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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.

Matthew Brierley2

Matt 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.

Name: Matthew Brierley
Rank: Corporal
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

Bill Brierley

Before taking early retirement in 2007 and returning to his native Lancashire in 2009, Bill Brierley was head of the School of Languages and Area Studies at the University of Portsmouth.Bill has researched his own family history and has developed a further interest in World War 1 especially as it impacted on the villages of Lostock Hall and Bamber Bridge, where his family originates from.Bill has also displayed his work at Lostock Hall library and contributed to other displays at Leyland Library and South Ribble Museum.
Bill Brierley

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3 Responses to 7963 CPL. M. BRIERLEY. L.N.LAN.R

  1. Colin Smith says:

    Hi Paul,

    I’ve just come across this site by accident, I find this story fascinating & it is tragic that Matthew Brierley saw 4 years of action only to die a couple of months before the war ended.

    One thing I am curious about is why this soldier only reaching the rank of corporal. Given the casualty rates, I would have thought a man with his service record & experience would have been promoted to more senior NCO rank.

    Off the top of my head, I think research into the background behind promotions would be an interesting project.

    Best

    Colin Smith

  2. Bill Brierley says:

    Hi Colin,
    Thanks for your comment, I’m very glad you found Matt’s story interesting. Paul has created a wonderful site here so more and more of these stories can be told and the sacrifice of so many men can be recorded and commemorated.

    As to your query about promotion, I don’t think I really have an answer. So few records survive and even the ones that do simply record the facts not the reasons behind decisions. I’ve researched about 60 military records from infantry and artillery regiments and the vast majority of servicemen started as privates and ended as privates. Only two of the men I have researched got promoted through the ranks to commissions, one was promoted to sergeant before he finished training (very unusual indeed) and a couple were promoted to LCpl then Cpl in the field. Matt’s older brother Tom enlisted at the same time as Matt but stayed a private throughout. None if this really answers your question, but it does perhaps indicate that there was nothing unusual about Matt being a corporal. If you come across any other information, I’d be pleased to hear about it.
    Meanwhile, I hope you continue to find lots more interesting stories about the heroic service of our forebears.
    Best wishes,
    Bill Brierley

  3. Andrew Brierley says:

    Hi Bill,

    Thank you for your great work.

    I am also a descendant of Matthew Brierley, he is my Second Great Grandfather, father of William Brierley 1877, father of John Brierley 1910 (shunned by the rest of the family as a wife beater and alcoholic)Father of John Brierley 1940, my Dad. Dad served in Singapore and Malaya but this was post-war obviously. I served in the RAAF for 12 years and my son is currently serving after several tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Regards

    Andrew Brierley

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