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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

Revisiting Birr Military Cemetery and Sergeant Instructor of Musketry F. Brooker

Recently, during a brief period of boredom, I decided to pass the time by checking various medal dealer lists. You’ll never know what might turn up or what story you might uncover. During my search I came across an Egypt medal, named to Corporal F. Brooker of the 1st Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment. The name was immediate familiar, and this man had to be one and the same as Sergeant Instructor of Musketry Frederick Alfred Brooker, of the same regiment, who died at Birr Barracks and was buried in the military cemetery in 1891. Having published a book on the cemetery in 2020, I was keen to revisit Brooker to see what new information I could find:

 

Frederick Alfred Brooker was born in London in 1847. He was the son of Richard Alfred Brooker and Sarah Brooker. Richard was an inspector of Great Western Railways. The 1851 census records the family as living in South Hinksey, Abingdon, Berkshire & Oxfordshire.

 

Frederick enlisted in the army in 1870, joining the 65th Regiment of Foot. He was soon posted to India, where is recorded as being based in 1871. In 1881 as part of the Childers reforms, the regiment was amalgamated with the 84th Regiment of Foot to create the 1st and 2nd Battalions, York and Lancashire Regiment.

 

In 1884, the 1st Battalion, was deployed to Sudan. In 1881 the Madhi had risen up again the Khedive of Egypt, who also ruled over Sudan. British troops were sent to evacuate Khartoum and protect British interests.

 

Corporal Brooker's Egypt medal

The 1st Battalion, York and Lancashire Regiment took park in the Battle of El Teb (29 February 1884) where a British force of around 4000 men held off a Mahdi force of around 10000 to 15000 warriors armed with swords, spears and daggers. The battalion fought a month later at the Battle of Tamai (13 March 1884) where the same force won another victory over the Mahdi. The battalion left Sudan in April 1884. For his service in Sudan, Corporal Brooker was issued the Egypt medal with the clasp “El-Teb Tamaai”, and the bronze Khedive’s star.

 

In January 1890, the 1st York and Lancs were based in Birr as part of their home service. The Leinster Reporter on 16 January 1890 notes the battalion’s arrival in Birr, and notes the names of the officers and non-commissioned officers, including Brooker, who was Sergeant Instructor of Musketry.

 

While the battalion was stationed in Birr, it is likely they were visited by photographer Robert French. It is almost certain some of his icon photos of Birr Barracks depict medal of the 1st Battalion, York and Lancs regiment.

 

While based in Birr, Instructor Sergeant Brooker died on 31 March 1891, as a result of rheumatic pneumonia. He was buried in the nearby military cemetery with full military honours. His obituary appeared in the King’s County Chronicle on the 9 April 1891.

 

“LOCAL MILITARY FUNERAL At 2.50 pm on Thursday last, April 2nd, the remains of Sergeant Instructor of Musketry, Frederick Alfred Brooker, 1st Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, were interred in the Cemetery near the Barracks with full military honors. Six beautiful wreaths, (supplied by Mr Hart, Lord Rosse’s gardener), were carried by a like number of boys, three on each side of the coffin. They had been sent by Captain E C K Money, Lieut H C E Smithett, (Adjutant); the non-commissioned officers and men of the A Company; the brother sergeants; the Warrant and Departmental non-commissioned officers; and one by the married women of the regiment. The coffin, wrapped in a Union Jack, was preceded by an escort of one Sergeant and 19 Rank and File, and by the Band of the Regiment, which played Beethoven’s solemn but most beautiful “Funeral march,” and was followed by two carriages containing the father and brother, and his personal friends. Then followed the Staff Sergeants and Sergeants of the York and Lancaster Regt and the Leinster Depot, two by two; and nearly the whole of the non-commissioned officers and men of the garrison. The funeral service was most impressively read by the Rev Dr Berry, and after three volleys had been fired in the air, the troops were formed up and marched to Barracks. The deceased had served in the regiment for over 20 years and was with it during the campaign in the Soudan of 1884, for which he received a medal with two clasps for the battle of El Teb and Tamaai, and the Khedive’s Bronze Star. Had he lived he would have completed his term of service in December next, and would then have been entitled to a pension. He was greatly esteemed because of his trustworthyness and the zeal with which he performed the special duties of musketry instruction. His death after so short an illness, has cast a gloom over the regiment, and his loss will be keenly felt by his brother sergeants, to whom he had endeared himself by his amiable and kindly temperament-and more especially by those older soldiers who have served with him through so long and so varying a career in service of her Majesty”.

 

On 13 May 1892 the Hull Daily Mail reported that a tombstone had been erected over Sergeant Instructor Brooker’s grave. This tombstone is still there today with its transcription reading:

 

IN AFFECTIONATE REMEMBRANCE

OF

FREDERICK ALFRED BROOKER

LATE SERGEANT INST OF MUSKETRY

1ST BN YORK & LANCASTER REGT

WHO DIED AT BIRR 31 MARCH 1891

AGED 43 YEARS

THIS MEMORIAL IS ERECTED AS A TOKEN OF ESTEEM

 BY THE OFFICERS NON COM OFFICERS AND MEN

 OF THE BATTALION

 

FORBEAR DEAR FRIEND TO MOURN _____

________________________________________

___________ WORLD I LEAVE BEHIND

A GLORIOUS CROWN I HOPE TO FIND


Sergeant Brooker's grave in Birr Military Cemetery

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2 Komentar


Tamu
19 Apr

Great that you remember these men, otherwise long forgotten. Enjoy your posts.

Suka
Stephen Callaghan
Stephen Callaghan
20 Apr
Membalas kepada

Thanks! Glad you enjoy the blog and posts!

Suka
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