John Cadman Brooks (1879‒1917)
John Cadman Brooks junior was born in Cambridge in 1879 (though not baptised until 11 March 1911, at St Mark’s Church, Newnham, aged 32), the son of John Cadman Brooks senior, “grocer’s porter”, and Caroline Mary Hayden, domestic servant. The family was probably already living at 22 Prospect Row (Kite area ‒ now demolished) at the time. By 1901, aged 22, he was working at the Cambridge University Press on Trumpington Street as a printer-compositor ‒ a substantial trade, for which he had worked his apprenticeship as a boy.
Banns were read out at the church of St Andrew the Less (and also in Trumpington) on 26 September 1909, heralding the marriage of John Cadman Brooks, “bachelor of this parish”, and Mary Eugenie Phillips (1883‒1972), “spinster of Trumpington”. She was the daughter of Mary A Phillips and John Phillips, coachman to Thomas B Bumpsted, surgeon, of Leighton Lodge, Trumpington. The Phillipses lived in the coachhouse attached to the Lodge. Mary Eugenie had been born in the village of Longstanton (6 miles northwest of Cambridge). The marriage took place on 7 October 1909 at St Mark’s Church, Barton Road, Newnham (newly built eight years previously, part of the parish of Trumpington). On 15 November 1910, Mary Eugenie gave birth to their son, John Ernest (baptized 5 February 1911). By 1911 the family was established at 2 Eltisley Avenue, Newnham. A second boy, Stanley Hayden, was born on 24 August 1913 (baptized 5 October).
John enlisted in Cambridge as a Private in the Cambridgeshire Regiment (date unknown), initially with regimental number 6772. This number suggests that he was part of the “Derby Scheme”, by which he agreed to serve if needed, and tells us that he was probably called up between 30 June and 3 July 1916. He was later assigned the regimental number 328092 when the regiment was renumbered on 1 March 1917.
John had already served on the Western front for nearly a year when on 26 September 1917 the Cambridgeshire Regiment went into action at the Battle of Passchendaele (part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres) on the first day of the Battle of Polygon Wood near the small village of Gheluvelt, on the Menin Road a short distance southwest of Ypres (in Flemish Belgium). It was here on that day, at a place nicknamed “Tower Hamlets”, that he was killed in action (as also was another member of the regiment buried in Mill Road Cemetery: Alfred William Kirkup) at the age of 38. He was posthumously awarded the Victory medal and the British medal (K/1/104B).
Word that he was missing reached Mary Eugenie about a month later and she put out an appeal for information in the local paper:
PTE. J. C. BROOKS—Mrs Brooks, of 2, Eltisley-avenue, Newnham, whose husband, private J. C. Brooks of the Cambs. Regt., was unofficially reported killed, has now received official notification that he has been missing since September 26th. Pte. Brooks, who was 38 years of age, and was formerly at the University Press, joined up in July, 1916, and has been out in France nearly a year. Mrs. Brooks would be glad of any information concerning her husband from anyone who was with him on that date. She wishes to thank all kind friends for expressions of sympathy in her trouble. Mr. and Mrs. Brooks and family, of City-road, father and mother of Pte. Brooks, also wish to thank friends for the sympathy extended to them. (Cambridge Independent Press, 2 November 1917)
John’s death was not officially confirmed until January 1918, when the formal announcement was made in the press:
PTE J. C. BROOKS—Mrs Brooks, of 2, Eltisley-avenue, Newnham, has received official news that her husband, Pte. J. C. Brooks, of the Cambridgeshire Regt., was killed in action on September 26th. He was originally reported missing. Pte. Brooks, who was 38 years of age, joined up in July, 1916, and went out to France on Nov. 27th of the same year. Before enlisting he was at the University Press, where he had been employed since he was a boy. He had played football for the University Press team, and was also well known as a runner, having run for the Albert Institute Harriers in the North of Thames Cross Country Championship and local cross-country events. (Cambridge Independent Press, 11 January 1918)
His death is recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial in West Flanders, Belgium, and is also memorialized on this set of kerbstones in the parish area of St Andrew the Less, Mill Road Cemetery. The name “Scramdson” in Flanders, in the inscription, is not recognized.
AFTER THE WAR
Mary Eugenie outlived John Cadman by 65 years, and remained on Eltisley Avenue (though moving later at No. 28), not having remarried, until her death on 10 December 1972. By 1939 she was a University lodging house keeper. Of the two sons, Stanley Hayden was still living with his mother in 1939, having become a laboratory assistant; John Ernest was married and living with his wife Mary at 24 Leys Road; he was a printer’s reader. Stanley died in May 1988 aged 74 in Surrey.
[If you have further information about John Cadman Brooks, Mary Eugenie Brooks, or their children, please contact us at Friendsofmillroadcemetery@gmail.com]
England census reports 1871‒1911, 1939 register
St Andrew the Less Church, Cambridge: baptismal, banns, marriage and burial registers
Grantchester Church: baptismal register
Trumpington, St Mark’s Church: marriage register
England & Wales Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837‒1915 (Mary Eugenie Phillips)
England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837‒1915
England & Wales Civil Registration Death Index, 1858‒1966, 1973‒1995
England & Wales Civil Registration Death Index, 1916‒2007 (Stanley Hayden Brooks)
Cambridgeshire Regiment 1914‒18
Cambridge Regiment 1914‒18, numbers
UK, WW1 Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920 (ancestry)
British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
UK Soldiers Died in Great War 1914-1920 (ancestry)
The War Graves Photographic Project
By Ian Bent, Jo Costin and Mary Naylor