3026 CPL. A. BRIERLEY. A.I.F.
Arthur Brierley was born in the last quarter of 1896 in Rochdale. His father was also Arthur Brierley (b. 1866 in Rochdale), a farmer. His mother was Sarah Batten (b. 1866 in Accrington). Arthur and Sarah married at Wardleworth St Mary on 18 February 1890, and they had three children: Eleanor (b. 1895), then Arthur and finally Mabel (b. 1899). In 1911, the family lived at Shawfield Farm, Healey, near Rochdale. Arthur jnr was 14 and apprenticed to a butcher. Not long after the Census, the family moved to Ivy Model Dairy Farm, Chorley Old Road, Bolton.
Arthur emigrated to Australia. He departed London on 22 November 1912, just after his 16th birthday, and arrived in Sydney on 2 January 1913. He moved to Brisbane where he found work as a farm labourer and where he enlisted in the Army on 2 September 1914. He was still only 17 but he claimed to be 19. He was short but stocky: 5’ 6¼” tall and weighing 143lbs. He was initially assigned service number 247 and posted to “B” Coy of 9th Battalion (Royal Queensland Regiment) in the Australian Imperial Force. 9Bn formed part of 3rd Brigade in 1st Division. They departed Brisbane on 24 September 1914 and landed in Egypt on 2 December 1914. There they entered a period of intensive training before landing at Anzac Cove, on the Gallipoli Peninsula, on 25 April 1915. Arthur survived the landing, but a few days later, on 1 May, a shell landed close to him causing ‘cerebral concussion’ and leading to a severe case of shell shock. Some medical details have survived. His notes report: “Some previous mental weakness. Returned to Base Hospital where he acted queerly. Refused to speak (another report says he had ‘mental loss of speech’) or take food. On one occasion, he went to a pillar and kicked it saying ‘That is a Turk and the man who followed me from Gallipoli’. He was seen eating paper and wandered away from the wards. Sent on to Asylum at Abbassia, Cairo.” He had been sent to 15th General Hospital on 19 May and transferred to the Lunatic Asylum (sic) on 28 May. He was recommended for discharge on 23 June 1915 and left Egypt aboard HMAT Ballarat on 5 July, arriving in Sydney on 7 October. Here he claimed to be 19 years old, and he was sent to a Mental Hospital where his condition begins to improve: “he still has occasional headaches but since his admission has had no signs of mental derangement.”
Arthur remained in Sydney and re-enlisted on 27 July 1916, being given a new service number, 3026, and posted to 57th Battalion. Again, he lied about his age; he was only 19 but claimed to be 21½. He left for the Western Front aboard HMAT Afric on 9 January 1917. 57th Battalion came under orders of 15th Brigade in the 5th Australian Division. In 1917, the battalion joined the brief advance that the Allies undertook when the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line. It then undertook a defensive role during the Second Battle of Bullecourt, before mounting a major attack at Polygon Wood in September after the 5th Division was transferred to the Ypres sector in Belgium. It was at Polygon Wood, on 26 September 1917, that Alfred was killed. He was still only 20 years old. Despite his youth and his previous shell shock, Arthur had been promoted to Corporal. 681 Australian officers and men were killed on 26 September 1917, 38 of them from 57thBattalion.
Service No: 3026
Date of Death: 26/09/1917
Age: 20 (CWGC records 21 but I believe it was still before his 21st birthday).
Regiment/Service: Australian Infantry, A.I.F., 57th Bn.
Grave Reference: XLIV. A. 8.
Cemetery: TYNE COT CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Arthur and Sarah Brierley, of 5 Tower Buildings,
Chorley Old Road, Bolton, Lancs. Native of Rochdale, Lancs, England
(The picture shows Australian Infantry wearing respirators, Polygon Wood, September 1917)