28122 PTE. J. BRIERLEY. K.L.R.
Jonathan Brierley was born on 16 July 1880 in Pendleton, Salford, and baptised at Pendleton St Thomas on 11 August. However, Brierley was not his surname at birth. His father was in fact James Chappell (sometimes Chapel), who was born in 1853 in Gorton, Manchester, and who worked as a general labourer. Jonathan’s mother was Mary Ann Shaw (b. 1861 in Newton Heath). James and Mary Ann were married in 1879 and Jonathan was born the following year. The couple then had two more children – Maria (b. 1883) and James (b. 1887) – before James snr died in 1891 (aged 38). In the 1891 Census, Mary Ann is shown with her three children, lodging at the home of William Dodd, a greengrocer, at 2 Enys Street, Pendleton. This street doesn’t exist any more but it is near Lord Street. Later that year, on August 1, she married Jonathan Brierley, also widowed, who was born in 1849 in Pendleton. He was a general labourer. Mary Ann and Jonathan then had three children of their own – Isabella (b. 1892), Harriet (b. 1895) and William (b. 1897) – before Jonathan snr died in 1898. Sometime around 1894, the family had moved from Pendleton to Chadderton, near Oldham. ‘Our’ Jonathan (born Chappell) joined the army the following year, using his stepfather’s surname and listing his mother, Mary Ann Brierley, as his next of kin. At the time, the family were living at 12 Hamilton Street, Middleton Road, Oldham.
Jonathan enlisted in the Lancashire Fusiliers on 2 October 1899 and was given service number 51243. He was 5’ 3” tall and weighed 115lbs. He was in training at home until 22 December 1899 when he was posted to Crete. Whilst in Crete, in January 1900, Jonathan spent 23 days in hospital suffering from gonorrhoea. He remained there until he was transferred to Malta on 27 February 1901. He had an epileptic seizure there on 16 June 1901 and was sent back to England on 2 August 1901, arriving at Netley Hospital on 12 August, and he was discharged on 10 September 1901 because of his epilepsy. His medical notes on his discharge papers observe somewhat brutally that his epilepsy “may have been aggravated by intemperance, vice and misconduct”. His recommended medical treatment consisted of “Bromides, Belladonna and dieting”.
Soon after Jonathan came back home he got married. He and Emily Holt (b. 1882 in Littleborough) were married at Chadderton St Thomas on 9 June 1902. The couple then had 7 children: Jonathan (b. 1903), Wilfred (b. 1904), Mary Alice (b. 1905), Lily (b. 1907), John (b. 1910), Thomas (b. 1912) and James (1914-16). As well as losing James at the age of 2, the couple also had another child who died young. The family moved around a bit in the early days, from Littleborough in 1903 to Pendleton 1904-1906, before settling back in Oldham in 1907.
When Jonathan re-enlisted, he and his family were living at 133 Chadderton Road, Oldham. By the time he re-enlisted he had a number of tattoos on his arms including one of Buffalo Bill on his left arm. He had also put on an extra stone in weight and now weighed 130lbs. Jonathan enlisted on 12 August 1914 with the Manchester Regiment (service number 2360, which later became 28122 when he was transferred to the KLR). Jonathan was allowed to re-enlist despite the fact that he had previously been discharged because of his epilepsy. He first went to Belgium on 19 January 1915. He remained there for one month and was then back in England from 20 February to 30 May 1915. He was back in France from 31 May to 11 July 1915, than back in England until he was discharged on 23 October 1915. On 11 December 1914 he was promoted to Lance Corporal, but reverted for drunkenness on 14 May 1915. He was then transferred to the King’s (Liverpool Regiment) on 31 May 1915. Jonathan must have had epileptic seizures fairly regularly; his army medical report says that he had one in Belgium in November 1914 and ‘previous to that had not had one for 6 or 7 months’. When he had the fit he fell down a flight of stairs and must have injured himself quite badly. A later report says: ‘Patient is now feeling much better although still weak. He was brought into Whitworth Street Military Hospital at 9.00pm on August 25th 1915 in a fit. I witnessed the fit, which was typically epileptic. Heart and lungs normal. Wounds have healed.’
Jonathan was 35 when he left the army and he died in 1922, aged 41.
In 1901, Mary Ann Brierley married for a third time. Her new husband was Matthew McDermott. He died before 1911 but I have no further biographical information. Mary Ann died in Oldham in 1919.