2162 PTE. O. BRIERLEY. WEST RID.R.
Oliver Brierley was born in July 1885 in Delph near Saddleworth in West Yorkshire (Census records give his name as Olave but he signs himself as Oliver on his attestation form and this is the name used in his other military records). His father was William Brierley (b. 1851 in Delph), a mason’s labourer. His mother was Susannah Hall (b. 1852 in Delph). William and Susannah were married in 1872 and had 10 children, four of whom died: Alice (b. 1875), Sam (b. 1877), Emma (1880-1893), Isaac (1882-1895), then Olave, Irwin (b. 1888), Joseph (b. 1891) and finally Lewis (b. 1893). In 1911, the parents and five of the surviving children were living at Shady Vale, Church Street, Delph. Olave was a labourer in a print works while his siblings worked in the woollen cloth manufacturing trade. William died in 1915 whilst Olave/Oliver was in training.
Oliver signed up on 7 September 1914, aged 29 years and 2 months, and joined the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment). He was 5’ 9” tall and had a 36” chest. He was assigned service number 2162 and was posted to 7th Battalion. 7th Battalion was raised at Milnsbridge in 1914 as part of 2nd West Riding Brigade, West Riding Division. Whilst he was at home and in training, Oliver had a rather poor disciplinary record. In November 1914, he refused to obey orders from an NCO and used improper language, for which he was given 10 days’ detention. Then in January 1915 he was absent without leave for 4 days, for which he got 96 hours’ detention and the following month he was again absent for a further three days, for which he got 168 hours’ detention. (His father died in the first quarter of 1915, so that may have had something to do with it.) However, he finally left for France with his Battalion, landing at Boulogne on 15 April 1915. The following month the Battalion was renumbered 1/7Bn and the formation became 147th Brigade in 49th (West Riding) Division. This Division was engaged in 1915 in the Battle of Aubers Ridge in May, and in December in the defence against the first German phosgene attack. Oliver was wounded by a gun shot in the thigh on 14 August. From 11-16 August the Battalion was doing a routine stint in the trenches near Hooge in Belgium and over the five days 9 men were wounded including Oliver. He was sent back to England on 6 September for further treatment. In October 1915, whilst at a military camp at Clipstone in Derbyshire, he was absent for almost a fortnight before being arrested by the civil police. And he went AWOL again in November. For these two offences he was merely admonished, but in January 1916 he went absent yet again, this time for 11 days, and he was given 14 days’ detention.
Oliver returned to France on 10 May 1916. In 1916, on the Somme, 49th Division fought in the Battle of Albert, the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, the Battle of Pozières Ridge and the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. On the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, the Bn was in the Thiepval sector and in Divisional Reserve. On 2 July they went into the trenches which had been vacated by the troops who attacked the day before. On 3 July the Germans attacked and there were heavy casualties. Oliver was wounded by gun shot to the head on 3 July and spent a week in hospital, first at Rouen then at Étaples. Oliver rejoined his Battalion, still in the Thiepval sector, and was wounded again on 16 November and taken to 3rd West Riding Field Ambulance where he died the next day. The War Diary gives an interesting account of what happened that day:
16 November. Bright, frosty and cold. Work interrupted by shrapnel and T.M.s (trench mortars). Intermittent shrapnel on Left and Reserve Coy during forenoon. Work pushed on. Considerably more material obtained. Construction of posts retarded by old material in bottom of trenches. In one place a tangled mass of 7 layers of grids, corrugated iron and wire – difficult to remove. Cold, frosty weather. Covering party of 1 NCO and 7 men protecting wiring party in front of Roberts Ave. suddenly attacked by a volley of bombs. 1 killed and 7 wounded. Enemy bolted at once. Fire not opened as in the dark friend and foe could not be distinguished. Patrols were sent out at once and wounded brought in. No trace of enemy.
Oliver was 31 years old.
Service No: 2162
Date of Death: 17/11/1916
Regiment/Service: Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment), 1st/7th Bn.
Grave Reference: IV. A. 15.
Cemetery: WARLINCOURT HALTE BRITISH CEMETERY, SAULTY