28912 PTE. G. BRIERLEY. MANCH.R.
George Brierley was born in Oldham in the third quarter of 1894 and baptised there on 5 September that year. His father was Joseph Henry Brierley (b. 1869 in Oldham), an iron foundry worker. His mother was Susannah Dawson (b. 1867 in Rastrick, Yorkshire). Joseph and Susannah were married at Glodwick St Mark in 1892 and they had 3 children: Mary (b. 1892), George, and finally Esther (b. 1895). Joseph died in 1897, aged just 27. In 1901, Susannah and her children were living with her mother Ann Dawson (herself a widow) and other members of the Dawson family at 65 Bolton Street, Oldham. Susannah had gone back to work as a cardroom hand in a cotton mill. I haven’t been able to find Susannah or George in the 1911 Census. There is no record for 65 Bolton Street in the Census. CWGC tells us that when George died, his mother was living at 9 Bolton Street, but in 1911 this house was occupied by a different family.
George probably enlisted in 1915. He joined the Manchester Regiment and was assigned service number 28912 and posted first to 27th Battalion (a reserve battalion). When he was called up he was posted first to 23rd Battalion. 23rd (Service) Battalion (8th City) to give it its full title was formed in Manchester on 21 November 1914 by the Lord Mayor and City as a Bantam Battalion. A bantam battalion was formed of men who were otherwise physically fit but were below the Army’s minimum recruitment height of 5’ 3”. 23Bn came under orders of 104th Brigade in 35th Division. They landed at Boulogne in January 1916. In 1916, 23Bn fought on the Somme at Bazentin Ridge. On 8 December the Divisional commanding officer (Major General H. J. S. Landon) submitted a report complaining that replacement drafts he had received were not of the same tough physical standard as the original bantams but were undeveloped, unfit men from the towns. A medical inspection was duly carried out and 1439 men rejected from the ranks. A second inspection removed another batch, bringing the total to 2784. These men were in the main transferred to the Labour Corps. Their places were filled with men transferred from disbanded yeomanry regiments; they had to be quickly trained in infantry methods and a Divisional depot was formed for the purpose. Brigades were then ordered that no more bantams were to be accepted. Original bantams who passed the medical inspection remained in place. George clearly was ‘up to standard’ as whilst serving with 23Bn, he was promoted to Lance Corporal, although he later reverted to the ranks.
In 1917, the Bn was engaged in the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, and during the Third Battle of Ypres they fought at Houthulst Forest and the Second Battle of Passchendaele. The Bn had ceased to be a Bantam Battalion early in 1917 and it was disbanded in France on 16 February 1918. It may have been at this point that George transferred to 11th Battalion. 11Bn came under orders of 34th Brigade in 11th (Northern) Division.
In 1918, 11th Division fought at the Battle of the Scarpe (26-30 August) and then at the Battle of Drocourt-Quéant (2-3 September), though 34th Brigade was not with the Division for this latter operation. They were back with the Division at the Battle of the Canal du Nord (27 September – 1 October).
The construction of the Canal du Nord had been begun in 1913 and was suspended when War broke out and work was left in various stages of completion. As the Germans retreated back behind the canal they deliberately dammed and flooded the whole area, making it virtually impassable. Canadian combat engineers managed to build bridges across the Canal and the attack on the morning of 27 September took the Germans completely by surprise. Once the crossing had been secured the path to Cambrai was now open. 11th Division were fighting with the Canadians at this time and on 27 September they captured the village of Épinoy. It was here in fighting to secure the village that George was killed on 3 October. He was 24 years old. From 27 September to 3 October, 11Bn had 41 Other Ranks killed, including George.
Service number: 28912
Date of death: 03/10/1918
Regiment/Service: Manchester Regiment, 11Bn
Cemetery/memorial reference: C. 3.
Cemetery: SUCRERIE CEMETERY, EPINOY
Additional information: Son of Joseph Henry and Susannah Brierley, of 9 Bolton Street, Oldham.
George was a cousin of 10/1423 Private Frederick Brierley who fought with the New Zealand Infantry and was killed at Gallipoli on 8 August 1915.