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James Ottowill (sometimes Otterwill or Ottewill) Kershaw Brierley was born on 9 September 1883 at Heaton Norris, near Stockport, and baptised at Heaton Norris Christ Church on 23 September.  His father was Joseph Brierley (b. 1862 in Heaton Norris), a gasser in a cotton mill.  (A cotton yarn gasser either fumigated raw cotton or applied gas to finished cotton threads to smooth them.)  His mother was Sarah Elizabeth Binning (b. 1860 in Heaton Norris).  Joseph and Sarah were married in 1881 and they had five children, three of whom survived infancy: James, followed by Lily (b. 1893), and May Binning (b. 1902).  In 1911, the family were living at 69 Manchester Road, Heaton Norris.  James was 27 and still single, and working as a doubler (a doubler operates a machine which twists cotton yarn from several bobbins onto a single bobbin).


James enlisted with the Lancashire Fusiliers and was assigned service number 36957.  It appears he first served with 19th Battalion but later with 3/5Bn.  3/5Bn was initially a reserve battalion, at home, but in May 1915 it was converted into a second line unit and came under orders of 197th Brigade in 66th (2ndEast Lancashire) Division.  The Division was posted to France in March 1917.  Soon after arriving, they participated in Operation Hush (26 June – 25 September), the attempt to dislodge the Germans from the Flanders coast and the strategically important ports of Oostende and Zeebrugge.  After this failure, the Division moved to the Ypres Salient and participated in the Battle of Poelcappelle (6-10 October 1917).  It was here that James received the wounds from which he would subsequently die.  The National Probate Calendar says that James died of wounds at the “Field Hospital Ardoie France” on 18 October 1917.  The Register of Soldiers’ Effects says he died in Germany.  There is no Ardoie in France, but there is an Ardooie in Belgium, which in 1917 was behind German lines.  James is buried at Harlebeke New British Cemetery, which was established after the Armistice in 1918 when graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefields.  From this we must surmise that James was wounded then captured by the Germans and subsequently died in a German field hospital.  He was 34 years old.  At Poelcappelle, 3/5Bn had 100 officers and men killed.


Rank:  Private

Service No:  36957

Date of Death:  18/10/1917

Age:  34

Regiment/Service:  Lancashire Fusiliers, 3rd/5th Bn

Grave Reference:  I. B. 7.


Additional Information:  Son of Joseph and Sarah Elizabeth Brierley, of 29 Reuben Street, Heaton Norris, Stockport.

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