21756 PTE. H. BRIERLEY. LANCS.FUS.
Harold was the last ‘Brierley’ to die before the Armistice. Unfortunately I have not yet been able to identify Harold in the Censuses but we do have some military records.
CWGC give us his initial, service number (21756), regiment and battalion (Lancashire Fusiliers, 20Bn), date of death (1 November 1918) and cemetery (Longuenesse, St. Omer).
Soldiers Died in the Great War tell us his name is Harold, he was born in Oldham, lived in Heywood, enlisted in Manchester, and was transferred to the Labour Corps (service number 374216). The Medal Roll and Medal Index Card confirm this and also show he didn’t serve before 1916.
The Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects tells us his next of kin was his mother, Jane. At the time Harold died, Jane lived at 33 Queen Street, Heywood, but I haven’t yet fund the family in the Censuses (in 1911 a different family was living at this address).
I don’t know when Harold enlisted but we know that he enlisted at Manchester. Harold served with 20th (Service) Battalion (4th Salford) who came under orders of 104th Brigade in 35th Division. This Division was largely comprised of locally raised units known as “Bantams”, manned by troops who were under the normal regulation minimum height of 5 feet 3 inches. The Division landed in France in January 1916 and saw service on the Somme at Bazentin Ridge, Arrow Head Copse and Maltz Horn Farm, and Falfemont Farm. On 8 December, the Divisional commanding officer (Major General H. J. S. Landon) submitted a report complaining that replacement drafts he had received were not of the same tough physical standard as the original bantams but were undeveloped, unfit men from the towns. A medical inspection was duly carried out and 1439 men rejected from the ranks. A second inspection removed another batch, bringing the total to 2784. These men were in the main transferred to the Labour Corps. Their places were filled with men transferred from disbanded yeomanry regiments. Brigades were then ordered that no more bantams were to be accepted. Original bantams who passed the medical inspection remained in place. It may be that Harold was transferred to the Labour Corps as part of this reorganisation.
The Register of Soldiers’ Effects also tells us that Harold died at “3 Can. Sty. Hosp.,” Doullens, and that he was with 751 A.E.Co., of the Labour Corps. It also has an error, recording his date of death as 1/1/18, not 1/11/18. The hospital was 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital. It was bombed in May 1918 and later moved to the Citadelle at Doullens. Harold’s pension record states that he died of disease, almost certainly influenza, as this time was the peak of the pandemic. It seems odd though that he is buried at Longuenesse, St. Omer, which is 80km (50 miles) from Doullens where he died.
Service Number: 21756
Date of Death: 01/11/18
Regiment/Service: Lancashire Fusiliers, 20Bn.
Grave/Panel Reference: V. E. 38.
Cemetery: LONGUENESSE (ST. OMER) SOUVENIR CEMETERY