125807 PTE. W. BRIERLEY. M.G.C.(I).
I have relied heavily on Ancestry family trees for biographical information about this William Brierley. We know his name, rank and service number from SDGW and CWGC, and that he was born in Rochdale in 1889, and from the Register of Soldiers’ Effects we know he was married to Elizabeth.
According to several family trees on Ancestry, it appears that William was born on 26 June 1888 in Rochdale. His father was James Thomas Brierley (b. 1857 in Wuerdle), a plumber’s labourer. His mother was Sarah Bolton (b 1865 in Rochdale). Sarah and James were married in 1882 and they had 14 children, 2 dying in infancy. The 12 survivors were: George Henry (b. 1884), Clara (b. 1885), then William, then John Robert (b. 1890), Ellen (b. 1892), Fred (b. 1895), Alice (b. 1897), Amelia (b. 1899), Mary (b. 1900), Sarah (b. 1902), Edna (b. 1904) and finally Florence (b. 1906). In 1911, James and Sarah and 11 of their children (Clara had married) were living at 138 Ashworth Street, Rochdale. William and his five working-age siblings all worked in a cotton mill; William was a cotton piecer.
William enlisted first with the Lancashire Fusiliers, with service number 45636, but at some stage, presumably in 1917, he was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) and was given a new service number: 125807. He was posted to 49th Company. 49Coy was the machine gun unit supporting 49th Brigade in 16th (Irish) Division.
In 1916, the Division fought on the Somme at the Battle of Guillemont (in which the Division captured the village) and the Battle of Ginchy. In 1917, they fought at Messines, and at Langemark during the Third Battles of Ypres. In 1918, they suffered very heavy losses during the German Spring Offensive, at the Battle of St Quentin and the Battle of Rosières. William was one of the casualties of this fighting. He was wounded and evacuated to England, and he died of his wounds at Edmonton General Hospital on 8 May 1918. He was 29 years old.
Such were the losses to 16th Division that a decision was taken on 18 June 1918 to return the Division to England for refit and it was then significantly reconstituted.
Service No: 125807
Date of Death: 8 May 1918
Regiment/Service: Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), 49th Coy
Cemetery/memorial reference: L. 12326.
Cemetery: ROCHDALE CEMETERY