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Philip John Brierley was born on 10 July 1892 in North Kensington, London.  His father was John James Brierley (b. 1852 in Marylebone, London), a painter and decorator by trade.  His mother was Mary Mullins (b. 1856 in Birmingham).  Mary’s parents came originally from Ireland but moved to Birmingham and from there to London in 1863.  Mary and John James were married in 1879 and they had four sons: Alfred John (b. 1879), William (b. 1881), John Frederick (b. 1882), and then a ten year gap before Philip was born.  John James died in 1899 when Philip was only 7 and his mother died around the same time, leaving Philip an orphan and his older brothers unable to look after him: in 1901, Alfred (Fred) and John Frederick were living together in lodgings, Fred was a cabman and John was a hotel plateman, William possibly died young in the 1880s.  So Philip was taken in by Barnardo’s.


Dr Barnardo had established his first children’s home in Stepney in 1867 and by the time of his death in 1905, there were 112 district homes throughout the UK.  However, Philip was not to remain in a Barnardo’s home in London for long.


Philip was among a group of 331 people aboard SS Numidian sailing from Liverpool to Quebec and Montreal, leaving on 18 July and arriving on 29 July 1901.  The group is identified as ‘Barnardo Party’.  It consisted of one adult male, 4 women, and the rest were young boys, the overwhelming majority of whom were aged between 8 and 12, but the youngest just 3 years old.  Philip was 9.


SS Numidian was a steel steamship built in Glasgow in 1891, able to carry 1180 passengers.  She plied the Atlantic between Liverpool and Montreal until 1914 when she was sold to the Admiralty as a block ship.  She was scuttled in Kirk Sound (Scapa Flow) at the end of 1914.


In 1869, Annie MacPherson established a programme called Home Children, under which more that 100,000 British orphaned or destitute children were sent from the UK to the colonies – Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.  Although officially sanctioned, the policy was not uncontroversial, and many children were exploited and/or abused.  The photograph shows a boy ploughing a field at Dr Barnardo’s Industrial Farm in Russell, Manitoba, in 1900.  In 2010, this image was used on a Canadian postage stamp to commemorate Home Children emigration to Canada.

philip brierley.jpg

In 1912, Philip (aged 20) was a farmer and he applied to take possession of vacant land at Grand Prairie, Alberta, on which he would build a homestead.  He built a 16x18ft log cabin in which he lived and a 21x21ft barn.  He ploughed 8 acres in 1912 and by 1914 his farm had grown to 30 acres, but that year he enlisted in the army.


Philip signed his Attestation Papers at Edmonton on 3 November 1914.  He gives his next of kin as Fred John Brierley (older brother Alfred), then living at Lower Boston Road, Hanwell.  He then went to Quebec where he was assessed as medically fit on 19 January 1915.  He joined 13th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry and was assigned service number 63132.


The most important engagement of the Canadians in 1917 was the capture of Vimy Ridge.  


(From: The Story of the Thirteenth Battalion, the Royal Highlanders of Canada, by Stuart Martin.)

13Bn was in reserve when the ridge was taken on 9 April.  On the following day, when the Germans began to shell spitefully, 13Bn supplied parties to help clean up the battlefield and make roads to enable the artillery to bring up their guns. About 5 p.m. the battalion moved to a position in the old British front line trench, with headquarters at Post de Lille. The work of salvage continued in various parts of the battle front for some days, and on the 17th the battalion took up positions in Farbus Wood, where the men got into some of the old German dugouts and the gunners turned some of the German guns, taken in the wood, on to their previous owners.  During the whole of that day the enemy fire was intense, their shells continuously landing in the wood; but gradually the ferocity of the battle died down. Until the 28th the battalion continued to clean up the area and repair the shattered dugouts and shelters, but at last, on that date, the order came for the men to move to Pendu Huts, after having spent seventeen days within reach of shell fire.


Philip was seriously wounded in the head by enemy shell fire on 4 May 1917, while he was cooking in the Transport Lines.  He died of his wounds on 20 May, at No. 11 General Hospital, Camiers.  He was 24 years old.


Rank:  Private

Service No:  63132

Date of Death:  20/05/1917

Age:  24

Regiment/Service:  Canadian Infantry, 13th Bn.

Grave Reference:  XXV. C. 15.


Additional Information:  Son of Mr. and Mrs. John

James Brierley, of 50, Osterley Park, View Road,

Hanwell, London, England. Native of London

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