1458 PTE. J. BRIERLEY. R.G.A.
James Brierley was born on 31 August 1881 at Parkgate, near Neston on the Wirral. His father was Samuel Brierley (b. 1851 in Neston), a fisherman. His mother was Jane Davies (b. 1848 in Neston). Samuel and Jane were married in 1870 and had 8 children: Robert (b. 1870), John (b. 1873), Betsy (b. 1879), Margaret (b. 1880), then James, Martha (b. 1884), Alice (b. 1886) and Sarah Jane (b. 1888). In 1901, several branches of the family were living next door to each other at Banks Road, Heswall with Oldfield, Wirral. All the men were fishermen, including James and his father Samuel.
In April 1904, James married Edith Hardy (b. 1883 in Heswall), and they had seven children: John (b. 1905), Edith (b. 1906), George Thomas (b. 1906), Frances Jane (b. 1908), Dorothy (b. 1910), James (b. 1911) and Samuel (b. 1914). Samuel was named after his grandfather, who died in 1910. In 1911, the family was living at Heswall, but James had given up fishing and was working as a builder’s labourer.
Despite his family responsibilities, James was keen to join the Army. He first enlisted on 9 September 1914 in the Cheshire Regiment and was assigned service number 16364. His attestation form says he was 5’ 7” tall, weighed 127lbs and had a 38” chest. From this he would appear to be robust and fit, but he was discharged on 14 October as medically unfit, though the nature of his disability is not specified.
Undaunted, James tried again, this time with the Royal Garrison Artillery and he re-enlisted on 29 December 1914 in the Lancashire and Cheshire RGA, Territorial Force. The L&C RGA TF was initially formed in 1908 and its task was the defence of the port of Liverpool. However, at some stage, James was transferred to 39th Siege Battery of the RGA and he landed with them in France on 3 November 1915.
Immediately on landing, the Battery proceeded to Elverdinge, in Flanders and began registering targets with the help of aerial observations. Through the worsening winter weather, they engaged in shelling enemy trenches along the Ypres Salient. Throughout January there is shelling and retaliation but few casualties are reported. The shelling is intermittent and hampered by bad weather, cloudy skies, fog and high winds. On 21 February, their billets were hit by 5.9” shells, the canteen and latrines were demolished, two men were killed and several wounded, including Gnr Brierley, who was severely wounded. He died from his wounds the following day.
James was 34 years old, and left a wife and 7 children.
Service No: 1458
Date of Death: 22/02/1916
Regiment/Service: Royal Garrison Artillery, 39th Siege Bty.
Grave Reference: IV. D. 24.
Cemetery: LIJSSENTHOEK MILITARY CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Brierley, of Banks Rd., Heswall; husband of Edith Brierley, of 2, Elton Cottages, Grange Mount. Heswall. Birkenhead.