Almanac Biography – Sir Norman Brookes: An Australian sporting icon.

Sir Norman Brookes.


by Allan Grant.

Norman Brookes was born in Melbourne on 14 November 1877.  He excelled at sport in his youth and like most young men had a go at almost anything. There are reports of him participating in billiards and even curling.


Young Brookes who was to prove an elite athlete at the highest level.


At the end of 1898 Norman Brookes set off in pursuit of his future brilliant career but his second elite level success was to come in Golf. In 1901 aged 24 partnered by Walter Riddell, Brookes won the Australian Amateur Foursomes Golf Championship. He repeated that feat again with Walter Riddell in 1906 but in between these years his legendary Tennis career began to take shape.


On 9 July 1905, Norman Brookes was runner up at Wimbledon to British Champion “Little Do” Hugh Doherty, who won 8.6, 6.2, and 6.3.  In the same year representing Australasia with New Zealander Tony Wilding they were defeated by the USA. This was Brooke’s first selection in the Davis Cup team.


Following these losses and soon after his second Australian Golf Championship Norman Brookes won Wimbledon in 1907 the first Australian to win the prestigious title.


In 1911 Brookes took out his first Australian Tennis title and in 1912 played singles for Australasia helped the combined Australia New Zealand team win its first Davis Cup against the previously dominant USA.


On 18 January 1913 Norman Brookes defeated J. Parkes to win the First Australia vs. England Lawn Tennis Test Match and on 7 July 1914 Brookes defeated Anthony Wilding of New Zealand to win his second Wimbledon title. He was now Tennis Champion of the World. In the same year he again led the Australasian team to win the Davis Cup.


The Storm clouds of the Great War were now firmly on the horizon and Norman Brookes like many great Australian sportsmen weighed up how he could serve his country. He accepted a position with the Red Cross. Norman Brookes was appointed as Red Cross commissioner in Egypt in 1915. This was a greatly important task and one, which was to prove arduous.  He oversaw the repatriation of Australian soldiers from the disasters of Gallipoli and other theatres of war and did all he could to ensure support networks were established.


He returned to Australia in 1917 after 2 years overseas. In 1918 he returned to the Middle East as a commissioner for the British Red Cross. Commissioners in the British Red Cross required military rank and thus Brookes was commissioned as a Lt Colonel.


Records indicate that Lieutenant Colonel Norman Brookes won the Singles, Doubles and mixed doubles championships of Baghdad at a sporting week to celebrate the taking of Baghdad by the British.


A biography by W. H. Frederick includes the following paragraph:


“Brookes became a commissioner for the Australian branch of the British Red Cross in Egypt from August 1915 to late 1916; he resigned in January 1917 and in May became commissioner for the British Red Cross in Mesopotamia. Soon after, he was appointed assistant director of local resources for the British Expeditionary Force there, with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.”


This same paragraph is included in the Australian Sports Hall of Fame official website.


I have spent just a little time on Trove and have found four references to Brooke’s service in Leader articles dated 11 Nov 1916 and 16 Dec 1916 where he is identified as Lt Colonel Norman Brookes. Later articles published in the Sydney Referee dated 17 April 1918 and 22 Jan 1919 refer to Lt Colonel Brooke’s service in Basra and Baghdad and later as a Lt Colonel in Mesopotamia where he was Director of Munitions for British forces.


Incidentally he was decorated with the French Legion of Honour for his services in World War I.


In 1926 Norman Brookes was appointed as the President of the Lawn Tennis association of Australia, a position he held for 30 years. In 1944 in his 68th year he partnered Harry Hopman in a charity doubles match at Kooyong. The Argus reporter at the time wrote,


“He still retains many of his skills, particularly at the net”


On 28 September 1968 Sir Norman Brookes died aged 80 yrs. Thus passed one of Australia’s sporting greats,  but a massive contributor to Australian sport overall.


Sir Norman Brookes is truly an Australian icon.



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  1. Stephen Wade says

    He didn’t actually play for St Kilda – official AFL records were changed in 2016 when it was discovered via Trove that Norman was in England when these games were played. Games are now credited to his brother Harold Brookes

  2. That comes from having AFL history books dated prior to 2016. Whatever the situation ‘re the Saints delete the football side and we still have an Australian sporting icon. Apologies for not getting the update ‘re AFL records.

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    Post has been amended Allan. ( Ed)

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