24109 PTE. H. BRIERLEY. W.R.R.
Harold Brierley was born on 18 April 1895 in Mossley and baptised at Mossley St. George on 2 June that year. His father was John Brierley (b. 1854 in Saddleworth), a cotton grinder by trade. His mother was Elizabeth Walker (b. 1854 in Mossley). John and Elizabeth were married in 1874 and they had 9 children, of whom Harold was the youngest. His older siblings were: John (b. 1875), Ester Ann (b. 1877), Sarah Jane (b. 1879), Florence (b. 1882), Ethel (b. 1884), Lena (b. 1886), Ann (b. 1887) and Mary Hannah (b. 1890). On the Census date in 1911, John was in the Poor Law Workhouse at Ashton-under-Lyne and he died there a few months later. Harold at the time was living with his mother at 111 Stockport Road, Mossley, and aged 15 he was working as a cotton spinner.
Harold enlisted in the Territorials on 3 April 1913. He was assigned service number 1388 and posted to 7Bn West Riding Regiment. He indicated that he was willing to serve abroad by signing the relevant form on 9 September 1914. He was given a new service number, 24109.
Harold embarked for France on 15 April 1915. He had a number of illnesses for which he was treated in various hospitals in France, but he was also sent back to England for hospital treatment in September 1915, returning to France a year later, in September 1916. He was recorded as killed in action, buried by a shell hitting his trench, on 9 October 1917, but in fact, he was recovered and taken to hospital at Étaples. Unfortunately, it appears from a note on his file, dated 9 November 1917, that his mother was sent a letter, in error, saying that Harold had been killed. In fact, on 4 November, he was well enough to rejoin his battalion in the field. In early 1918, he was granted a month’s leave, from 12 January to 12 February. Not long after he returned to the front he was back in hospital for just over a week, this time suffering from blepharitis (a relatively mild eye infection). He rejoined his battalion on 17 March 1918.
In 1915, Harold was serving with 1/7Bn. 1/7Bn Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment) came under orders of 147th Brigade in 49th (West Riding) Division. Whist he was with them, Harold fought at the Battle of Aubers Ridge (9 May 1915). When he returned to France in 1916, Harold was transferred to 2Bn. At that time, 2Bn came under orders of 12th Brigade in 4th Division, and in February 1918, they transferred to 10thBrigade in the same Division. In 1917, 4th Division fought in the First and Third Battles of the Scarpe (part of the battle of Arras, 9 April – 16 June), and in the Third Battle of Ypres they fought at Polygon Wood from 26 September – 3 October, Broodseinde on 4 October, Poelcapelle on 9 October, and the First Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October. So it was at Poelcapelle that the incident happened mentioned above, where Harold was in the trenches when buried by a shell. As noted above, he managed to escape and recover and by the time he rejoined his unit the main battle for Passchendaele was over.
In 1918, after his month’s leave and his brief period in hospital, Harold was back with his battalion for the First Battle of Arras (28 March 1918). He then fought with them at the Battle of the Lys (the second phase of the German Spring Offensive, Operation Georgette) from 7-19 April 1918 – they fought at Hazebrouck (12-15 April) and Béthune (18 April). On 15 April, the battalion had 42 officers and men killed. They lost a further 20 men killed by the end of the month. 3 men from the battalion were killed on 3 May, including Harold Brierley, who was 23 years old.
Service No: 24109
Date of Death: 3 May 1918
Regiment/Service: Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment), “B” Coy, 2nd Bn
Grave Reference: C.3
Cemetery: GONNEHEM BRITISH CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of John and Elizabeth Brierley, of 111 Stockport Road, Mossley, Manchester.