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Walter Brierley was born on 20 April 1881 in Rochdale and baptised at Rochdale St Alban’s on 18 May.  In his family records the surname is often written ‘Brearley’, which is how it was probably pronounced, but the name is ‘Brierley’ on his military records.  His father was William Brierley, a fitter, born in Rochdale in 1852 (died between 1907 and 1910).  His mother was Mary Alice Hoyle (b. 1851 in Rochdale).  William and Mary Alice were married at Rochdale St Alban’s in 1875.  Walter was their first child, followed by two girls: Eleanor (b. 1886) and Clara (b. 1890).


In 1907, Walter married Louisa Smyth (b. 1884 in Rochdale).  They were both cotton weavers.  They had no children.


Walter signed his attestation form on 7 December 1915 initially attempting to join the Lancashire Fusiliers who assigned him service number 35533.  He was then given another service number 36786 in 72nd Training Reserve.  He was 34 years of age and very slightly built – just 5’ 2” tall, 33½” chest, and weighing 112lbs (8st!).  Finally he was posted to the Cheshire Regiment on 28 July 1916 with service number 58477 and posted to 12th Battalion.  12th (Service) Battalion was formed in 1914, coming under the orders of 66th Brigade in 22ndDivision, and went to France in September 1915 but by November the same year, it had been sent to Salonika, which is where Walter joined them.


After the defeat of Serbia in December 1915, the British and French sent an expeditionary force to Greece to prevent a Bulgarian invasion.  Both sides dug in.  By early 1917 it had been decided that the Allies should attempt to break through the Bulgarian defences despite the fact that they were deeply entrenched and their positions well defended.  The first attack on 9-10 February was repulsed, as was a further attack on 21 February.  The British prepared a new attack with 3 Divisions (including the 22nd), a total of 43,000 men, 160 guns, 110 mortars and 440 machine guns, which began on 22 April and continued intermittently until 9 May.  A final assault consisting of heavy artillery barrages followed by several waves of infantry attacks saw the British defeated and suffering enormous casualties – more than 12,000 killed, wounded and captured, of whom 2,500 were buried by the Bulgarians.


Despite the ferocity of the fighting, losses to 12Bn Cheshire Regiment were relatively light, losing only 14 other ranks during this period.  Walter Brierley died of wounds on 11 May 1917, aged 36.


Rank:  Private

Service No:  58477

Date of Death:  11/05/1917

Age:  36

Regiment/Service:  Cheshire Regiment, 12th Bn.

Grave Reference:  11.


Additional Information:  Husband of Louisa Brierley, of 27 Bury Road, Rochdale.

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