7963 CPL. M. BRIERLEY. L.N.LAN.R
Matthew Brierley was born in the 3rd quarter of 1883. In 1891, the family lived at 35 St Mary’s Road, Bamber Bridge. His father, Matthew (b. 1846), was a stone mason. His mother, Mary Ann (née Clitheroe, b. 1847) was a weaver. They had a large family: Catherine (b. 1870), twins/sisters Alice and Elizabeth (b. 1873) (the 1881 and 1891 Censuses are inconsistent: the girls are twins according to the 1891 Census, but in 1881 there were two sisters, Alice and Isabella, the latter being two years younger), William (b. 1877), Ellen (b. 1879), Thomas (b. 1881), then Matthew, James (b. 1886) and finally Sarah (b. 1889). Both father and mother appear to have died in 1898, and Matt (aged 16) and Tom (aged 18) both joined the army the following year; James would follow them later.
So, Matt joined the army (1Bn, L.N.LAN.R) at the age of 16 in 1899 during the Boer War, as his obituary from the Preston Guardian states. This was the Second Boer War 1899-1902. His military records have not survived, but from the same article, confirmed by his Medal Record Index Card, Matt was in the British Expeditionary Force which landed in France on 12 August 1914. 1Bn fought at the retreat from Mons, the Battle of the Marne, the Battle of the Aisne and the first Battle of Ypres in 1914; in 1915, at Cuinchy, Neuve Chappelle, Aubers Ridge and Loos ; in 1916, on the Somme, at Bazentin, Pozières Ridge, Morval and Mametz Wood; in 1917, at Arras and Vimy Ridge, the third Battle of Ypres and Passchendaele; and in 1918, through the German Spring Offensive at the Battle of the Lys and the second Battle of Arras, before joining the Final Advance. The Battalion suffered severe losses in April at the Battle of the Lys and then spent much of the summer in and out of the trenches and preparing for the attack at Arras at the end of August. It is during this period of relative ‘calm’ that Matt was wounded and he died of his wounds on 11 August (not 11 April as the Guardian article says) – almost exactly 4 years to the day after he landed in France. He was 35 years old. Matt is buried at Pernes Military Cemetery, north-west of Arras.
Service No: 7963
Date of Death: 11 August 1918
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn
Grave Reference: III. B. 32.
Cemetery: PERNES BRITISH CEMETERY
After Matt died his effects were sent to his older sister Catherine Harrison. She received £40 9s of his savings plus £24 10s war gratuity. She and husband William Harrison had 9 children, of whom one was Matthew Harrison, who signed up on 15 March 1915 and indicated a preference to join the Army Service Corps but instead he was posted to 2/4Bn Loyal North Lancs Regiment (service number 5108). In fact it appears that Matthew had previously signed up to 11th Battery of the RFA (based in Bamber Bridge) but had been discharged as mentally unfit in December 1914. He signed up again in 1915, but after a bout of influenza in 1916, Matthew then appears to have suffered from hysteria and was judged by his medical officer to be ‘mentally defective’ and also suffering from ‘petit mal’ (epilepsy). So he was finally discharged from the army on 29 July 1916. In 1923 he married Catherine Winifred Payne and they had 3 children. Matthew Harrison died in 1969.
Matthew Brierley had two brothers who also served in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Older brother Tom joined up in the same year as Matt (1899) at the age of 18. His service records have survived. He was 6196 Pte. T. Brierley, serving initially in 2Bn. He served in Malta (1899-1900), Cyprus (1900-1902), Gibraltar (1902-1904), and South Africa (1904-1907), then in the reserve from 1907-1917. During this period in reserve, in 1911, Tom was working as an attendant at Whittingham Hospital and in 1912 he married Lucy Bird (b. 1884, whose family was originally from the north Midlands) at Goosnargh, and they subsequently moved to Preston, where they had two children, Frederick (b. 1914) and Mary Louisa (b. 1916). He joined 9Bn in France on 18 April 1917, had a period of leave in England from 27 Sep-14 Oct 1918, then returned to France, finally returning home on 20 Jan 1919 and was demobbed a month later. In 1917 and early 1918, 9Bn was engaged in the Battles of Messines, Bapaume, Lys and the second Battle of the Aisne, but in June 1918 the battalion was broken up so it’s not certain where Tom ended up, nor where he was at the time his brother was killed. Tom died in 1943.
According to the Preston Guardian, Matt’s younger brother, James, also served in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. In 1911, James was working as a spinner in Bamber Bridge. At the outbreak of War he would have been 28. There are two James Brierleys with Medal Record Index Cards showing they served in the L.N.LAN.R. One has a 6-digit service number, indicating he joined up during or after 1916, the other joined up at the outset and was posted to Theatre of War 2b in June 1915. My guess is that this is ‘our’ James. So he is 12612. Pte. J. Brierley (subsequently 637710 in the Labour Corps). Theatre of War 2b is Gallipoli, and the battalion involved is the 6th (Service) Battalion, part of Kitchener’s New Army, which was formed in August 1914. They were in training later in the year on Salisbury Plain and then billeted at Aldershot from where they left for the Dardanelles in June 1915. The MRIC indicates that James subsequently transferred to the Labour Corps so it is impossible to be sure what later action he was involved in.
When I first came across these Brierleys (brothers William, Thomas, Matthew and James), I was researching my own granddad (William Brierley), and his brothers Matt, Tom and Jack who were also from Bamber Bridge but who all served in the Royal Field Artillery (and just to complicate matters more also had another brother, James). In trying to sort out the two families I originally thought they were not related, but I have recently traced them back to the 18th century, where in fact we do share a common ancestor. So it turns out that this Cpl Matthew Brierley is my 3rd cousin, three times removed, or put another way my 5th great grandfather is Matt’s great-great grandfather, our common ancestor being Tom Brierley, 1710-1768, a carpenter from Walton-Le-Dale.