201055 PTE. F. N. BRIGGS. K.O.R.L.R.
Fred Norice (or Norris) Briggs was born in the third quarter of 1892 at Ashworth Street, off School Lane in Bamber Bridge. His father was James Edward Briggs (b. 1849 in Lower Darwen), the secretary and manager of the local Co-op. His mother was Sarah I’Anson (b. 1849 in Caton, near Lancaster). Sarah’s family moved to Bamber Bridge in the mid-1860s and she and James were married in 1879. Fred was the youngest of their six children; the five older siblings were: Thomas (b. 1880), Susannah (b. 1882), John Henry (b. 1883), James Edward (b. 1887), and George Longworth (b. 1889). In 1911, the family was living at 36 School Lane; Fred was a warehouseman in a cotton mill.
Fred enlisted soon after War broke out. He joined the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) and was assigned service number 2497 and posted to 1/4 Battalion. He was later issued a new service number, 201055. 1/4th Battalion was formed in August 1914 in Ulverston. It initially formed part of North Lancs Brigade, West Lancs Division and in April 1915 the Brigade joined 51st (Highland) Division and became 154th Brigade and they landed at Boulogne in May 1915. Fred had not yet been called up though and he more likely joined in early 1916 by which time the Bn had transferred to 164th Brigade, 55th (West Lancashire) Division.
55th Division began to concentrate in the Hallencourt area on 3 January 1916 and was completed by 27 January. The Division relieved the French 88th Division south of Arras – in the area Wailly-Bretencourt – by 16 February. Trench warfare commenced, with many raids and minor operations. In this relatively “quiet” period before the Division moved into the Battle of the Somme, it nonetheless suffered casualties of 63 officers and 1047 men killed, wounded or missing. Relieved by 11th (Northern) Division on 25 July 1916, the 55th now moved south and took up a place in the front line opposite the village of Guillemont.
1/4Bn King’s Own were in the same Brigade as 1/4Bn Loyal North Lancs so I have taken their movements from the LNLR War Diary. The Brigade entered the trenches at Guillemont on 31 July 1916. They faced heavy enemy shelling of their trenches and in the early days of August there was constant enemy sniping from a hedge only 150 yards from their trenches. On the nights of 5 and 6 August, raiding parties were sent out to clear the snipers, which they eventually succeeded in doing, and on 7 August, the officers met to plan an attack on Guillemont on 8 August. The troops were assembled near Trones Wood, south-west of Guillemont and launched their attack. This was initially successful and the brigade passed through Guillemont, but the enemy counter-attacked and forced them back to their original lines. 103 officers and men from 1/4Bn King’s Own are listed by CWGC as losing their lives that day, including Fred Briggs, who was 24 years old. The attacks on 8 August had been a costly shambles and it would be another month before the village of Guillemont would fall to the Allies.
Service Number: 201005
Date of Death: 08/08/1916
Regiment/Service: King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment), 1st/4th Bn.
Cemetery/memorial reference: Pier and Face 5 D and 12 B.
Memorial: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
Fred’s brother George also served in the Army. He was 23163 Pte. George Longworth Briggs, of 1Bn, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He enlisted on 11 December 1915 and was called up on 21 February 1916. Before enlisting, George worked as a munitions worker for Dick Kerr’s in Preston, repairing and gauging shell nose caps. He landed in France on 24 June 1916 and was wounded in action on 19 August 1916. On 18-19 August, 1Bn was engaged in an attack on German trenches near High Wood, which is near Bazentin-Le-Petit, about 5kms from Trones Wood. So George was wounded very close to where his brother had been killed 10 days before. 1Bn had like 1/4Bn suffered heavy losses: by the end of August they had been reduced to 7 officers and 310 other ranks (about a third of their normal strength). George was able to be evacuated and landed back in England on 29 August. He was eventually discharged on 9 April 1917.
In March 1918, George married Margaret Alice Clithero (b. 1892 in Rishton). He died in 1972.
George is not listed on St Aidan’s Roll of Honour, but there is a F. Briggs (as well as Fred among the dead). I presume this is an error.