51758 PTE. S. D. BRIERLEY. R.W.S.R
Sylvester Douglas Brierley was born in the second quarter of 1894 in Forest Gate, London. His father was Alfred William Brierley (b. 1859 in Christiana, Norway). I haven’t discovered any records for Alfred before 1880 (when he was married). But oddly, in 1881, when he was living at Wellington Road, Forest Gate, next door was a James Brierley from Rochdale, and he was married to Katherine, who was listed as a British Subject but also born in Norway. Anyway, Alfred was a railway engine fitter and in 1880 he was married to Emily Harvey (b. 1860 in West Ham). Alfred and Emily had 9 children, several of whom did not survive infancy: Albert Oscar (b. 1881), Emily Lavinia (1884-1884), Alfred John (1885-1891), Edith (1887-1903), Mable Esther (b. 1889), Jessie (b 1892), then Sylvester, James (1895-1895) and finally Ruth Lydia (b. 1899). Alfred died between 1901 and 1911, so in 1911 Emily was living at 35 Glyndon Road, Plumstead, Kent, with son Albert Oscar and his wife Martha Jane and their son Alfred John. They shared the house with Jessie, Sylvester and Ruth. Sylvester and Albert were described as machine assistants; Sylvester machined fuzes so they probably worked at the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich.
Sylvester initially enlisted with the Royal Garrison Artillery, with service number 139654, but at some stage he was transferred, with service number 51758, to 10Bn The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). 10Bn had been formed at Battersea on 3 June 1915 and came under command of 124th Brigade in 41st Division. In 1917, this Division fought in the Battle of Messines and then in the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, the opening battle of the Third Battle of Ypres. On the opening day, 31 July, 10Bn lost one officer and 10 other ranks, killed. They were back in action near Hollebeke, south-east of Ypres, from 4-8 August, when they had another 25 other ranks killed. They were in the trenches again from 11-15 August and then relieved and withdrew to a camp near Thieushouck some way behind the lines, in France. At 9.45 in the evening of 18 August an enemy plane dropped a bomb on the camp.
The War Diary reads:
16-18 (August). Training and reorganisation. On the evening of the 18th a hostile plane dropped a bomb at 9.45pm in the middle of the camp causing the following casualties: Officers: 1 wounded; Other Ranks: 38 killed, 7 died of wounds, 61 wounded. There were no lights in the camp at the time and the majority of the men were killed lying down in their tents asleep. In order to save a little of the pasture of the farm, three companies were herded together in a very enclosed space and in consequence of this, one bomb caused 107 casualties. Permission had previously been asked for the use of the whole field for the camp but had been refused on the grounds of damage to the pasture. The men were buried in a corner of the field and the space enclosed …
This ‘corner of a foreign field’ was the Royal West Surrey Cemetery but the graves were later moved some 460 metres to Bertenacre Military Cemetery, at Flêtre. Sylvester was one of the men wounded on the 18th and he died the next day at a Casualty Clearing Station at Godewaersvelde, where he is buried. He was 23 years old (CWGC gives his age as 22).
Service No: 51758
Date of Death: 19/08/1917
Regiment/Service: The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment), 10th Bn.
Grave Reference: I. D. 21.
Cemetery: GODEWAERSVELDE BRITISH CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Emily Brierley, of 1 Padcroft Road, Yiewsley, Middx., and the late Alfred William Brierley. Native of Forest Gate, London.