29264 CPL. H. BRIERLEY. R.E. (Postal Section).
Herbert Brierley was born in 1882 at Mitchell Street, in Oldham. His father was Benjamin Brierley (b. 1848 in Rochdale), a grocer by trade. His mother was Sarah Jane Dawson, (b. 1856 in Rochdale), a dressmaker. Benjamin and Sarah Jane were married in 1875 and they had 4 children: Fred (b. 1876), Frank (b. 1878), William (b. 1880), then Herbert, the youngest. Benjamin died in 1884, aged just 34. I haven’t traced his brothers in the Census, but in 1901, Herbert was living with his mother at Barrington Street in Manchester, where he was working as a postal clerk.
In 1909, Herbert married Bessie Dora Warwick (b. 1881 in Prestwich). In 1911, they were living with Dora’s mother at 53 Nevill Street, Hazel Grove. By this time, they had a son, Geoffrey Evans (b. 1910), and Herbert continued to work as a postal clerk.
When Herbert enlisted on 29 October 1914, at the start of the War, his pre-war employment skills were put to good use as he was assigned to the Postal Section of the Royal Engineers. The war of 1914-1918 relied on engineering. Without engineers there would have been no supply to the armies, because the REs maintained the railways, roads, water supply, bridges and transport. REs also operated the railways and inland waterways. There would have been no communications, because the REs maintained the telephones, wireless and other signalling equipment. There would have been little cover for the infantry and no positions for the artillery, because the REs designed and built the front-line fortifications. It fell to the technically skilled REs to develop responses to chemical and underground warfare. And without the REs the infantry and artillery would have soon been powerless, as they maintained the guns and other weapons. They also managed the postal service, which was increasingly important in the maintenance of morale among troops at the front line.
Herbert was obviously good at his job as he was promoted to Corporal and at some point was posted to Salonika. This may have been in October 1915, when a force of two brigades of British and French troops landed in northern Greece at the request of the Greek Prime Minister in order to help the Serbs resist a Bulgarian invasion. They arrived too late as the Serbs had already been beaten, but it was decided to keep the force in place, even though they were not universally supported by the Greeks. There was a short battle in December but after that the troops dug in and built miles and miles of barbed-wire defences. A Bulgarian attempt at invasion was repulsed in July, and in October the Allies, now reinforced with Serbian, Russian and Italian elements, were able to advance a few miles towards Serres, but it was the torrid conditions and disease which claimed most victims on this front. Herbert succumbed to typhoid fever on 1 October 1916. He was 34 years old. In the month preceding Herbert’s death, the Royal Engineers had 338 men killed in all war theatres, the vast majority in France. Of the rest, 24 REs died in Greece.
Bessie never re-married. She moved to St-Anne’s-on-the-Sea where she died in 1976, aged 95.
Service No: 29264
Date of Death: 01/10/1916
Regiment/Service: Royal Engineers, Base Postal Sect.
Grave Reference: 498.
Cemetery: SALONIKA (LEMBET ROAD) MILITARY CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Mrs. S. J. Brierley, of Oldham, and the late Benjamin Brierley; husband of Bessie D. Brierley, late of Withington, Manchester, now of 2 Victoria Road, St. Anne's-on-the-Sea, Lancs.