43754 SGT. E. J. BRIERLEY. R.I.R.
Edward James Brierley was born on 5 August 1888 in Marylebone, London, and baptised at Marylebone St Luke on 26th of that month. His father was Edward Brierley (b. 1865 in Marylebone), a carpenter and joiner by trade. His mother was Emma Clayton (b. 1867 in Dunmow, Essex). Edward and Emma were married in 1888 and Edward James was their first child, born later that year. They had 5 more children: Jessie Emma (b. 1891), Winifred Alice (b. 1892), Renzo Albert (b. 1894), Constance Annie (b. 1899) and finally Phyllis Angelina (b. 1902). In 1911, the family was living at 39 Nutford Place, Edgware Road, and Edward James was working for the G.P.O. as a postman. At the end of December 1913, Edward was married to Lizzie Jane Griffiths (b. 1891 in Marylebone), a blouse maker. Together, they had a daughter, Gwendoline, who was born in the second quarter of 1917.
(Family portrait with Edward James, centre back, and Renzo Albert, right, c. 1914. Photo kindly supplied by John Brierley, Renzo’s son).
Edward’s medal records show that he enlisted in 1/8 London Regiment, with service number 4788, and was later assigned to 1 Royal Irish Rifles with service number 43754 and at some stage was promoted to Sergeant. To give it its full title, 1/8 London Regiment was 1/8th (City of London) Battalion (Post Office Rifles), presumably a ‘Pals’ Battalion, formed in August 1914. 1/6, 1/7 and 1/8 Battalions were all formed at the same time and came under the orders of 2nd London Brigade in 1st London Division. This Brigade landed in France in March 1915 and in May that year was renamed 140th Brigade in 47th (2nd London) Division. However, Edward did not land with them. At some stage, he was transferred to the Royal Irish Rifles, 1st Battalion coming under the orders of 25th Brigade in 8th Division. In 1916, this Division was engaged in the Battle of Albert (the first phase of the Battle of the Somme), and in 1917 it was engaged in the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, then the Battles of Pilkem and Langemark (the opening phases of the Third Battle of Ypres).
The general situation, as described by Wikipedia: In July 1917, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig began the Third Battle of Ypres campaign, in an attempt to inflict unsustainable losses on the German army and to advance out of the Ypres Salient to capture the Belgian coast. At the Battle of Messines Ridge, the ridge had been captured down to the Oosttaverne line and a substantial success had been gained in the subsequent Battle of Pilckem Ridge from 31 July – 2 August. Ground conditions during the Battles of Ypres campaign were poor, as the surface had been bombarded, fought over and partially flooded, at times severely so. Shelling had destroyed drainage canals in the area and unseasonable heavy rain in August, turned some parts into morasses of mud and waterlogged shell-craters. Supply troops walked to the front on duck boards laid across the mud, often carrying loads of up to 45 kilograms (99 lb). It was possible for soldiers to slip off the path into the craters and drown. Trees were reduced to blunted trunks, the branches and leaves torn away. Bodies of men buried earlier were uncovered by the rain and shelling. The ground was powdery to a depth of 9 metres (30 ft) and when wet, had the consistency of porridge. The ground dried quickly, except where water was held in shell-holes and after a few dry days became dusty.
During the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, on 31 July, 1 Bn RIR had 44 other ranks killed. They were relieved, and then back in the line on 16 August at Langemark, when they lost a further 2 officers and 70 other ranks, killed, including Edward James Brierley, who was 29 years old. He left a wife and new born child, whom he had probably never seen.
Service No: 43754
Date of Death: 16/08/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Irish Rifles, 1st Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 138 to 140 and 162 to 162A and 163A.
Memorial: TYNE COT MEMORIAL
Additional Information: Son of Edward and Emma Brierley (formerly Clayton) of Marylebone, Middlesex, and husband of Lizzie Jane Brierley (formerly Griffiths) of Paddington.
Edward’s brother, Renzo Albert, also served in the Army. He was 235203 PTE. R. A. BRIERLEY, serving with the King’s (Liverpool Regiment), first with 19 Battalion and later with 13 Battalion. 13 Bn was part of 3rdDivision. In 1917, this Division had been engaged in the Battles of the Scarpe and in September would take part in the third phase of the Battle of Ypres, the Battle of Menin Road. So Renzo was close by when his brother was killed but not engaged in the same action. Renzo survived the War and died in Stepney in 1965.