Henry James Broome in World War One


Henry James Broome was born in Wandsworth SW London in 1880, eldest son of Charles and Emily Broome. He had four sisters (Catherine, Emily, Charlotte and Bessie) and four brothers (Charles William Alfred and Arthur). Later the family moved to Chislehurst in Kent. Henry, at the age of 17, took employment with Alexander Nelson Radcliffe* in Kensington starting as a footman. By the 1911 Census he is listed as Butler to the family. Henry never married. During his 15 years service with the family Henry would have been in Widecombe many times when the Radcliffes' enjoyed summer and winter holidays at Bag Park.

Unfortunately his Army Service records were destroyed in the Blitz in the Second World War and it is not possible therefore to trace his full army career.

However, Henry's brother Arthur George Broome, who lived with his widowed mother in Chislehurst, is shown as enlisting in the 10th Battalion Queens Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment on 3rd June 1915 and was given the regimental number GS/6943. Henry James' regimental number was GS/6944 probably issued upon their arrival at the RWK depot.

Listen to the regimental march of the Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment, "The Hundred Pipers":

This track was taken from 'Military Music of the Home Counties Regiments' and is played by The Band of the Prince of Wales Royal Regiment.

Family sources confirm that the brothers enlisted at the same time in Bromley in Kent and served alongside one another until Arthur was badly wounded in September 1916 and immediately invalided back to the UK. The brothers served together in the Royal West Kent Regiment for a total of 575 days.

The 10th Battalion Queens Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment was raised in Maidstone Kent in May 1915 and went to France a year later on 4th May 1916, where it served with the 118th Infantry Brigade in the 39th Division. The Battalion fought in the later engagements in the Battle of the Somme and at the Battle of Flers/Courcelette when tanks were used upon the battlefield for the first time (not very successfully). It was in this battle that Arthur was wounded. The Battalion remained in the area until November 1916 when it was transferred to the Ypres sector.

The War Diary of the 10th Battalion for December 9th 1916 recorded the Royal West Kents billeted at Dickensbusch, just to the south of Ypres. Henry, serving with "B" Company, was at the Convent at Voormeleeze. The war diary records one man being killed and two wounded by enemy machine gun fire on 14th December. The man killed was Henry James Broome.

Before he left to go to France in May 1916 Henry left two postcards with his youngest sister Bessie, of whom he was particularly fond. The family retain these postcards to this day and photos are shown below.

Extract from the War Diary Queens Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment dated 14th December 1916

"11.0am Enemy shelled Voormezeele village convent area destroying 2 dugouts but no casualties..." "6.00pm Enemy machine guns active in vicinity of CONVENT LANE 3 casualties: OR 1 killed, OR 2 wounded..." Note: OR = Other Rank

Henry James Broome is commemorated in Voormezeele Enclosure 3 in Belgium in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintained Cemetery.

Henry is similarly commemorated on the Cenotaph Memorial in Maidstone Kent.

The Radcliffe family erected a memorial plaque to Henry in St Pancras Church in Widecombe, although for some reason he is not named on the official War Memorial in the church. His name will however be displayed on the newly researched "Roll of Honour" along with the names of the thirty-nine other men who went from Widecombe-in-the-Moor to serve King and Country.

*John Douglas Henderson Radcliffe, elder son of Alexander Radcliffe, is commemorated here.

Remembrance by Simon Gibbons

Listen to Peter Rennells reading Remembrance:

Just who are all these nameless men

Who stare out of bottom drawers?

From every forgotten photograph of every fading war,

From every box of jumble in every village fete,

They lay face down in silence,

They lie and they wait.

Until I turn them over, and see that smiling band,

That sends shrapnel through my shattered heart

For that heroic, bloody stand.

The dogs sat there upon their knees,

The broken bandaged hands,

The cigarette so firmly held,

The glint from wedding bands.

And who forgot to put boots on when the snap was made

Was it Nobby Clarke or Charlie White

And Oh my God what a price was paid.

So I take them home and love them

Even though they're not my own

So each evening I'll remember

The Boys that won't be coming home.

Acknowledgments

Family photographs and much assistance with family background courtesy of Pamela Hanly great niece of Henry James Broome. Thanks to Peter Rennells for reading the poem. Voormezeele Enclosure No 3 Cemetry: CWGC. Broome plaque in Widecombe Church: David Ashman. Maidstone Cenotaph: David Ashman Collection.

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