100th anniversary of first Rockland World War I loss nears

By Stephen Betts | Jun 11, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts Gaye Best of Rockland shows newspaper and magazine clippings as well as photographs and letters concerning the death 100 years ago of her uncle, Lt. Albert Holbrook.

Rockland — Albert Davis Holbrook was a gifted student and athlete for Rockland who went on to Bowdoin College, where his success continued.

But the United States' entry into the European war that became known as World War I led the young man to enlist in the Army a month later, in May 1917.

He was sent to France, where Lt. Holbrook would ultimately be wounded in battle and die in a prison camp hospital, becoming the first person from Rockland to die in the war. He was 22.

His niece Gaye Best of Rockland does not want his ultimate sacrifice to be forgotten as the 100th anniversary of his death approaches this month.

"I believe that any chance that one has to preserve the memory of those who sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of freedom should be taken and honored," Best said.

The Rockland City Council is scheduled to vote Monday evening, June 11, on a resolve to mark the 100th anniversary of Holbrook's death. The resolve also recognizes the death a month later of Private Arthur Winslow of Rockland, who was the first Rockland resident to enlist in World War I. Seven other Rockland men who died in the war, and all those who served in all conflicts, are being honored.

"I never want people to forget what our veterans have done for us," Best said.

She said she was working with the Winslow family to obtain medals earned by Pvt. 1st Class Winslow, including the Purple Heart. She said she is also working with the American Legion to have the100th anniversary of the year of two men's deaths honored.

The park located at the intersection of Main Street and Park Drive is named for Winslow and Holbrook.

Holbrook was born Jan. 6, 1896, in Rockland, the first child of Frederick Holbrook and Ceretha Simonton Holbrook. He grew up on Camden Street in Rockland near the intersection of Maverick Street.

Twin siblings Frederick and Mary died in 1902 at the age of 14 months from a "failure to thrive." His mother died the following year of tuberculosis. His brother Gilman, born in 1899, contracted polio, but was starting to recover when he was struck by a car on Camden Street and died in 1913.

Albert Holbrook went to Rockland schools, entering Rockland High School in 1911. He was elected president of his class in each of his four years at Rockland High. He was captain of the football team in 1914, played baseball and participated in unspecified indoor athletics.

He graduated in 1915 and went on to Bowdoin College. He earned a place as a member of the sophomore football team.

Best showed a letter that her mother -- Holbrook's sister -- had kept that Holbrook wrote to his father, informing him that he was considering trying to get an appointment to West Point or Annapolis military academies. He ultimately joined the Army.

His regiment was called to service in November 2017. He earned the rank of second lieutenant. He was wounded June 6, 1918, in the battle of Chateau-Thierry in France.

His family was initially notified by telegram that he was missing in action following a battle. They later received word he was being held as a prisoner in France by the Germans.

And in late September, the family was notified that Holbrook had died June 19 in the field hospital in Fismes, France. The family received a letter from an American ambulance driver who was in the field hospital with Holbrook.

A Bowdoin College newsletter quoted a sergeant who said the men in Holbrook's regiment admired him. During a lengthy hike when some of the men were having difficulty continuing, Holbrook carried their packs.

Holbrook was buried in Fere-en-Tardenois, France.

His father remarried and he had a half-sister born in 1920 -- Roberta Holbrook Best.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jun 11, 2018 15:22

RIP. Such a hero! Holbrook's live in Hope and perhaps are genetically connected.  Such a sacrifice for our wonderful country!

If you wish to comment, please login.