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George Brierley was a professional soldier from a family with a strong army tradition.  George was born on 17 February 1880 in Elton, Bury, Lancashire and baptised at Elton St Stephen on 6 March.  His father was William Brierley (b. 1842 in Manchester), a professional soldier.  His mother was Selina Bowditch (b. 1851 at Tolpuddle in Dorset).  I don’t have any details of William’s military service, but he and Selina married at Portland in 1871 and the following year their first child, Edward William, was born in Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland, and the following year their first daughter Clara was born in India.  William must have retired in 1879 (if he had signed up at 16 he would then have served 20 years), and the family settled back in Bury.  George was born in 1880 and there were four more children: Alice Victoria (b. 1882), Henry Augustus (b. 1884), Alfred (b. 1886) and finally Mary who died in infancy (1890-1893).  Selina died in 1892; William then lived with his son Henry Augustus in 1901 and in 1911 with daughter Alice (now married).  William died in 1913.


The family moved the short distance from Bury to Bolton in the early 1890s and I think George got married there in 1902, to Emma Darlington (b. 1876 in Kearsley).  But she died in 1907.  


I have been unable to find George in the 1901 or 1911 Censuses, but it’s likely he served in South Africa and/or India.  By 1913, however, he was back in England and he was married that year to Frances Alice Spencer (b. 1881 in Wakefield). 


George enlisted at Wakefield in 1914 in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.  He was assigned service number 2339 and posted first to 3Bn (Reserve) then to 8Bn with whom he served in France.  8th (Service) Battalion came under the orders of 70th Brigade in 23rd Division.  George landed with his Battalion at Boulogne on 26 August 1915.  In 1915, 23rd Division were engaged near Armentières and in 1916 they took part in many engagements during the Battle of the Somme including Albert (and the capture of Contalmaison), Bazentin Ridge, Pozières, Flers-Courcelette, Morval and Le Transloy (including the capture of Le Sars).


Several battalions of the KOYLI were engaged in the Battle of Arras in early May 1917, but at that time 8Bn was in Belgium near Ypres preparing to play its role in the Battle of Messines in June that year.  They had been in and out of the trenches according to routine and on 26 May they relieved 11Bn Sherwood Foresters in Railway Dugouts near Hill 60 (near the village of Zillebeke, south-east of Ypres).  During the relief 10 other ranks were wounded and 1 killed.  The Battalion was relieved on 30 May, by which time 7 men from 8Bn had died.  George died on 28 May 1917 of wounds received on 26th.  He was 37 years old.


Rank:  Private

Service No:  2339

Date of Death:  28/05/1917

Regiment/Service:  King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 8th Bn.

Grave Reference:  XII. B. 35.


Additional Information:  Husband of Frances Dickinson (formerly Brierley), of 21 Wellington Street, Thornes Lane Wharf, Wakefield, Yorks.


In 1918, Frances remarried, to Abraham Dickinson.


Most of George’s siblings were either in the army or had army connections.


35905 PTE. D. SMETHURST. L.N.LAN.R.  George’s sister Clara was married to David Smethurst (b. 1877 in Bolton), a labourer.  They married in 1901 and had 3 children: Selina (b. 1903), Harold (b. 1904) and Fred (b. 1906).  David enlisted on 1 March 1915, aged 37, with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.  He was assigned service number 35905 and posted to 1Bn, and he landed with the Battalion in France on 21 December 1915.  He remained with the Battalion until 6 July 1916.  It appears he was wounded during the Battle of the Somme and was admitted to Edmonton Military Hospital in Middlesex.  He was in hospital for 2 months and then posted to the Reserves.  In late 1916 and early 1917 he was posted first to Middlesex Regiment then to Surrey Regiment before ending up being assigned on 23 June 1917 to the Labour Corps, with new service number 241395.  This must have been tough: David had been wounded on the Somme and he was only 5’2” tall to begin with!  It’s not clear if David returned to the front, but when he was discharged in 1919 he was certified as suffering from “chronic pleurisy over old fractured ribs”.  He was considered 40% disabled and awarded a pension.  He died in 1956.


Henry Augustus Brierley joined the army in 1902 when he turned 18.  He served as 17406 PTE. H. A. BRIERLEY. R.A.M.C.  He died at Curragh Camp in Ireland on 20 April 1903, aged 19.  The circumstances of his death are not known.


2800 SGT. A. BRIERLEY. LANCS.FUS.  Alfred Brierley joined up on 26 July 1900, as a Boy soldier aged 14.  That year he was in Dublin at the Royal Hibernian Military School as a drummer but he was transferred to the Lancashire Fusiliers and the following year he was in a training camp at Chatham in Kent.  He completed four years’ training at the RHMS and was commended as ‘a very good drummer’ with excellent conduct. His record then finds him in Ireland, around the time his brother died there: in 1904 at Tipperary and in 1907 at Fermoy, but the following year he was back at Chatham.  He had been appointed Lance Corporal in 1905 and in 1911 he was with 1Bn Lancashire Fusiliers and serving in India.  1Bn served in India from 1907 to 1911.  By this time George is no longer listed as a musician or drummer and so he was presumably a regular soldier.

In 1911 the battalion returned to England and at the end of that year George extended his service and transferred briefly to 4Bn South Lancashire Regiment; however he reenlisted in May 1915 and continued to serve initially as Lance Corporal with the Lancashire Fusiliers.  His record shows he was 5’2” tall and weighed just 98lbs.  In November 1916 he was posted to France to join 15Bn.  15th (Service) Battalion (1st Salford) was formed in Salford on 11 September 1914, and came under orders of 96th Brigade, 32nd Division.  They landed at Boulogne on 22 November 1915 and Alfred joined them in the field one year later.  He was promoted to Acting Sergeant on 30 April 1918 and confirmed in the rank on 13 August.  He returned from France on 3 November 1918.  On his return home, Alfred nearly died of influenza.  He was admitted to Queen Mary’s Military Hospital in Whalley on 4 November and discharged more than a month later on 13 December 1918.  He was finally discharged from the army on 2 July 1920.  I have no information about what happened on his return or when he died.

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