23981 PTE. P. BRIERLEY. MM. G.GDS.
The award of the Military Medal to Percy Brierley was announced in the London Gazette on 28 September 1917. The entry tells us that he came from Manchester. Fortunately, Percy’s attestation papers have survived so we can fill in more biographical details.
Percy was born on 25 February 1896 at Dinting, near Glossop in Derbyshire and he was baptised at the parish church in Dinting Vale on 26 March. His family background is complicated. His attestation papers name his Uncle Fred as his next of kin, and the 1911 Census shows him living with his Uncle Fred and Fred’s mother Jane Brierley (née Bowler, b. 1829 in Bredbury) at 31 Back Lane, Charlesworth. Jane was 83 and she died a few months after the Census. Fred was 37, unmarried, and a calico printing finisher. Percy, then aged 15, was a labourer in the same calico printing works as his uncle.
Going back to the baptismal records, we find that Percy’s mother was Mary Ellen Brierley, and no father is recorded. Mary Ellen died, presumably of complications following Percy’s birth, and was buried at Dinting on 16 April 1896, leaving Percy to be brought up by his uncle and grandmother.
Percy enlisted on 1 June 1915. He was 19 years old and now gives his occupation as warehouseman. He was tall and slim – almost 6’ tall and weighing 126lbs. He joined the Grenadier Guards and was assigned service number 23981.
His records show that he was at home in training from 1 June 1915 to 12 August 1916, then with the BEF in France from 13 August. For the first few weeks in France, he served with 7th Entrenching Battalion, and he joined 2Bn Grenadier Guards in the field on 25 August 1916. During the Battle of the Somme 1916, the Guards Division fought at Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September) and Morval (25-28 September). Percy was then sent back to England on 31 December 1916 (no reason given). After a few months in England in early 1917 he was back with his Battalion on 27 February 1917. The date isn’t very legible but it looks like the record says he was awarded the Military Medal for action on 12 August 1917. This was during the opening phase of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) and the Guards Division was fighting at Pilkem and later on the Menin Road. The award of the Military Medal was announced in the London Gazette on 28 September 1917.
Percy remained with the Grenadier Guards for the rest of the War, so in 1917 he also fought at Poelcapelle (9 October) and the First Battle of Passchendaele (12 October). The Guards were then engaged in the Battle of Cambrai at the end of the year.
In 1918, the Guards Division was engaged in the following action (from The Long, Long Trail):
The First Battles of the Somme, 1918
– The Battle of St Quentin (21-23 Mar)
– The Battle of Bapaume (24-25 Mar)
– The First Battle of Arras 1918 (28 Mar)
The Second Battles of the Somme 1918
– The Battle of Albert (21-23 Aug)
– The Second Battle of Bapaume (31 Aug – 3 Sept)
The Battles of the Hindenburg Line
– The Battle of Havrincourt (12 Sep)
– The Battle of the Canal du Nord (27 Sep – 1 Oct)
– The Battle of Cambrai 1918 (8-9 Oct)
The pursuit to the Selle (9-12 Oct)
The Battle of the Selle (17-25 Oct)
The Battle of the Sambre (4 Nov)
The division, which was in and around Maubeuge at the Armistice, was joined by the 4th (Guards) Brigade from 31st Division on 17 November 1918. The Guards Division was then ordered to the Rhine and crossed the German frontier on 11 December. Battalions began to return to England on 20 February 1919 and the final moves of the Division were completed by 29 April 1919.
Percy was transferred to the reserve on 11 April 1919 and finally demobilised in March 1920.
I don’t know what happened to Percy after the War.