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William Brierley was born on 22 October 1897 in Collyhurst, Manchester, and baptised at Collyhurst, St James on 3 November.  His father was William Percy Brierley (b. 1871 in Salford), a cutter and maker-up in a flannelette finishing works.  His mother was Catherine (Kate) Moran (b. 1872 in Manchester).  William and Kate were married in 1894 and they had nine children, losing one in infancy.  The surviving children were: Eliza (b. 1896), then William, then Edith (b. 1900), Mary Ann (b. 1902), Florence (b. 1905), John Walter (b. 1907), Herbert (b. 1909) and finally Percy (b. 1910).  In 1911, the family was living at 109 Montague Street, Collyhurst.  William (jnr) was 13 and still at school.


William enlisted with the Lancashire Fusiliers, probably in 1916 and was first posted to 6th Battalion, but he was later transferred to 2/7Bn with service number 243306.  2/7Bn came under orders of 197th Brigade in 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division. After training in 1916 they landed at Le Havre on 28 February 1917.  In 1917, the Division fought during the Operations on the Flanders Coast (Operation Hush) (26 June – 25 September 1917) then at the Battle of Poelcapelle 1917, a phase of the Third Battles of the Ypres (6-10 October 1917).  In one sense, they had had a fairly easy time of it in 1917, certainly compared to some other Divisions.  But they would suffer massive losses in 1918.


In March 1918, they were heavily engaged in the German Spring Offensive:  the Battle of St Quentin (21-23 March 1918), the Actions at the Somme Crossings (24-25 March 1918) and the Battle of Rosières (26-27 March 1918).  As a result of the losses it had suffered in this fighting, the Division was reduced to a training cadre and reformed and reconstituted. 197th Brigade (William’s brigade) left the Division and was retained in training drafts and reinforcements.  So we don’t know from now on exactly where William was.  But we know he remained in France, so he was likely posted to another battalion in the Division.  After reorganisation the Division fought in the Battle of Cambrai (8-9 October), the Pursuit to the Selle (9-12 October) and the Battle of the Selle, a phase of the Final Advance in Picardy (17-20 October).  


On 20-21 October the Division was withdrawn and rested in the Serain area until 1 November. It advanced through Le Cateau from 2 November and had some sharp engagements over the next few days.  At the Armistice the advanced units of this Force were on the line Pont de République – Grandrieu – east of Sivry – Montbliart.  The Division was selected to march through Belgium as part of the British force for occupying the Rhine bridgeheads. The move began on 18 November and took the Division through Philippeville, Dinant and Ciney. The units billeted in the area Dinant – Huy – Marche – Rochefort and there halted.  


We don’t know how much of this action William was engaged in, but he didn’t make it into Belgium.  He is buried at Busigny, which is about 30km south-east of Cambrai.  He died on 2 December 1918, aged 21.  We don’t know the cause of death, but influenza seems a likely candidate.


Rank:  Private

Service No:  243306

Date of Death:  02/12/1918

Age:  21

Regiment/Service:  Lancashire Fusiliers, 2/7th Bn

Grave/Panel Reference:  VIII. A. 48.


Additional Information:  Son of Mr and Mrs Brierley of 109 Montague Street, Collyhurst, Manchester.

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