A Family at War – in Pictures
Fresh-faced young men in uniform stare out from the pages of a photograph album that belonged to a young Bolton woman during the First World War.
Agnes Brooks, known as Sissy, born in 1895, was the second eldest daughter of carter James Brooks and his wife Agnes (nee Smith). She had older siblings Harry, Lilias and James and younger ones George, May, Hetty and Harold. Another brother Herbert was born in 1904 but died the following year. The family had lived at 23 Brierley Street, Bolton, but by the time war broke out, they were living at 31 Rose Street.
As well as family photographs and those of the un-named young soldiers, Sissy saved postcards from family and friends, including several with views of London and Mitcham, Surrey, sent by Will Kent, a neighbour of her aunt and uncle who had moved to Mitcham. One wonders if Sissy had a ‘soft spot’ for Will, who was a few years older than her!
These postcards helped identify the Brooks family, the album having been handed into Bolton History Centre. Another postcard was sent home from Bulford Barracks on Salisbury Plain by the Brooks son James (Jim) who was training there in May 1916.
A sadder part of the collection includes ‘memorial cards’, re-prints of articles that appeared in the Bolton Journal Roll of Honour. Friends and neighbours lost sons, the average age being just 20.
The family had their own war tragedy. Son George had joined the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) and lost his life in Flanders on 9th April, 1918, aged just 19. A photograph of the Roll of Honour for Holy Trinity Day School, Bolton, contains his name.
Sissy’s own story has a sad ending. She doesn’t seem to have enjoyed good health, postcards from family members are sent to a sanatorium in Southport. She died at home in Rose Street, aged 21, in June 1917.
Archive Ref ZZ/801 Brooks Family Album
Researched and written by Lois Dean, volunteer at Bolton