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John James and Charles William Brierley


John James Brierley was born in June 1893 in Rochdale and baptised at Rochdale St Chad’s on 28 June that year.  His brother Charles William was born in the third quarter of 1895.  Their father was Thomas Brierley (b. 1864 in Rochdale), a tinsmith’s labourer.  Their mother was Frances Belinda Barnes (b. 1865 in Manchester).  Thomas and Frances were married at St Chad’s in 1891 and they had 10 children, 8 of whom survived infancy: May (b. 1892), then John, Lillian (b. 1894), then Charles William, Esther Ann (b. 1899), Isabella (b. 1901), Thomas (b. 1905) and finally Elsie (b. 1908).  In 1911, the family were living at 3 St John’s Street, Rochdale.  The four older children were working in a cotton mill, John James was a doffer and Charles William was a bobbin carrier.


John James enlisted with the Lancashire Fusiliers; he was assigned service number 203320 and posted to 1/5Bn.  1/5 Bn formed part of 125th (Lancashire Fusiliers) Brigade in 42nd (East Lancashire) Division.  This Division had previously fought at Gallipoli, though John James probably joined the battalion in France, near Épehy, in February or March 1917.  In May, this was a relatively quiet sector of the front – in contrast, on the same day John was killed, 2Bn were fighting at Arras and had 100 officers and men killed.  1/5Bn went into the line on 1 May near Templeux.  During their tour in the trenches, from 1-5 May, they had three men killed by shrapnel, including John James.  He was 23 years old (CWGC incorrectly records his age as 25).


Rank:  Private

Service No:  203320

Date of Death:  03/05/1917

Age:  23

Regiment/Service:  Lancashire Fusiliers, 1st/5th Bn.

Grave Reference:  II. E. 26.


Additional Information:  Son of Thomas and Frances B. Brierley, of 130 Milnrow Road, Rochdale.



Although he was the younger brother, Charles William may have enlisted first.  He served first with 7Bn South Lancashire Regiment with service number 37175; he was then transferred to 4Bn Dragoon Guards, with service number 21933, and finally he was transferred to 15Bn Royal Warwickshire Regiment, with service number 32747.  15th (Service) Battalion (2nd Birmingham), from 14 January 1916, came under orders of 13th 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, 5thDivision was enjoying a period of rest and re-fit and was in GHQ Reserve. However, this restful time was not destined to last.  The participated in the Attacks on High Wood, the Battle of Guillemont, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the Battle of Morval and the Battle of Le Transloy.  By 5 October 1916 the Division had left the Somme and was holding a quieter line near Festubert. There was a constant threat from enemy artillery and sniper fire, but in comparison with the Somme it was a relatively tranquil period that lasted until March 1917.


In 1917, the Division fought in various phases of the Battle of Arras: at Vimy, La Coulotte and the Third Battle of the Scarpe.  On 7 September, they were relieved and they then moved to join the next great offensive in Flanders.  They fought at Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle and finally the Second Battle of Passchendaele.  It was here on 26 October that Charles met his death.  He was 22 years old.  14Bn and 15Bn of the Royal Warwickshires (in the same infantry brigade in 5th Division) had 144 officers and men killed that day.


Rank:  Private

Service No:  32747

Date of Death:  26/10/1917

Age:  22

Regiment/Service:  Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 15th Bn.

Panel Reference:  Panel 23 to 28 and 163A.


Additional Information:  Son of Thomas and Frances B. Brierley, of 130 Milnrow Road, Rochdale, Lancs.

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