59257 CPL. H. BRIERLEY. MANCH.R.
Piecing together Harry’s biography has proved a challenging task! Fortunately, his attestation papers have survived, so that’s where we’ll start.
Harry Brierley was born in 1894 in Gorton, Manchester. His mother’s name was Elizabeth. At the time he enlisted, Harry gives his address as 2 Balmoral Street, Mount Road, Gorton. Later he gives this also as his mother’s address (as his next of kin). He was a painter and decorator. He attested he was willing to serve in the Army on 8 December 1915; he signed up for the Manchester Regiment, was assigned service number 59257 and initially posted to the Reserve. He was a small man, only 5’1” tall, and weighing 102lbs.
In 1916, Harry married Beatrice Findlay (b. 1894 in Gorton), and they had a daughter Beatrice (b. 1917).
Harry wasn’t called up until November 1917, and he was finally sent to France on 1 April 1918 where he was posted to 12th Battalion. 12Bn came under orders of 52nd Brigade in 17th (Northern) Division. 17th Division had been engaged in the fighting during Operation Michael, the first phase of the German Spring Offensive but Harry joined them among reinforcements as this phase of the War ended.
The Division was then engaged in the final 100 Days Offensive:
The Battle of Amiens
The Battle of Albert++
The Battle of Bapaume++
The battles marked ++ are phases of the Second Battles of the Somme 1918
The Battle of Havrincourt^
The Battle of Epehy^
The Battle of Cambrai 1918^
The battles marked ^ are phases of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line
The pursuit to the Selle
The Battle of the Selle^^
The Battle of the Sambre^^
The battles marked ^^ are phases of the Final Advance in Artois
It was during this phase of the War that Harry was awarded the Military Medal but as there are no citations for the MM, we don’t know precisely what the action was. The award was announced in the London Gazette on 14 May 1919.
When the Armistice came into effect at 11am on 11 November 1918 the leading elements of the Division were south east of Maubeuge. Over the next two days the Division was withdrawn to the area west of Le Cateau; on 6 December it moved behind Amiens and went to billets around Hallencourt. Demobilisation began in January 1919 and the Division ceased to exist at the end of May.
It seems that after the Division was disbanded, Harry remained in the Army and was posted to 254 POW Company, to guard German prisoners of war. During this time he was promoted to Acting Corporal. He was demobilised on 21 November 1919.
In August there had been some confusion regarding a period of leave that Harry spent in Manchester and his wife wrote to the army authorities asking for special consideration to be given to his circumstances and detailing some family problems at the time, as her parents were planning to return to Canada and she was finding difficulty raising her young daughter on her own. She was also soon expecting another child: Harry jnr was born in 1919.
The link to Canada was intriguing, but also confusing, as Beatrice’s father had died in 1909 and her mother had remarried. In fact, it was not Beatrice but Harry who had ‘Canadian’ parents. The link was to be found in the Canadian records.
Harry, Beatrice and their two children emigrated to Canada in 1920, and the shipping papers contain a key piece of information: viz. that Harry had lived in Quebec from 1909-1915, so he and his family were now moving back to Montreal. From this, it is possible to trace Harry and his parents in the 1911 Canadian Census, from which we learn that Harry’s father was William Brierley (b. 1870) and his mother was Elizabeth (b. 1871). There is a William Brierley who married Elizabeth Helsby in Gorton in 1894, so I presume these are Harry’s parents as he was born later that year and in 1909 the family emigrated to Canada (Montreal). It seems that William and Elizabeth Brierley came back to Manchester towards the end of the War and returned to Montreal in May 1920, Harry and Beatrice having gone to Canada in February. Harry and Beatrice had another son, Ronald (b. 1926 in Montreal). Harry died in Montreal in 1953.
[William Brierley, Harry’s father, died in Montreal in 1923, not long after they had come back from Europe after the War. I haven’t been able to trace him in the UK Censuses before 1911 so I can’t trace any links with any UK Brierleys.]