246126 PTE. P. J. BRIERLEY. R.F.A.

 

Patrick Joseph Brierley was born in Dublin in August 1894.  (In the Irish Censuses, the family name is spelled ‘Brierly’). His father was Francis Brierly (b. 1870 in Dublin), a labourer.  His mother was Margaret (maiden name not known, but possibly Lennon, b. 1871 in Dublin).  Francis and Margaret were married in 1890 and they had 8 children, all of whom survived infancy:  Mary (b. 1891), then Patrick, then Margaret (b. 1896), Sarah (b. 1898), Esther (b. 1900), Annie (b. 1903), Francis (b. 1905) and finally Lizzie (b. 1909).  In 1911, Francis and Margaret and 5 of their children were living at Dominick Street Upper, Inns Quay, Dublin, although Patrick does not live with them.  The following year, on 21 August 1912, as soon as he turned 18, Patrick enlisted with the Territorials.  He was living at Marlborough Street, about half a mile from his parents, and working as a messenger.  He was 5’ 4½” tall and weighed 122lbs.  He was initially assigned service number 4472 but this was changed to T/39109 when he was posted to the Leinster Regiment.  He remained in training with the Territorials until he went to France on 17 February 1915.  In the interim, Patrick was married to Elizabeth (maiden name not known), in Dublin on 26 September 1914, and they had a son, also Patrick Joseph, born on 30 March 1915.

 

Patrick initially was posted to 5th (Special Reserve Battalion) of The Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment and joined 1st Bn in the field in February 1915.  With them, Patrick fought at St Éloi and the second battle of Ypres, but when 1Bn was sent to Salonika in August, Patrick was transferred to 2Bn and remained in France.  2Bn came under orders of 73rd Brigade in 24th Division.  In fact, during 1915, Patrick had had two periods in hospital, in March and again in August, and he was back in hospital again in December.  He had further bouts of illness in 1916 and when not in hospital, was shunted around various military establishments and roles, and he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in September 1916.

 

At the end of 1916, Patrick was transferred as a driver with the Army Service Corps.  On 13 February 1917, Patrick was injured by a kick from a horse:  “At about 5pm, Pvt Brierley was working on the Ammunition Jetty at Rouen, carting ammunition.  His horse took fright at a crane and bolted, throwing him off the lorry and kicking him.  The soldier was not to blame”.  He spent nearly a month in hospital in England recovering from the wound to his leg.  

 

On 19 January 1918, he was compulsorily transferred to 3A Reserve Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery and given a new service number, 246126.  After that, his health was in serious decline.  From 28 January to 23 April, Patrick was in hospital at Chiseldon Camp, suffering from gonorrhoea.  When he recovered from that, he was sent to the Royal Mineral Water Hospital, Bath, for treatment for his arthritis.  He stayed there until 12 July when he was moved back to Chiseldon and resumed treatment for gonorrhoea.  But his medical notes also show that he was riddled with arthritis, to his hands, knees and feet, and he ‘walks lamely with the help of a stick’.  He was still only 23.  So he spent the last 6 months of his service in hospital, and he was finally discharged on 31 August 1918 as ‘medically unfit for war service’.    In calculating his period of service for pension purposes (5 years and 356 days) he was forfeited 20 days’ pay.  Despite all his health problems, Patrick’s discharge papers noted that he was ‘sober, reliable and hardworking’.  He returned to Dublin where he died on 30 January 1919, aged 24.

 

Because Patrick was not actually in uniform when he died, he is not commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

 

For an excellent discussion of the issue of venereal disease during the Great War see here.

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