this biography as well as the photographs of Brooke's memorial.