36841 PTE. J. BRIERLEY. LANCS.FUS.
James Brierley was born in October 1896 in Pendlebury and baptised at Pendlebury Christ Church on 21 October that year. His father was Peter Brierley (b. 1861 in Chorley), a clay miner in a brick works. His mother was Elizabeth Nuttall (b. 1862 in Pendlebury). Peter had moved around and changed jobs, originally he was a cotton piecer then by 1901, a carter, until ending up in the brick works. He and Elizabeth were married in 1890 and they had 6 children though 2 died in infancy. The survivors were: Ethel (b. 1891), Annie (b. 1893), then James, and finally Albert (b. 1898). In 1911, the family were living at 21 Gower Street, Pendlebury. James had just started work (aged 14) as a milk lad.
James probably enlisted in 1915 (he turned 19 at the end of the year). He joined the Lancashire Fusiliers, was assigned service number 36841 and posted to 19th Battalion. James’ medal record says he was transferred at some stage to 3/5Bn and then moved back again. 19th (Service) Battalion (3rd Salford) (Pioneers) – to give it its full title – was formed in Salford in 1915 and landed in France in November that year. In August 1916 it was placed under orders of 49th (West Riding) Division as a Pioneer Battalion. 3/5Bn was attached to 197th Brigade in 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division. They landed in France in March 1917 and were disbanded in Belgium on 14 February 1918. We can’t be sure when precisely James was transferred between battalions but he may have been with 49th Division in 1917 when they fought at Operation Hush and later at the Battle of Poelcapelle (9 October). But he was definitely with them by the beginning of 1918.
Around this time, James may have received news that his father had died: Peter died in February 1918, aged 57.
In 1918, the Division fought during the second phase of the German Spring Offensive – Operation Georgette or the Battle of the Lys (7-29 April). Specifically, they were engaged at Estaires (9-11 April), Messines (10-11 April), Bailleul (13-15 April), the First Battle of Kemmel (17-19 April) and the Second Battle of Kemmel (25-26 April). On 7 April, the Bn was in the line near Gheluvelt and they were relieved the following day. On 10 April, they were moved to Neuve Église where they attempted to hold the line in the face of the enemy assault. Neuve Église fell to the Germans on 13-14 April and on 15 April the Bn withdrew to Kemmel Hill. The Kemmel Hill is a height commanding the area between Armentières and Ypres. The Germans attacked on 17-19 April, but were repulsed. The French sent reinforcements but on 25 April, the Germans made another sudden attack. This time they were successful and captured the hill, but they could make no further advance. They took another hill – Scherpenberg – on 29 April, but by this time it was clear that Operation Georgette could not achieve its objectives and it was called off.
During the various phases of this campaign in April 1918, 19 Bn had 94 officers and men killed, 30 of them on 25 April, including James Brierley, who was 21 years old.
Service Number: 36841
Date of Death: 25/04/1918
Regiment/Service: Lancashire Fusiliers, 19th Bn
Grave/Panel Reference: Panel 54 to 60 and 163A.
Cemetery/Memorial: TYNE COT MEMORIAL