Researched by Will Young.
Second Lieutenant Oakley Alsop Browning is burried in the cemetery in Catterick Village. He enlisted on 6th October 1915 as 9587 Private Browning, as a member of 12th Field Ambulance, Australian Imperial Force (Browning came from North Carlton, Victoria, Australia and was the son of Major Demby de Courcey Browning, Commanding Officer of Base Command, Keswick Barracks, Adelaide).
He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Royal Flying Corps on 17th March 1917. On 11th August 1917, while flying an Avro 504 at Catterick aerodrome he was in a collision with a BE12 flown by Lieutenant Errington Edward Castle. Browning died on the same day while Castle (who is also burried in Catterick) died of his injuries on 12th August.
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Sgt. Ernest Brooke was born in Brighthouse, Yorkshire in 1886. In civilian life Ernest worked a railway signalman. Ernest’s medal records show he was entitled to the 1914 Star indicating that he was an ‘Old Contemptible’, part of the original British Expeditionary Force that fought in France and Belgium from August 1914. Ernest served with the 2nd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment until his death on 4th January 1918. The New Year 1918 that at 11pm (German midnight) on the 31st December 1917, ‘…all guns of artillery fired one round each, whilst machine guns fired two belts of ammunition each ‘to usher in the new year’. The following day, the 2nd Battalion were relieved from the front line and relocated to ‘Hedge Street Tunnels’. On the night of the 4th of January, a fire broke out in the area of the tunnel being occupied by the Battalion, resulting the loss of a further 20 lives from the 2nd Battalion – one of those lives being Ernest Brookes’. In accordance with his wishes, Ernest’s outstanding pay and War Gratuity, totalling £29, 7shillings and 19d to his mother, Hannah.
Submitted by Mike Crisp. Private 47165 George Laws was by trade a painter and decorator from the small market town of Beccles, Suffolk. He joined the 22nd Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (Tyneside Scottish) and served in France. On the opening day of Operation Michael, 21st March 1918 his battalion was in the front-line trenches around St Leger / Bullecourt where he was reported missing. His body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Arras memorial. According to the battalion diary they suffered 1,130 casualties on that day. George’s wife Gertrude, was heartbroken and never gave up hope of her husband being found, writing to the War Office on several occasions to try and gain more information. It was not until many months later friends of George visited her to relate that George was a member of a bombing party which went to a flank and were never seen again. Not only was Gertrude in mourning but also on the poverty line, forced to bring up 2 small children on her own. To help make ends meet she took in washing, sat with the dying, and laid out corpses for the local undertakers. Her son became the surrogate ‘man of the house’ and it was not until 1968 that he felt that he could leave his mother to get married himself. Gertrude died at the age of 97 in 1977.
Judith Farrar visited the museum to tell us about Rifleman John Stoney, the uncle of her husband, Don. John enlisted as R/41447 Private J Stoney, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, and was attached to the 9th battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles). The final letter from John to his sister, Hilda still survives. The letter of 12th June mentions many things – a royal visit to Leeds, his hopes that his sister is selected for the school cricket team and the fact the locals in France ‘won’t even let us get water from their pumps.’ A key passage states ‘I was sorry to hear about the explosion at the munition works and hope the casualties are not so heavy as you say they are reported to be.’ He died tragically close to the end of the war, aged 18 on 25 August 1918 and is remembered at the Memorial in Vis-en-Artois.