John Charles Close-Brooks, Lieutenant, 1st Life Guards
Killed in action 30th October 1914 in Belgium, aged 38
John Close-Brooks was born on 18 June 1876 at Eccles, Lancashire, the son of Emily and John Close-Brooks (snr), a banker. By 1891 the family had moved to Birtles Hall, west of Macclesfield. John Close-Brooks (snr) was a wealthy man, employing a governess to educate his five children, seven house servants including a butler and additional staff to run the estate. John (jnr) was educated at Harrow before going on to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1895.
John (jnr) served in the South African War with the 22nd (Cheshire) Company, Imperial Yeomanry and afterwards transferred to the 6th Dragoon Guards, serving with them in India.
He resigned his commission in 1904 and in October of that year he married Marie, daughter of Major General Beresford-Lovett in London. Kelly’s Directory of 1906, and the 1911 census, record the couple living at West Bank, Upton, Macclesfield. They had three children during the years that followed, two boys (both of whom later became Army officers) and a girl.
John followed his father’s lead and became a stock-broker in the firm of Marsden, Close-Brooks and Robertson. He later became a JP for Cheshire, a County Councillor, Chairman of the Conservative Party in Macclesfield and he was a Freemason.
On the outbreak of war, John joined the 1st Life Guards and went out to the Western Front in October, 1914. The village of Zandvoorde, south-east of Ypres, was then held by the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, numbering between 300 and 400 men. On 30th October, it was bombarded for over an hour with heavy guns and then taken by the 39th German Division.
The 1st Life Guards war diary records: “Heavy bombardment of position opened at 7.30 am. Position was attacked by large force of infantry. This attack proved successful owing to greatly superior numbers. Regiment retired in good order about 10.00 am except ‘C’ Squadron on left flank, from which only about ten men got back. Remainder of Squadron missing. Also one machine gun put out of action”.
The whole front of the 3rd Cavalry Division was driven back to the Klein-Zillebeke ridge. The village could not be retaken and remained in German hands until 28th September 1918.
Rumours of John’s death began to circulate in mid-November and he was officially reported missing on 5th December 1914. It was later confirmed that John Close-Brooks had been killed in action on 30th October 1914, as reported in the Macclesfield Times on 15th September 1916.
Lieutenant Close-Brooks has no known grave, and he is commemorated on the Household Cavalry Memorial, which stands on the south side of the village of Zandvoorde in Belgium, and on Panel 3 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Lieutenant John Close-Brooks, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, Lieutenant Close-Brooks is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael’s Church, Park Green Club and Old Boys Club war memorials and the Macclesfield Cricket Club and Old Boys Club Rolls of Honour. In addition, there is a memorial window erected by his family at St Michael’s Church.
Locally, he is also commemorated on the Prestbury and Over Alderley war memorials and on a plaque at St Catherine’s Church, Over Alderley.
Elsewhere, he is commemorated on memorials at Harrow School and at Trinity College, Cambridge.