Lt John Warwick Brooke DCM, OBE, MBE

j w brooke

Official military photographer. Served a an NCO in King Edward Horse, won DCM, Commissioned. Wounded, and became a photographer. Many of his war photos are in the archives.

1886 May 30. John Warwick Brooke born St Saviour 1d, 107 London

1891 census

1891 with grandparents at 6 Gloucester Terrace, Westbury, Bristol

1901 census living in Clapham, London

1911 census

1901 Sept. Joins the Royal Navy. Seems to have had a checkered RN career. Noted as having "run" i.e. deserted/gone awol more than once, and spent several periods in the cells and got 70 days hard labour. On line record here . He is noted as having joined from school .

1911 census He is a "disengaged qualified signalman" visiting 58 Cresswell Road Twickenham

john warwick brooke medal card medal card  J P Brooke

1915 May 5 Arrived in France. A sergeant in King Edwards Horse - based in Chelsea, the regiment was strictly a unit of the Special Reserve. It was mobilised on declaration of war and temporarily attached to 4th Cavalry Brigade. B Squadron moved to France on 22 April 1915 and joined 48th (South Midland) Division, but moved to join IV Corps in June 1916.

Marries Rose L Thomas

1916 Jan 14 . DCM citation 606 Sergeant J. W. Brooke, 2nd Regiment, King Edward's Horse. For conspicuous bravery and resource. Our communications were repeatedly cut by the heavy shell fire, and most of the linesmen were killed or wounded. Serjeant Brooke continued to repair the wires regardless of personal danger, and it was owing to his courageous action that communication was maintained at a most critical time. Gazette His work in repairing wires as a linesman ties in with him being listed in 1911 census as "disengaged qualified signalman"

1916 Jul 2. The undermentioned to be temp. hon. 2nd Lts.: J. W. Brooke, whilst empld. on special service. His medal card shows this was with Intelligence Corps

Basil Clarke wrote "Lieutenant Brooks' colleague on the British front in France is Lieutenant Brooke. The names are often confused, and it is one of the little jokes in the war zone to name each of the two official photographers "Brooks-or-Brooke." Brooke is quite a different type of man from Brooks. There is less of the bubbling merriment of boyhood about him, less wealth of joke and cheery anecdote, but he is a clever photographer and a sterling man. At the outbreak of the war Lieutenant Brooke gave up his work as a Press photographer and joined King Edward's Horse as a trooper. He won quick promotion, and was decorated with the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry in the field. Brooke was "invalided out" before he accepted an offer to take up photographic work again as official Army photographer. His work now is no less. risky than before

1918 Jan 7. Temp. Hon. 2nd Lt. J. W. Brooke to be temp. Hon. Lt.

The first official war photographers appeared on the Western Front in March 1916. Approximately a dozen official photographers were eventually commissioned to shoot on the Western Front; the major allied dominions involved also ensured that their own troops were documented.  Official photographers were made lieutenants and were subject to military discipline.  Importantly, however, censorship of their work only affected what photos could be published, not taken, thereby leaving these photographers generally free to choose their subject matter.

John Warwick Brooke, of the Topical Press Agency, was one of two British official war photographers, the first being Ernest Brooks, to be sent to the Western Front in 1916. The demands placed on both men were heavy. They had to take as many photographs as possible, with as much variety as possible; a difficult task for two men covering an army of over two million. Despite this, Warwick Brooke managed to take what would become some of the most memorable images of World War I.

Because of a scarcity of resources official photographers did not focus extensively on the horrors of trench warfare.  Instead, in 1916 their work appeared to confirm a relatively successful battle, that the British government wished their citizens to see.  While wounded and dead troops were not ignored as subject matter, photographers tended to focus on the less badly injured, photos of whom could be published without causing perceived public distress, as well as on aid efforts to care for troops' needs.

The Propaganda Office demanded a wide variety of photographic subjects, including leisure activities, visiting dignitaries and troop fraternization with locals on top of the more expected battle, preparation and equipment shots.  Thus, while official faking of photos was relatively rare, 'orchestrated' images were harder to avoid, given the practical difficulties that photographers faced getting around battle spaces.  The most serious faked photos, of fighting and troops going 'over the top' of a trench, were the work of Ivor Castle, the second of Canada's official photographers.

1920 Nov 2. OBE Gazetted John Warwick Brooke, Esq. Official Photographer to the War Office.

He then went to Dublin and worked for the army there. Whist many of his WW1 photos exist in archives, I cannot find any photos attributed to him in Ireland.

1921 May 4. Joined ADRIC with service no 1939. Posted to Depot Coy

1921 May 31 Appointed to GHQ Ireland, struck off strength of ADRIC

1921 Nov 1 Rejoined ADRIC

The 'battle' of Tralee took place on the 12 November 1920. The Illustrated London News of 27 November 1920 has a photograph which purports to portray the aftermath of this engagement, the write up beneath it has the following: 'The above photograph is typical of the state of things in the country. It was taken during the "Battle of Tralee" where a convoy of R.I.C. Cadets was ambushed by Republicans. Three Sinn Feiners were killed and one cadet was wounded. The cadet and two of the Sinn Feiners are seen lying in the road.'

1922 Jan 14 Discharged on demobilisation of ADRIC

tralee ambush

The photo of "Battle of Tralee" is attributed to Topical, but may well be the work of Brooke


1922 Nov 26 He appears to be back with Topical Press Agency, as that is the address listed for his medal correspondence.



Now and Then - fake ambush

vico rd abmush

vico rd today


A selection of his WW1 photographs

1929 died in Uxbridge age 42