Private 55087. Lancashire Fusiliers, 15th Battalion
William Brindley was born 1896 at Old Furnace (Farm), Greendale, Nr Oakamoor, Staffs. It is possible, indeed likely, that his mother was Gertrude Blanche Brindley, who was aged 17yrs at the time of his birth; his father is unknown. William assumed his mother’s family name, Brindley. William (and Gertrude) lived with his Grandmother, Catherine Brindley.
In 1911 the family were living at Quarry Cottage, Stockton Brook, Stoke on Trent, at which stage Gertrude was employed locally as Domestic Servant but living with her employers. William was listed as his grandmother’s child and was working as a carter in the stone busines. (1911 Census). Prior to enlisting William lived with his Grandmother Catherine Brindley at 6 The Green, Kingsley. (CWGC Records).
In the 1918 Voters Register for the area William and his grandmother were shown as registered voters at 6 The Green. Interestingly Williams entry makes no mention of him being in the services which would have been the case had he been. The voters register would have been compiled it is assumed in the autumn of 1917 indicating that William had yet to join.
Records show that he joined the Lincolnshire Regiment initially before moving to the Lancashire Fusiliers with the service number of 55087.
His enlistment place is given as Froghall which may indicate he was working at the copper works which might have been a protected occupation?
Full Army records required.
On the day of his death William’s battalion were in the line at Happegarbe (also known as Happegarbes) in north-east France near to the Belgium border. They were according to the war diary holding the line prior to a planned attack. On that day the battalion attacked supported by three tanks and took ground and prisoners with many enemy killed.
However the Germans counter attacked with heavy machine gun fire and many casualties were sustained by the Fusiliers. This carried on until 4th November when the battalion was withdrawn from the line. In a cruel irony this was their last action of the war.
William Brindley died on 2nd November 1918, aged 22yrs, only nine days before the end of the war. He is commemorated at the Landrecies British Cemetery, Nr Valenciennes, Northern France.
Quite how William met his death is unknown although it is likely to have been due to machine gun fire during the German counter attack. Casualties were high on the day he died with 45 men from his battalion recorded as having died on that day on the Commonwealth War Graves website.
A Sergeant James Clarke of the 15th Battalion was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery on the 2nd of November 1918 and following days. The nature of the action on those days is indicated in his citation for the award.
“For most conspicuous bravery and initiative during the attack at Happegarbe on 2nd November 1918, when in command of a platoon, he led his men forward with great determination, and, on being held up by heavy machine-gun fire, rushed forward through a thick, strongly held ridge, captured in succession four machine guns and single-handed bayoneted the crews.
Later, he led the remnants of his platoon to the capture of three machine guns and many prisoners. In the later stages of the attack on the same day, when his platoon was held up by enemy machine guns, he successfully led a Tank against them over very exposed ground. Continuing the attack on 3rd November, after capturing many prisoners and gaining his objective, he organised his line most skilfully and held up the enemy. On 4th November, in the attack on the Oise-Sambre Canal, under heavy fire from the Canal bank, he rushed forward with a Lewis gun team in the face of an intense barrage, brought the gun into action, effectively silenced the enemy’s fire, thus enabling his company to advance and gain their objectives.
Throughout the whole of these operations Sergeant Clarke acted with magnificent bravery and total disregard of personal safety, and by his gallantry and high sense of duty set an inspiring example to all ranks.”
Footnote 1. The Lancashire Fusiliers, 15th Battalion, were known as ‘The Salford Pals’. Following training the battalion was deployed to Boulogne on 22nd November 1915 as part of the 96th Brigade, 32nd Division. The Battalion saw active service on the Western Front in North West France and were involved in a number of notable campaigns.
Footnote 2. In November 1918 Allied Forces were making a final push to break through the long established German defences. During the period 1st – 11th November the 15th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers were involved in the ‘Battle of Sambre’, named after the Sambre River / Canal which formed a natural line of defence and was the scene of heavy fighting, located in the Nord De Pas Calais area of Northern France.