Published In People in AFS

Brickley, Arthur Joseph

* 1894/02/05† 1918/12/09

WWI driver
Boston Latin School; Harvard '16

Courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.

Indicator Details

Born February 5, 1894, in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Son of John A. and Mary Jane Coughlin Brickley. Home, Charlestown, Massachusetts. Educated Boston Latin School, Harvard University, Class of 1916, two years and College de Rennes, France, two months. Plattsburg Camp, 1915. With Finance Committee, Boy Scouts of America. Joined American Field Service, June 30, 1917; attached Section Seventy-one to August 31, 1917. Enlisted U. S. Army Ambulance Service, Section 644 (ex-32). Croix de Guerre. Died of pneumonia, December 9, 1918, in field hospital at Appilly, Oise, southwest of Chauny. Buried at Ploisy, Aisne. Body to be returned to America.

ARTHUR BRICKLEY, although born with a frail body, made what might have been a handicap only a further incentive to achievement. One of his masters writes in the Boston Latin School Register of February, 1919:

"Looking back ten years, we remember him as a slight, delicate boy, driven by a courage and energy which always threatened to burn out his life before it had well begun. It was this very courage, however, which carried him in spite of poor health through this school and made light of the hardships of foreign service."

He had completed two years of his course at Harvard when he was compelled to abandon his studies on account of ill health. In the summer of 1915 he attended the first Plattsburg Training Camp and from January to June 1917, gave himself devotedly to secretarial work with the Finance Committee of the Boy Scouts. This work completed, he enlisted in the American Field Service and sailed for France.

Attached to Section Seventy-One he spent the rainy summer of 1917 on the Somme front near St. Quentin, in the desolate region which had been so recently occupied by the German forces. One of his comrades from this Section writes: "Brickley lived in my tent along with a dozen others during that dreary summer and I never saw him lose his temper or say a bad word against anyone. I remember a bunch of us peeling potatoes one morning in the rain. Everyone was growling and crabbing except Brickley who still kept his cheerfulness. He was always willing to help anyone and never failed to volunteer to substitute on duty if a man was sick." He spoke French fluently, having at one time attended for a few months the Collège de Rennes, France, and no matter with what French division his section was serving he became at once immensely popular with both officers and men.

At the breaking up of the old volunteer service he enlisted in the U. S. Army Ambulance Service and was transferred to S. S. U. 644, formerly Thirty-Two of the Field Service. The following is quoted from the letter of a fellow member of this Section: "It was during the year that followed that I came to realize, as did we all, his generosity, his love of right and fearlessness of wrong, above all his wonderful optimism that never failed."

Of his death the same friend writes: "During the last advance he was seized with influenza and evacuated to a field hospital near Chauny. To the very last he retained his optimistic esprit in spite of the fact that his sickness developed into pneumonia. He fought gamely for a month and then finally was forced to give in, on the ninth of December, 1918. He died knowing that the cause to which he had given his life had not been fought in vain. Nor would it have been in vain had his cause failed, for the inspiration he gave to us in living and in dying is one we shall carry through life."

Excepting the brilliant citation for the Croix de Guerre awarded him for courageous service under fire during the attacks of early September, 1918, there could be no finer tribute to his memory than the words spoken at his grave by Médecin Principal Michel of the 37th Infantry Division, which concludes as follows:

"Nous avons tous connu et aimé ce jeune conducteur qui est venu spontanément offrir son coeur, ses jours, sa vie à la France en péril. Partout il s'est signalé par son zèle, son dévouement, son excellent humeur, son sentiment très élevé du devoir.

"Il n'a quitte le service que terrassé par la maladie qui devait le ravir à l'estime de ses chefs, à l'amitié de ses camarades, a l'affection de sa famille.

"Au nom du Service de Santé de la Division que vous avez si noblement servi, Conducteur Brickley, adieu!"

  • Tribute from Memorial Volume of the American Field Service, 1921

WWI File

Months of service
2, 1915
S.S.U. 32, S.S.U. 71
Home at time of enlistment
Charlestown, Mass., USA
Subsequent Service

SSU 32

SSU 71