200431 PTE. W. BRIERLEY. L.N.LAN.R.
I am grateful to Janet Davis for supplying the photograph and newspaper article.
William Brierley was born in 1888 in Preston. His father was Thomas Brierley (b. 1865 in Cockermouth), a spinner by trade. His mother was Agnes Blackburn (b. 1867 in Preston). Thomas’ family had settled in Preston by 1871, and Thomas and Agnes were married in 1885. They had 10 children, 9 of whom survived: William was the oldest, then Jane (b. 1889), Margaret (b. 1891), Robert (b. 1892), Alfred (b. 1898), Daniel (b. 1901), Mary (b. 1903), Alice (b. 1906) and John (b. 1909). In 1911, the whole family were living at 42 Crook Street, Preston. All the workers were mill workers, and Thomas, William and Robert were all spinners, although from the newspaper article it appears when he enlisted he was a sawyer with Messrs. Irvin and Sellers.
William’s attestation papers have survived, from which we learn that he actually enlisted with the Loyals at Preston in June 1914, before the outbreak of war and was given the service number 1946. He was called up on 8 August 1914. When the new-style service numbers were issued, he was renumbered 200431 (CWGC incorrectly gives this as 300431, all the other records have 2). He was posted to 1/4Bn and landed in France on 8 August 1915 and joined his battalion in the field a couple of weeks later. The newspaper article is confusing with the mention of Festubert since this action occurred before William arrived with the Battalion. 1/4Bn had suffered terrible losses at Festubert on 15-16 June 1915, but by August (when William joined) they had been moved to Bécourt on the River Ancre. The Bn was not engaged in any major action for the rest of the year. In early 1916, the Battalion became part of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division and they moved to the sector of the front south of Arras between Wailly and Brétencourt.
From the Regimental History:
“Raids were now the order of the day and these occurred with greater frequency and increasing strength, and in the middle of June a special battalion raiding party was organized and practised continually. His party was composed of Captain E M Gregson, 2nd Lts Martin, Roscoe and Walker and sixty other ranks and on 28 June a raid on a pretentious scale took place. The preparations were careful and detailed; gas and smoke were to be discharged on a two-mile front, to be followed by raids in no fewer than six places by parties (from various regiments). Unfortunately at the crucial moment a change of wind took place and the discharge of gas was only partially successful. In addition, the raiding parties were received by heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, with the result that two of the parties were unable to penetrate the enemy trenches. The remainder, however, were successful, and many of the enemy were killed.”
Captain Gregson was killed along with 11 other ranks, including William Brierley. He was 28 years old.
Service No: 200431
Date of Death: 28/06/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Panel Reference: Bay 7.
Memorial: ARRAS MEMORIAL