706598 PTE. J. BRIERLEY. R.F.A.

 

James Brierley was born on 20 January 1897 in Bradford, Manchester.  He was baptised at Hulme St Philip on 12 February.  His father was James Brierley (b. 1871 in Grappenhall, Cheshire), a wood sawyer by trade.  His mother was Ada Mary Walker (b. 1868 in Manchester).  James and Ada were married in 1893 and they had 8 children; one died as a teenager, another died in infancy.  Their children were: Jessie (b. 1894), Joseph (1895-1908), then James, Ada (b. 1898), George (b. 1899), William (b. 1902), Mary (b. 1904), Margaret (b. 1908) and finally John (b. 1909).  In 1911, the family was living at 2 Cowper Street, Bradford, Manchester.  James jnr (aged 14) had started work as a railway nipper.  (A nipper was a boy who looked after points in a railway marshalling yard.)

 

James enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery and was assigned service number 706598.  He was posted to “A” Bty, 331 Bde, with whom he was a Driver.  331 was one of the Divisional Artillery Brigades of the 66th(2nd East Lancashire) Division.  66th Division was in training in 1916 and received orders to embark for France on 11 February 1917.  All units had arrived in France by 16 March.  They then took part in Operation Hush – the attempt to advance along the Belgian coast and to capture the ports of Oostende and Zeebrugge from which the Germans were running their very successful submarine attacks.  After this failed attack, the Division was moved to the Ypres Salient and they took part in the Battle of Poelcappelle (6-10 October 1917).  Poelcappelle was the last of a series of successful attacks which managed to push the German line back.  After a dry September, the rains had returned on 4 October and weather conditions would make further progress much more difficult.

 

In early November the Brigade rested at Doulieu but on 10-11 November they were back in action, relieving Australian batteries, about 1000 yards south-west of Zonnebeke.  Although the village of Passchendaele was now in Allied hands, the Germans continued to shell the area and on 16 November 331Bde were shelled with 5.9 howitzers and with gas the following day.  Heavy shelling continued by both sides and on 23 November, enemy planes added to the bombardment by dropping bombs on Group HQ.  There is no specific record of what was the cause of James’ death on 24 November; he was one of 10 men from 331Bde killed that month  - just one more of the thousands who died at Passchendaele.  He was 21 years old.

 

James is buried at Perth Cemetery, near Ieper, about 10 kilometres from Passchendaele. Perth Cemetery was used for front line burials until October 1917 and after that it was not used again until after the Armistice when a large number of graves from surrounding cemeteries were relocated here.  James was killed somewhere between Zonnebeke and Passchendaele and his body relocated later.

 

Rank:  Driver

Service No:  706598

Date of Death:  24/11/1917

Age:  21

Regiment/Service:  Royal Field Artillery, "A" Bty. 331 Bde.

Grave Reference:  VI. K. 12.

Cemetery:  PERTH CEMETERY (CHINA WALL)

Additional Information:  Son of James and Ada Brierley, of 2 Cowper Street, Bradford, Manchester.

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