William BRINDLEY
Rank: Private
Number: 115983
Unit: 86th Company MACHINE GUN CORPS
Date of Death: 2 December 1917
Age: 20
Cemetery: Cambrai Memorial, Louveral, Nord, France

Death came twice to the Brindley household in 1917. William's older brother, Tom, had been killed on 9 August whilst serving with the Cheshire Regiment.

William was born on 10 April 1897, the son of Charles and Elizabeth. When the census was taken in 1901, they were living with Elizabeth's parents - Sarah and William Adshead - at 51 Cherry Tree Lane, Heaviley. He attended Great Moor School and is commemorated on its Roll of Honour. The family worshipped at St Saviours Church. William is commemorated on its Roll of Honour and, also, the War Memorial at St George's Church. When he left school, he went to work for the London & North Western Railway Ltd.

When William joined the army, he was conscripted into the Herefordshire Regiment, for training, and was given the service number of 239381. His enlistment can be roughly dated as six digit service numbers were not used by this Regiment prior to 1917. He never served abroad with the Regiment and was, no doubt, transferred to the machine gunners after he finished his training.

On 20 November 1917, the British attacked in what would become known as the Battle of Cambrai. Six Divisions of the Army would lead the attack. William was one of about 30,000 men in the 29th Division which would provide the immediate support for the others, ready to go forward to plug the gaps and exploit the gains. The newly formed Tank Corps would deploy its entire force of nearly 500 tanks. It would be spectacularly successful with a hole some four miles deep, punched into the German front line.

But, within a few days, the Germans had re-organised and had a simple plan. They would attack the salient from both sides, with the intention of cutting it off. The attack was duly delivered, at 7.30am on the 30th. Within an hour, the strength of the attack was forcing back the British troops. In the sector held by the 29th Division, communications were so poor, that the officer commanding later recorded that he had no knowledge that the attack was under way until his troops were engaged in desperate fighting.

This was on 1 December when the Machine Gun Company's War Diary records that the Company "assisted in holding the enemy in his counter attack on Masnieres. During the night, the village of Masnieres was evacuated and the Company took up defensive positions around Marcoing."

The Company's role in this defensive action will have been to set up its 16 heavy Vickers guns (each with a seven man team) so that their fields of fire interlocked. The gun could fire a belt of 250 bullets in 30 seconds and was a devastating weapon used to cut down attacking infantry.

The next day, the Diary records "The Company stood to for a further counter attack but were not called upon. During the night, the Company was relieved and proceeded to billets at Ribecourt.". The entry for the day concludes with a list of casualties which includes William's name as one of three killed. Whilst it is possible that he was, in fact, killed on the 2nd, it seems more likely that he died on the previous day when the Company was in action, but his official date of death has been recorded as the 2nd, as this is when the report was submitted. Such minor errors are not uncommon, particularly on days when a unit has been in retreat.

   
           
   
     
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