BRIERLEYS IN WW1
104644 PTE. E. BRIERLEY. C.E.F.
Edgar Brierley was born on 29 March 1882 in Rochdale. His father was Hiram Brierley (b. 1835 in Saddleworth), a mechanic/iron worker by trade. His mother was Alice Shore (b. 1844 in Rochdale). Hiram and Alice were married in Rochdale in 1859 and they had at least 9 children, of whom Edgar was the youngest. His older siblings were: Henry Herbert (b. 1860), John Thomas (b. 1862), Hiram (b. 1864), Eliza Hannah (b. 1867), David Edward (b. 1869), Arthur (b. 1874), Alice (b. 1876), and Ethel (b. 1880). Edgar’s mother, Alice, died in 1891; Hiram died in 1902.
By 1901, Edgar was working as a machine minder in a cotton mill in Rochdale and in 1907 he married Elizabeth Ellen Ashworth (b. 1879 in Rochdale) and the following year they had a son, John (Jack). In July 1912, Edgar emigrated to Canada, to be joined by his wife and son the following year. The family settled in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and in 1915, Edgar and Elizabeth Ellen had a second son, Ernest.
Edgar attested that he was willing to serve in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force on 13 August 1915. He was 5’ 7” tall and had a 38” chest. He gives his trade as ‘steward’. He was assigned service number 104644 and posted first to 68th Battalion and was later transferred to 48th Bn. He sailed for Europe on 28 April 1916.
According to his military records, Edgar was wounded at Maple Copse on 12-13 June 1916 while serving with 48th Canadians. Maple Copse is near Zillebeke, in the Ypres Salient. An advanced dressing station was established here to deal with casualties from the Battle of Mount Sorel. Edgar was in the trenches, preparing to carry bombs to the front line, when he was hit by fragments from a ‘whizz-bang’. He was taken back to hospital at Stourbridge in England where he arrived on 18 June. The wounds on his face and ear became infected and he was kept in hospital until mid-July. He then remained in England in reserve until the beginning of 1917, and on 4 February 1917 he was appointed Acting Corporal (without pay), though he reverted to the ranks at his own request on 17 March. During this time in England he was first at Crowborough, then at Bramshott, and finally at Seaford. On 21 April 1917, he was transferred to 7Bn and returned to France the following day, joining the Bn in the field on 7 May.
7Bn came under orders of 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade in 1st Canadian Division. So Edgar fought with the Canadians at the Battle of Hill 70 (15-25 August) and the Second Battle of Passchendaele (26 October – 10 November). Edgar was killed on the very last day of this battle, when the Canadians finally occupied the village.
The Battalion war diary recorded the events when the battle was over:
"It was impossible during the 10th to clear the wounded from the Regimental Aid Post, owing to exceptionally heavy shell-fire, with the result that the Post was crowded with stretcher cases during the night. These were cleared during the 11th by a brigade party of 300 Other Ranks which came up in the early morning, and by 8 p.m. (11th) all wounded of the Brigade had been cleared from Musselmarkt.
Owing to the exhaustion of the men and the constant shell-fire, it was impossible to bury many of the dead and no means were at hand for marking the graves of those that were buried."
In the battle, Canadian Corps suffered more than 15,000 casualties. Edgar was 35 years old and left a wife and two young children. Edgar's body was recovered from an unmarked grave in May 1920 and buried in Passchendaele New British Cemetery.
The family photograph has been put together very artfully but it is clearly two different pictures pasted together. The picture of Edgar would probably be from when he completed his training, maybe late 1915 or early 1916. If we guess that in the other part of the photo, his youngest son Ernest is perhaps 2 years old then the photo was taken in 1917 at around the time Edgar was killed. (The photo was provided by members of the Brierley family still living in Canada.)
Service No: 104644
Date of Death: 10/11/1917
Regiment/Service: Canadian Infantry, 7th Bn.
Grave Reference: XVI. A. 16.
Cemetery: PASSCHENDAELE NEW BRITISH CEMETERY
Additional Information: Husband of E. E. Brierley, of 1122 Wolfe Avenue, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Born in England.