Commemorating Oliver Brooks - local hero from Paulton
On October 8th 1915 decisive action by Lance Sergeant Oliver Brooks of the Coldstream Guards forced the retreat of German soldiers from trenches they had captured, and helped halt the advance of enemy forces. The bravery and quick-thinking shown that day led to Oliver Brooks receiving the Victoria Cross, the highest award for valour in the armed forces. Lance Sergeant Brooks received his medal from King George V, at the King's bedside aboard a hospital train in France on 1 November 1915. This is the only time a monarch has awarded the Victoria Cross outside Buckingham Palace. The King was determined he would personally award the medal, despite being bed-bound following a fall from his horse whilst reviewing troops in France.
On October 8th 2015 the community in Paulton, Oliver Brooks' birthplace, came together with members of the Brooks family, representatives of the Coldstream Guards and special guests to honour the deeds and memory of this local hero. Oliver Brooks was the only recipient of the Victoria Cross during the First World War born in the district. A commemorative paving stone was unveiled next to the war memorial in Paulton by Peter Brooks, Oliver's grandson. The stone was provided as part of a Government scheme to mark the deeds of all Victoria Cross heroes from the conflict. A stone will be laid in the birthplace of each VC recipient 100 years to the day of their heroic action.
Paulton celebrated its local hero with a special church service. Poems were read by children from Paulton Junior and Infant Schools, who have been researching Oliver Brooks. A commemoration ceremony at the war memorial was held, during which Oliver Brooks' VC citation was read by General Sir Michael Rose KCB, CBE, DSO, QGM, Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Somerset and former Colonel of the Coldstream Guards:
“His Majesty the King has been pleased to award the Victoria Cross to No. 6738 Lance Sergeant Oliver Brooks, 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, for most conspicuous bravery near Loos, on 8th October 1915. A strong party of the enemy having captured 200 yards of our trenches, Lance Sergeant Brooks, on his own initiative, led a party of bombers in the most determined manner, and succeeded in regaining possession of the lost ground ...The single bravery by this non-commissioned officer, in the midst of a hail of bombs from the Germans, was of the first order, and the complete success attained in a very dangerous undertaking was entirely due to his absolute fearlessness, presence of mind and promptitude.”
The commemorative stone was unveiled by Peter Brooks, who represented the 50 members of his family who had all travelled to be at the event. The Last Post was played and a minute's reflective silence was observed. Celebrations continued at an afternoon tea in Paulton Methodist Church, during which photographs and memorabilia of Oliver Brooks were on display. The Brooks family and special guests travelled to Bath for a Civic Reception hosted by Councillor Ian Gilchrist, Chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council, where guests had the opportunity to view the 'World War One Remembered' touring exhibition.
(Image: Standard bearers, Coldstream Guards and special guests at Paulton War Memorial for ceremony to honour Oliver Brooks VC, Freia Turland Photography)