Richard Hubert John Brooke
37 Runs Average 37.00
Highest Score 37
1043 Runs Average 40.11
Highest Score 140
14 wickets Average 23.64
BEst Bowling 3-7
Richard Hubert John Brooke appeared in one match for Gloucestershire in May 1931 against Oxford University where in his only innings he scored 37 runs. Gloucestershire had travelled to the Parks without a number of their senior players and Brooke, a student at St. John’s College was drafted into the side. Already an established player for Buckinghamshire in Minor Counties cricket, for whom he had played from 1929, he was now in his third year at Oxford. Despite a batting average of 138.00 in his final year at St. Edward’s School in the city, he had progressed no further than the early season trial matches.
Following his Gloucestershire debut and the only time that he would represent the County, he appeared again in the next game in the Parks, but this time for Free Foresters against his fellow students and a month later he finally made his debut for the University against the Army, one of two games he played for them in that year. He obtained his Cricket Blue in 1932 having played regularly during the season in which he recorded the first of his five first-class centuries.
On leaving Oxford he went to Shrewsbury School in 1932 as a student teacher and joined the staff the following year where he was always known as Hugh or Brookie. He taught French and English to the lower forms and was Master in Charge of Cricket. During his time in charge, the First Eleven won 22 of the 44 matches they played, losing only five. He also ran the school’s Officer Training Corps.
Following wartime service with the 5th Battalion, Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, a Territorial Army Regiment that remained within the United Kingdom on home defence duties, he returned to the school as Housemaster of Rigg’s House. An article in the school magazine, the Salopian, written at the time of his retirement in 1969 said of him that “in many general ways he was ahead of his time in creating a humane atmosphere.”
Stories of him during his time at the school abound. One of the more risqué concerns a fez and a fig leaf, both “correctly worn”. He had a habit of dispensing half-crowns to those who pleased him and one of the more repeatable tales concerns an incident when, walking in the local village with the head boy of Riggs House, he met one of his own contemporaries. “Ah, Jenks” he exclaimed with his customary affability, and, presenting his friend with a half-crown, airily passed on his way. A few minutes later the senior Riggite came running down the hill. “Excuse me, sir” he said, “Mr Brooke wonders if you would lend him half-a-crown?”
The stories were not confined to his time at the school.
Once when serving in the KSLI he was standing on the edge of a cliff addressing a group of soldiers. After announcing ‘I know a quick way down’ he slipped, fell over the edge and as he disappeared was heard to say ’HGB’ He was injured and taken to hospital. After he had recovered sufficiently there was much interest in the mysterious exclamation and his visitors asked him what it signified. ‘HGB?’ he mused… ‘HGB?’ Ah, yes, ‘HGB’ …’Here goes Brooke.’ There is a report in the World War II Daily Casualty Reports in April 1945 of temporary Major Brooke being in hospital “dangerously ill” Whether or not the two incidents are related is mere speculation
The late John Ravenscroft a.k.a. John Peel the broadcaster and disc-jockey had been at Shrewsbury during Brooke’s time. Let him take up the story.
“I was packed off to prep school at the age of seven and took my common entrance at 12 or 13. I failed mine, but because my father, his brother and both grandfathers had been to Shrewsbury, I was nodded through. But I went into what was, in effect, a remedial class. I was not stupid or wicked, just lazy. I’d like to have been a bad lad, the kind who’d been caught in bed with cooks, but I was more absent-minded, prone to peering out of the window when I should be concentrating.
“But I was very lucky: I had an amazing house-master, RHJ Brooke, who subsequently went into the church. He was unique at that time, in that he realised that not all boys were going to become distinguished academics but it was possible to try and nurture them. He put me in the study next to the House library because he quite liked the idea of my playing rock’n’roll records while the rest of them were in there listening to Ravel’s “Bolero” or something like that. He liked the idea of having a faintly anarchic presence in the House. I had been threatened with expulsion on several occasions, and he’d gone to bat on my behalf, so I owe him a great deal.”
He later went on to describe Brooke as “the greatest man I ever knew.”
Always a man of deep spiritual conviction, Brooke took holy orders in 1959 and on retirement from Shrewsbury in 1969 he became Rector of Great Canfield in Essex where he died in 1973.