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286 Brigade in training

More than 1100 men from Bamber Bridge served in the armed forces (mainly the Army) during the First World War.  More than 150 lost their lives.  This from a total population of 5-6,000.  The attrition rate of 13-14% was significantly higher than the national average (10-11%), so Bamber Bridge played a significant role in the war effort, her men and their families bearing more than their ‘fair share’ of the hardships.


Over the whole period of the War, the men from Bamber Bridge joined a wide variety of Regiments – before conscription was introduced in early 1916, men could choose which Regiment they would join and there was fierce competition between regiments for new recruits.  The largest block of recruits, though, was in May 1915 when about 100 men from the village all joined the Royal Field Artillery together.  This was similar to the phenomenon of ‘Pals Battalions’ and “C” Battery of 286 Brigade RFA is the closest Bamber Bridge came to having a ‘Pals Battalion’ of its own.


This surge in recruitment followed the sinking of the Lusitania on 7 May 1915, which at the time was considered an act of unparalleled barbarity.


At the time, the local newspapers carried adverts for Lord Derby’s recruitment campaign, with speeches and brass bands throughout the week in the Market Square and on Avenham Park, and local regiments also posted adverts in the papers and competed for recruits: 11th Battalion Loyal North Lancs: “Preston Lads for a Preston Regiment”; 4th LNL: “Join the Old Preston Territorial Battalion at the Front”.  The recruitment campaign also had an effect on surrounding villages, as the Preston Chronicle reported on May 22nd:


Fine Recruiting Record. 


A remarkable wave of patriotic fervour has swept over Bamber Bridge during the week, the recruiting efforts at Preston evidently being in a large measure responsible.  The district already possessed a fine recruiting record.  Officers have visited all the mills in the district and a good number of men have been secured, whilst workshops and business premises have added to the total…  A barber exhibited in his shop a notice saying: “Will all those who are going to enlist with me please sign their names on the opposite page?”  Fourteen names were obtained.  The women, too, have been very persistent in pointing out to the young men their duties.  Up to Tuesday evening no fewer than 125 men had been enrolled, the popular unit being the Lancashire Royal Field Artillery…  Although it is not possible to secure an official figure of the total number of recruits for the past week, between 250 and 300 can be taken as about correct.  Preston Chronicle 22 May 1915


Many men from Bamber Bridge and the surrounding area signed up for the Royal Field Artillery, joining the West Lancashire Brigades.   The local GP, Dr Trimble, had set up a recruiting and training centre for the RFA in 1908 and 11th Battery was established in the village.  The 2nd West Lancashire Brigade was later re-designated as 286 Brigade and 11th Battery became “C” Battery.  Since the men had all joined up en bloc, most of them stayed together throughout the War and almost all of them were in the same Battery – C Battery. 

Bamber Bridge recruits to the Royal Field Artillery  from Bownedge St Mary’s,

May-June 1915.

About 60 men from St Mary’s enlisted, and they were joined by about 40 men from other denominations.

Sitting on the lawn in the front row, just to the left of the priest is William Brierley (my granddad), with his son Jack.

His brother, Jack Brierley, is in the centre of the picture, just in front and to the right of the man in civvies. 

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This photo shows the men in uniform during the Corpus Christi procession.

In 1915 this Catholic holy day was celebrated on Thursday 3 June and the procession took place on the following Sunday, 6 June 1915.

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Members of the Brierley family who enlisted in the RFA, May 1915.  Standing left is my grandfather, William (Bill) Brierley (1887-1954), in the middle Tom (1880-1940), right John (Jack) (1890-1919).  Seated in uniform is Matt (1895-1953).  Their father is Jack Brierley (1857-1924).


An artillery brigade was made up of four batteries (usually, denominated A, B, C and D), and each battery had a total crew of 198 men and six guns. 

The Q.F. (Quick Fire) 18pdr Gun was one of the main field artillery pieces of the War.  It came into service in 1904 and by the end of the War over 10,000 had been produced.  It was a very effective weapon and some remained in service until World War 2.  It weighed 1.5 tons, had a crew of 10 to operate it, and was drawn by 6 horses.  It could fire up to 30 18lb shells per minute and had a maximum range of 9,300 yards (over 5 miles).  It was a very versatile weapon, being capable of firing a wide range of shells with different contents and purposes: high explosive, smoke, poison gas and shrapnel.  It is estimated that during the War close to 100 million shells were fired.

The picture shows RFA in training at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey in 1916.

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286 Bde spent 1915 and 1916 in training at various camps in the south of England, in Kent, Surrey and on Salisbury Plain.

Their training was badly impeded by the lack of equipment.

In this photo, Tom Brierley is standing on the left, two to his left is Bill Brierley, two to his left is brother Matt, and Jack is kneeling two from the right.

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Probably at the same camp in 1916.

The four brothers are standing next to each other - Matt is third in from the left, then Jack, then Tom and then Bill.

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Probably the same camp, but these men were probably in "A" Battery.

Left to right, they are Bert Nickson (killed in action, 9 October 1917), Francis Schultz (died of wounds, 13 April 1918) and Tom Craven (survived the War).

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These are the Sergeants of "A" Battery, at the end of training, in November 1916.

Francis Schultz (standing second from the right) had been promoted to Sergeant even though he was still only 20 years old.

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Training was completed by the end of 1916.

There are 198 men in an artillery battery and maybe half the men in this photo were from Bamber Bridge. 

They knew that they would soon be departing for France.

They left to join the fighting in February 1917.

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