100 years since 16th Battalion’s first Western Front death

Today is the centenary of the Australian 16th Battalion‘s first death on the Western Front.

Private Alfred Brooke, of the battalion’s B Company was killed when he was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm. Two other men were injured. The men had been digging trenches in the Bois-Grenier sector in northern France. Brooke was buried the next day at Erquinghem-Lys.

Brooke had been labouring in Fremantle, Western Australia, when he enlisted in early 1915. He had seen service with the 16th Battalion at Gallipoli, and was wounded there in August 1915.

Little is known of Brooke. He gave his birthplace as Wellington, New Zealand, at his enlistment and didn’t have any next of kin in Western Australia. His estate was granted to his landlady, Mrs Ada Hudson, after his death.

The 16th Battalion moved south to the Somme area in 1916 and suffered terrible casualties during attacks near Mouquet Farm in August 1916.