26882 PTE. C. BRIERLEY. MANCH.R.
Charles Brierley was born in New Cross, Manchester, in March 1890. The family lived at 132 Pollard Street. His father was Alfred Brierley (b. 1857 in Manchester), an iron moulder by trade. His mother was Matilda Sweeney (b. 1858 in Manchester). Alfred and Matilda were married in 1882 and had 9 children, 8 of whom survived infancy: William (b. 1883), Elizabeth (b. 1884), Alfred (b. 1887), Mary (b. 1889), then Charles, Sarah Ellen (b. 1894), John (b. 1896) and Ada (b. 1899).
In 1911, Charles was living with his mother, Matilda, and Sarah Ellen, John and Ada, still at Pollard Street, where Charles was working as a cotton finisher’s labourer. Alfred at the time was lodging at the Corporation Lodging House (for Men) at 17 Harrison Street, Ancoats, Manchester, still working in the iron foundry. Later that year, on 30 September 1911, Charles married Eliza Jane Partington, (b. 1890 in Manchester, and a piecer in the cotton mill) at Cheetham Register Office and shortly afterwards, on 10 November 1911, they had a daughter Florence. There would have been some scandal as the family were Roman Catholics, and Florence was baptised at St Ann’s church in Ancoats on 27 November 1911.
Charles’ attestation papers have survived, so from this we know he enlisted on 15 August 1915, at which time he was living at 22 Teer Street, Holt Town, Manchester. He was then working as a warehouse porter. He was 5’ 2” tall, weighed 154lbs and had a 36½” chest. He was assigned service number 26882 and initially posted to 26 (Reserve) Bn Manchester Regiment. Then on 8 March 1916 he was posted to 19 (Service) Bn and sent to France.
19th (Service) Battalion (4th City Pals) came under the command of 90th Brigade in 30th Division. On the Somme, in 1916, the Battalion was engaged in the Battle of Albert, including the Division’s capture of Montauban and subsequent fighting in Trônes Wood and would later be engaged in the Battle of the Transloy Ridges.
An account of the assaults on Montauban and Trônes Wood (1-7 July 1916) and the attack on Guillemont (23 July) can be found here. On 23 July the Battalion was moved into position to attack Guillemont. The attack began at 3.40am and the Battalion was immediately subjected to heavy shell, rifle and machinegun fire. Casualties initially were light until they reached the German wire when casualties became very heavy. Fighting was intense throughout the day, with the attack constantly held up by uncut German wire and then exposed to heavy rifle and machinegun fire, until they were finally forced to withdraw at 3.30 in the afternoon. The map below, taken from the War Diary, shows where the fighting took place.
145 officers and men from 19th Battalion were killed on 23 July 1916. Charles Brierley was 26 years old.
One often comes across phlegmatic accounts in War Diaries, but the 19th Bn takes the biscuit. The entry for the following day says simply that the “Battalion rested” and the entry for 25 July says the men bathed and played games in the afternoon.
Service No: 26882
Date of Death: 23/07/1916
Regiment/Service: Manchester Regiment, 19th Bn.
Panel Reference: Pier and Face 13 A and 14 C.
Memorial: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
In 1923, Eliza Jane Brierley remarried. Her new husband was James Davies.
Charles’ brother John signed up on 26 April 1915, aged 19. He was 5’ 2” tall and weighed only 114lbs. He was assigned service number 18808 and posted to the South Lancashire Regiment but he was discharged on 13 May 1915 as being medically unfit and unlikely to become an efficient soldier. He had knock-knees.