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Frank Brierley was the first Brierley to lose his life in the Great War.


Frank was born in the last quarter of 1889 in Burnley.  His father was Ernest Arthur Brierley (b. 1854 in Rochdale).  His mother was Kate Martha Denley (b. 1860 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire).  In 1871, at 17, Ernest was a brass works labourer in Rochdale, but after that he moved around quite a bit.  Ernest and Kate were married in Conway in 1879 and their first daughter, Eleanor was born in 1881 in Llandudno.  However the next two daughters were born near Melbourne in Australia: Winnifred (b. 1884) and Bertha (b. 1887).  By the time Frank was born though the family had moved back to Rochdale.  In 1891, Ernest was working as a Turkish bath attendant, an occupation he still had in 1911.  Ernest and Kate also had two other children who had died.


Frank would have been 22 in 1911 and is not shown in the Census living with his parents, and I have not found another entry for him.  It’s most likely that he was already in the army.  He had enlisted at Bury with the Lancashire Fusiliers and was given service number 1359 and posted to 2nd Battalion.  2Bn came under the orders of 12th Brigade in 4th Division.  This Division, initially planned to be part of the original British Expeditionary Force, was at the last minute held back in England to counter any German landing. A decision was soon taken to despatch it to France where they arrived on 20 August, just in time to play a valuable part at Le Cateau. 


During the retreat from Mons, the British Army was forced to retreat by the numerical superiority of the German forces.  By nightfall on 25 August, it was clear that the British had to turn and confront the enemy or face a total rout.  For long hours during the morning of 26 August, the British force, notably the field artillery, held overwhelming numbers of the enemy at bay. British tactics were similar to those at Mons. The infantry produced intensive and accurate rifle fire, while the field artillery fired air-bursting shrapnel rounds on the unprotected advancing enemy infantry.  Many field guns were fired at point-blank range over open sights.  But the British artillery was also exposed and came in for heavy punishment from the German guns.  Some were withdrawn just as the enemy infantry closed in.  For the second time in three days, the British force withdrew just in time.  Miraculously, the exhausted II Corps disengaged and withdrew towards the south during the afternoon.  Smith-Dorrien’s decision to turn II Corps around from retreat and to stand against the German advance at Le Cateau paid off handsomely.  Heavy casualties were inflicted on the Germans and another delay imposed on their Schlieffen timetable.  But a heavy price was paid: total British casualties at Le Cateau amounted to 7,812 of all ranks, killed, wounded and missing.  38 field guns were lost.  Frank Brierley was among the dead.  He was 24 years old and had been in France less than a week.


Rank:  Private

Service No:  1359

Date of Death:  26/08/1914

Age:  24

Regiment/Service: Lancashire Fusiliers, 2nd Bn.

Panel Reference:   


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