23629 PTE. T. BRIERLEY. L.N.LAN.R.
(We know from CWGC that Thomas Brierley’s parents were Thomas and Jane Brierley, and that the family came from Bolton. It proved difficult to locate them in the 1911 Census, but that’s because the family name was mis-transcribed as Brickley; once that was resolved, the rest of the family history fell into place.)
Thomas Brierley was born in January 1894 at Astley Bridge in Bolton, and baptised at St Paul’s on 14 January. His father was Thomas Brierley (b. 1856 in Bolton), a cotton spinner. His mother was Jane Moore (b. 1856 in Manchester). Thomas and Jane were married in Astley Bridge in 1879, and they had 7 children, of whom Thomas was the youngest. His older siblings were: Joseph (b. 1879), John (b. 1881), Margaret (b. 1883), Harold (b. 1887), Annie (b. 1889), and Harry (b. 1894). In 1911, the family was living at 104 Belmont Road, Astley Bridge. Tom (jnr), then aged 17, was working as a rivetter.
Tom enlisted probably in late 1915 or early 1916 and was assigned service number 23629 and posted to 9Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. 9Bn came under orders of 74th Brigade in 25th Division. 25th Division fought in the early phases on the Battle of the Somme in 1916: at Albert (2-5 July), Bazentin (14-16 July) and Pozières (23 July – 10 August). They returned to action in the Battle of the Ancre Heights (October) and were then moved to the Ploegsteert sector. They spent the first quarter of 1917 here engaged in frequent raids and minor operations. It seems likely that this is when Tom joined the Battalion in the field.
In June 1917, 25th Division were among the Divisions providing the infantry attack after the explosion of mines at Messines, on 14-16 June. The map shows the position of the Division at the commencement of the attack.
At the end of June they were withdrawn and after a brief period of rest they moved to Ypres to begin training for the next great offensive.
At Pilkem (the opening phase of the Third Battle of Ypres), 25th Division was initially in reserve but on 10 August, 74th Brigade (Tom’s Brigade) took part in the renewal of the attack. In a successful action, Westhoek was captured, although at a severe cost to the Division: 47 officers and 1244 men killed, wounded or missing. In October that year, they moved to the Givenchy sector, holding the sector for seven weeks. In December they moved to Bullecourt and spent much of the winter maintaining trenches. In February, they moved closer to the front, at Frémicourt and Biefvillers, as rumours of an impending German offensive grew. The German Spring Offensive was launched on 21 March, causing chaos in the British position.
The map shows the positions of 74th and 75th Brigades on the opening day of the attack.
From the opening phases of the attack until the Division was withdrawn six days later, it fought continuously under strange commanders and staffs, and not as a Division. 74th Brigade was ordered to support 51st (Highland) Division on the Bapaume-Cambrai road. The defensive fight was continuous and confusing, as enemy units pushed forward on all sides. Carrying out a fighting withdrawal, by 26 March the Division found itself on the 1916 Somme battlefield. On that date, the Division was finally relieved and moved to Pommier and thence to Couin. It was on this day that Tom Brierley died from wounds received in action. He was 24 years old. 73 officers and men from 9Bn lost their lives between 21 and 26 March 1918.
The cemetery at Sains lès Marquion, where Tom lies, is some 20km east of where he was wounded and it was not opened until September 1918, so Tom’s body must have been moved from a previous burial place.
Service No: 23629
Date of Death: 26/03/1918
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 9th Bn.
Grave Reference: IV. A. 1.
Cemetery: ONTARIO CEMETERY, SAINS-LES-MARQUION
Additional Information: Son of Thomas and Jane Brierley, of 104 Belmont Road, Bolton.