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Lt. Harold Holland Brierley. M.G.C.


Harold Holland Brierley was born on 30 July 1891 at Radcliffe, near Bury in Lancashire.  His father was Reuben Bleakley Brierley (b. 1862 in Radcliffe), a primary school teacher and later teacher instructor.  His mother was Sarah Holland (b. 1862 in Radcliffe).  Reuben and Sarah were married in 1887 and had three children: Mabel (b. 1888), Gertrude Mary (b. 1889) and then Harold.  By 1901, the family had moved to Otto Terrace, Sunderland, where Reuben was a pupil teacher instructor.  I haven’t managed to trace them in the 1911 Census, but some other sources have proved useful.


According to the North East War Memorials Project, Harold was educated at Bede School, Sunderland from 1901.  He left in 1907 with an Oxford Junior Certificate in Engineering and then studied at Durham University’s Armstrong College in Newcastle, where he was a member of the Officer Training Corps.   He left Armstrong College with a BSc in Engineering in 1913 and was then employed at Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson as an engine draughtsman, located at the Neptune Yard in Walker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  He enlisted initially in the Northumberland Fusiliers, 12th Battalion, and was transferred as 2nd Lieutenant to 15th Battalion Machine Gun Corps with effect from 22 November 1915 (London Gazette, 15.6.1916, p5989).


15th MGC Coy was part of 15th Brigade in 5th Division.  In March 1916 5th Division took over a section of front line between St Laurent Blangy and the southern edge of Vimy Ridge, in front of Arras. This was a lively time, with many trench raids, sniping and mining activities in the front lines. When the Franco-British offensive opened on the Somme on 1 July 1916, the 5th Division was enjoying a period of rest and re-fit and was in GHQ Reserve. However, this restful time was not destined to last: the Division took part in the attacks on High Wood and then the Battle of Guillemont.  It was during an assault from Delville Wood towards Longueval on 27 July 1916 that Harold was killed in action.  He was 3 days short of his 25th birthday.  Just after his death, on 1 August 1916, the London Gazette announced that Harold had been promoted to Lieutenant.


Rank:  Lieutenant

Date of Death:  27/07/1916

Age:  24

Regiment/Service:  Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), 15th Bn.

Panel Reference:  Pier and Face 5 C and 12 C.


Additional Information:  Son of Reuben and Sarah Brierley of 52 Otto Terrace, Sunderland.

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