31646 PTE. F. BRIERLEY. D.C.L.I.
Fred Brierley was born in the third quarter of 1896 in Bere Regis, Dorset, and christened there on 27 September. His father was James Brierley (b. 1860 in Rochdale), a stud groom by trade. His mother was Rose Ann Fearnley (b. 1861 in Rochdale). James and Rose Ann were married in Rochdale in 1881. They lived in Castleton, near Rochdale, in the 1880s and moved to Clifton in West Yorkshire in the 1890s before finally moving to Bere Regis in the early 1890s, where Fred was born. James and Rose Ann had 8 children but sadly only 2 survived infancy: James and his sister Rachel Alice (b. 1891). In 1911, the family was living at The Kennels, Bere Regis, and Fred (aged 14) was an apprentice carpenter.
Fred first attempted to enlist with the Army Service Corps in November 1915 and he was assigned service no. TS/9673. But for some reason his attestation was cancelled a week later. Fred was then 19 and at 5’9” tall was fit enough to serve. However, Fred then enlisted first with the 6th Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment, with service no. 17126 before finally being transferred to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry with service no. 31646. He was posted to 7th Battalion. 7th (Service Battalion) was formed in 1914 and came under orders of 61st Brigade in 20th (Light) Division. They went to France in July 1915 but Fred would have joined them some time later. It’s possible that Fred fought with the Division in the Battle of the Somme (Delville Wood, Guillemont, Flers-Courcelette, Morval and Le Transloy); and in the Third Battle of Ypres (Langemark, Menin Road Ridge and Polygon Wood). But it was at Cambrai that Fred met his death.
The Battle of Cambrai began at dawn (about 6am) on 20 November with a bombardment of over 1000 guns on German lines, followed by smoke and a creeping barrage and the mass use of tanks. Initially, there was considerable success in most areas and it seemed as if a great victory was within reach; the Hindenburg Line had been penetrated with advances of up to 8 km (5 mi). On the right, the 12th (Eastern) Division advanced as far as Lateau Wood before being ordered to dig in. The 20th (Light) Division forced a way through La Vacquerie and then advanced to capture a bridge across the St Quentin canal at Masnières. The bridge collapsed under the weight of a tank halting the hopes for an advance across the canal.
Despite their initial success, it became clear within a couple of days that the Allies would not be able to press on and break through, and the Germans began planning to counter-attack. When the counter-attack began on 30 November, the German advance was swift, especially in the southern part of the front and by 7 December most of the British advances were abandoned. 15 men from 7Bn were killed during the opening two days, then 3 were killed in the relatively ‘quiet’ period between the main fighting – including Fred – and during the German counter-attack on 30 November a further 36 officers and men were killed. Fred was 21 years old. In total each side at Cambrai lost about 50,000 men, killed, wounded or missing, including some 9,000 British soldiers who were taken prisoner.
Service No: 31646
Date of Death: 26/11/1917
Regiment/Service: Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, 7th Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 6.
Memorial: CAMBRAI MEMORIAL, LOUVERVAL