top of page



Ernest Brierley served in the army as Pvt. William Smith.


Ernest was born on 19 May 1867 at Clay Cross, Derbyshire.  His father was William Brierley (b. 1840 in Ashover, Derbyshire), an iron foundry labourer.  His mother was Mary Smith (b. 1840 in Golden Valley, Derbyshire).  William and Mary were married in 1861 and had thirteen children: Martha (b. 1862), Elizabeth (b. 1864), Ada (b. 1866), then Ernest, Marissa and Marion (b. 1870), Mary (b. 1872), Jennetta (b. 1874), Henrietta (b. 1875), John (b. 1877), George (b. 1879), Sarah (b. 1882) and finally Emily May (b. 1884).  William died in 1903 and Mary died in 1909.


Ernest meanwhile had married.  In 1891 he married Elizabeth Ann Howard Dawes (b. 1868 in Clay Cross) and they had seven children: Mary (b. 1893), Sarah (b. 1894), Gladys (b. 1896), William George (b. 1899), Marjorie (b. 1901), John (b. 1904), and finally Ernest (b. 1906).  At 14, in 1881, Ernest had started work in a lemonade factory; in 1891 he was a labourer in the same iron foundry as his father and in 1901 was a surface-working colliery labourer.  At the time of the 1911 Census he was not living with his family.  Elizabeth Ann and 6 of her children were living at 19 West Gate, Old Basford, Bullwell, Nottinghamshire.  She was working as a blouse machinist in a garment factory.  I haven’t been able to trace Ernest in the Census.  The family had moved to Nottinghamshire between 1901 and 1904, so it is possible Ernest was looking for work in the coalfields and went to Co. Durham looking for work there.


At the outbreak of War, Ernest was 46 and too old to enlist so he lied about his age but he also lied about his name, as he served as Private William Smith.  According to SDGW, he enlisted at West Stanley, Durham, which he also gave as his birthplace.  We can only speculate as to his family circumstances and motivation.


He enlisted with the Northumberland Fusiliers and was given service number 20952 and posted to 2ndBattalion.  He landed in France on 3 May 1915.  His Battalion had been in France since January that year and in April had been engaged in the Second Battle of Ypres, but this engagement we finished by the time Ernest arrived.  He would see action however at the Battle of Loos.  The Battle of Loos took place at the end of September 1915. It was the biggest British attack of 1915, the first time that the British used poison gas and the first mass engagement of New Army units. The Allies tried to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne and restore a war of movement. Despite improved methods, more ammunition and better equipment, the Franco-British attacks were contained by the German armies, except for local losses of ground. British casualties at Loos were about twice as high as German losses.  2Bn had about 80 officers and men killed in follow-up fighting on 1-2 October, including Ernest Brierley (aka William Smith), who was 48 years old.


Rank:  Private

Service No:  20952

Date of Death:  02/10/1915

Age: 48

Regiment/Service:  Northumberland Fusiliers, 2nd Bn.

Panel Reference:  Panel 20 to 22.



1257 L/CPL ALFRED BRIERLEY was killed on the same day in the same action.

bottom of page