Collin Brooks

Collin Brooks (22 December1893 – 1959), frequently known as "CB"), was a British journalist, writer, and broadcaster.

Early life and background

Born William Collin Brooks he was the son of William Edward Brooks (1864–1914) and Isabella (née Thomas), herself the daughter of Griffith Thomas and Isabella (née Harrison — a descendant of Colonel Harrison of Cromwell's New Model Army). He was born and brought up in the north of England, spent only seven years in formal education, and after a short period as a trainee accountant became a commercial traveller for various companies, from the age of fifteen to twenty.

In 1913 he founded the Manchester Press Agency. Collin's father William died only weeks before the outbreak of World War I, and his mother Isabella died shortly afterwards, on Christmas Eve 1915. Two weeks later Collin married Lillian Susanna Marsden, and they had four children: Barbara (who died in infancy); Rosemary Collin Brooks (1920–1971), whose career included a stint working for MI5; Vivian Collin Brooks (1922–2003) — a journalist who wrote a number of detective books under the pen-name "Osmington Mills"; William Austen Brooks (1924–1986), also a journalist: and Edward Clarke Brooks (1928–) who became an actor and wrote a number of short stories.

In the war

On 20 November 1915, Collin Brooks joined the British Army, and after a period driving tanks transferred to the machine gun corps. As a 2nd Lieutenant, he was awarded the Military Cross, his citation reading: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the attack across the Piave on 27 October 1918. This officer led his four guns forward under heavy shell and machine gun fire with the forward waves of the infantry. On arrival at the objective, by his skilful handling of his guns, he formed a defensive flank and in spite of heavy casualties he maintained his position. The coolness and energy of this officer was, throughout the action, a fine example to the men under him.”

His own field notes — taken from his pocket book — of this event run as follows:

"Have reached C. Fighera with two gun teams and am held by hostile MG [machine gun] with which we are dealing. Teams were considerably weakened by rifle & MG fire. Fording the river and further (MG) support on left boundary line is requested. No counter attacks have developed & local resistance is being rapidly overcome. Our line was badly broken by initial resistance and by natural features and lateral communication is poor." His next report states that nine men were wounded; this was followed by a report at 12:00 hrs: "At 11:00 I took over C. ARAGIOTTO and consolidated it into a double MG strongpoint firing W. and N. I am handing this over to No 2 Sec Select and am proceeding north."


His war service was followed by an increased awareness and involvement in politics and journalism. In 1921 he was employed by the Liverpool Courier; in 1923 he joined the Yorkshire Post, and moved in 1928 to their London office. This was followed by a move to the Financial News later that year. In 1933 he moved to the Sunday Dispatch, which began his long involvement with Harold Sidney Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere. He was shortly elevated to the position of Editor of the Sunday Dispatch. (A fuller record of his career from 1932 to 1940 can be found in "Fleet Street, Press Barons and Politics" edited by N.J. Crowson, ISBN 0-521-66239-7).

With his work for Rothermere, the family spent time living both in London and also in Norfolk — in a house called "The Mount" on Rothermere's Stody estate.

He later worked on a number of other papers, being Chairman and Editor of "Truth" (an exposé magazine aimed at political and society issues) from 1940 to 1953, and wrote the "Letter to America" on a regular basis. He was also a ghost-writer for a number of people, and many political speeches and white papers were influenced to some extent by him.

Other interests

He was a member of a number of clubs, including the Savage Club, and the book "Brother Savages and Guests" by Percy V. Bradshaw includes some illustrations by Brooks.

Collin Brooks was a prolific writer, with over fifty books to his name, from authoritative works on finance and legal cases, through literary novels under his pen-name "Barnaby Brook" and two volumes of poetry, to what he called his "shockers" — detective stories which introduced such delightful characters as Lord Tweed, Raeburn Steel, Dan'l Forray and his twin daughters Jo and Jack, Inspector "Doleful" Debenham,and the unforgettable Oswald Swete McTavish. A search on Amazon UK for "Collin Brooks" in "books" will still find a surprising number of his works — together with those of his daughter Vivian.

In addition to his published works he produced, throughout his life, his own Journals (edited extracts from which form the basis for N. J. Crowson's book mentioned above.) The Journals cover a period of some three decades, and run to millions of words. For much of the time he had three or more literary works — not including the Journals — "on the go" at any one time, which one he worked on on any given day depending on his mood.

His later career expanded from journalism into broadcasting, where he was a member of the original "Any Questions" team and also of "The Brains Trust", both for BBC Radio, and did a regular stint as "Northcountryman" on radio broadcasts.

He was a man with a vast circle of friends, acquaintances and correspondents from many walks of life; his letters appear in a surprising number of collections. T. S. Eliot, a family friend, gave an address at Collin Brooks' memorial service at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street, London in 1959.

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