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Arthur Brierley was born in 1896 in Nottingham.  His father was Arthur Brierley (b. 1861 in Leicester), a painter and decorator by trade.  His mother was Elizabeth Jackson (b. 1863 in Nottingham).  Arthur and Elizabeth were married in Nottingham in 1887 and they had 3 children: William (b. 1889), Sarah Ann (b. 1893), and then Arthur.  In 1911, they were living at 34 Edwin Street, Nottingham; Arthur jnr, aged 14, was an errand boy in a hat shop.


Arthur enlisted with the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment), probably after conscription had been introduced in 1916, as he was given a new-style service number: 266842.  He was posted to 2/7 (Robin Hood) Battalion.  Along with 2/5 Bn, 2/7 had been sent to Ireland in April 1916 to quell disturbances there, but in early 1917 it was moved to the Western Front, landing in Le Havre on 26 February.  It seems likely that Arthur joined the Bn then or soon after.


2/7Bn formed part of the 59th (2nd North Midland) Division.  The Division had assembled in France by mid-March 1917, but reports indicated that the Division could not be considered properly trained (largely as it had been split up in Ireland); it did not have any opportunity to add to its training however before it was thrown into the front line south of the Somme, near Estrées.  When the enemy began his strategic withdrawal east from the Somme area towards the Hindenburg Line, 59th Division was among the formations that followed up in cautious pursuit. The lack of training began to be felt in this difficult tactical situation. Units of the Division captured Jeancourt but met a bloody repulse at Le Verguier.  Divisional HQ was established at Bouvincourt in April 1917. Further attacks took place at Villeret and Hargicourt quarries.  His namesake, Arthur William Brierley, also from Nottingham, (ser. no. 266960) was killed in this engagement.


Later in 1917, 59th Division fought during the Third Battle of Ypres, at Menin Road Ridge (23-25 September) and at Polygon Wood (26-30 September).  Whilst in the Ypres Salient, the Division suffered 2000 casualties.  In October, they moved to Cambrai where they participated in the capture of Bourlon Wood (28 November) and then they suffered more casualties during the German counter-attack.


In early 1918, after a long period of rest, during which time the 2/7Bn was merged with 1/7Bn, they returned to the trenches in February at Bullecourt, where they spent much time strengthening trenches in anticipation of an enemy attack.  The attack came on 21 March as the Germans launched their Spring Offensive at St Quentin.  After suffering heavy casualties from German shellfire on 21 March, the enemy infantry succeeded in breaking through the Division’s position where it met that of 6th Division in the valley of the River Hirondelle.  Parties held on and continued to resist but were gradually destroyed and “mopped up”. Fewer than 100 men of the 176th and 178th Brigades which had been holding the front line before the attack were assembled at roll call.  Two battalion commanding officers were killed in action.  At 7pm, the Division was officially relieved but 177th Brigade and various parties of ancillary units remained to take part in the continued defence.  Arthur Brierley was killed here on 21 March 1918.  He was 22 years old.


Rank:  Private

Service No:  266842

Date of Death:  21/03/1918

Age:  22

Regiment/Service:  Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment), 2nd/7th Bn.

Panel Reference:  Bay 7.


Additional Information:  Son of Arthur and Elizabeth Brierley, of 26 Nugent Street, Nottingham.

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