2241 PTE. S. BRIERLEY. R.M.F.
Samuel Brierley was born in the final quarter of 1890 at Delph, near Saddleworth, Yorkshire. His father was John Brierley (b. 1861 in Saddleworth), a teazer in the rug and shawl trade. His mother was Eliza Swallow (b. 1862 in Holmfirth). John and Eliza were married in 1882 and had 12 children, 9 of whom survived: Mary Hannah (1883-1903), Lena Ann (1884-1902), Clara Beatrice (b. 1886), George Swallow (b. 1888), then Sam, Fred (1892-1905), Walter (b. 1895), Miriam (b. 1897), John Clifford (b. 1898), Stanley (b. 1900), Harold (b. 1903) and finally Harry (b. 1904). 1902-1905 were tumultuous years for this Brierley family, when three children died and two were born. In 1911, the family was living at 8 Farrar’s Building, Albion Street, Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury. Sam, then aged 20, was a rug weaver, in the same trade as his father. In February 1912, Sam married Hilda May Roberts (b. 1893 in Dewsbury) and later that year, the couple had a daughter, Florence May.
It’s not known when Sam enlisted or how he ended up in the Royal Munster Fusiliers. However, he served with them with service number 2241 and was posted to 2nd Battalion. 2nd Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers had been formed in 1914 and suffered heavy losses at Étreux in the opening days of the War. It was then reorganised and transferred to 3rd Brigade in 1st Division. It received a number of reinforcements from another Battalion in May 1916 so it may have been then that Sam joined them. 1stDivision fought on the Somme at Albert, Bazentin and Pozières in July and Flers-Courcelette and Morval in September. In 1917, they were involved in the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. The Division was then ordered to prepare for an operation along the Belgian coast – ‘Operation Hush’ – in the summer of 1917. They moved to Dunkirk for training. A full account of the operation can be foundhere. Operation Hush was intended as an amphibious landing on the Belgian coast to take back control of the ports occupied by the Germans and serving as bases to harass British shipping in the Channel. The landings were planned to take place after the launch of the attack at the end of July which would become known as the Third Battle of Ypres. However, in the face of ferocious German attacks from 6-10 July and given the failure of the attack at Ypres to make significant advances, Operation Hush was finally abandoned. This German attack marked the first use of mustard gas in an artillery bombardment.
On 4 July, the Battalion moved to a camp at Champermont, near Coxyde and began intensive training for the forthcoming planned attack. On the morning of 10 July, the enemy unleashed an intense artillery bombardment of the camp, with 4.2”, 5.9” and 8” shells, mainly high explosive but with some shrapnel and tear gas. Enemy observation balloons and aeroplanes were used to direct artillery fire. Many huts were damaged, some by direct hits. Sam Brierley was killed during the German attack on the camp and is buried at Koksijde. He was 26 years old (CWGC says 27).
Service No: 2241
Date of Death: 10/07/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Munster Fusiliers,
Grave Reference: I. I. 41.
Cemetery: COXYDE MILITARY CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Eliza Brierley,
of Delph, Oldham, and the late John Brierley;
husband of Hilda May Brierley, of 37 Commercial
Street, Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury.
Sam’s older brother George also served in the army. He was 25143 PTE. G. S. BRIERLEY, serving with 2/5Bn, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. George survived the War and died aged 91 in 1980.