William James Brazier was killed in action this day in 1918. The Kaiser's offensive, launched on a misty morning two days earlier, saw advances all along the front as land that had been fought over for nearly four years, was swallowed up by the advancing German armies.
Soldiers Died in The Great War notes that William James Brazier was born at Arundel in
On the day he was killed, the battery was situated west of Sapignies and William, working on number 3 gun, fell victim to a direct hit on the gun which exploded a fuzed shell. He was buried the same evening although his grave must have been lost in subsequent fighting. Today he is commemorated on the Arras memorial as W J Brazier.
I have been unable to find a convincing match for either James or William James Brazier on census returns. There is only one Brazier (that I could find), born at Arundel listed on the 1901 census of
Chailey Parish Magazine notes in October 1914 that James Brazier is serving his King and Country and the following October, this is updated to include the information that he is a trumpeter with the Royal Garrison Artillery in
. In December 1917, Chailey Parish Magazine
notes that he is now a bombardier and this information is repeated up to
and including the final entry in April 1918. France
Both Soldiers Died in the Great War and The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s Debt of Honour register note James Brazier’s rank at the time of his death, as corporal and this is confirmed on his medal index card held at The National Archives in London. The card also notes that James arrived in
on 6th March 1915. He
served with the 81st Siege Battery, RGA and must have arrived in France France as part of a small follow-up party
to the Battery which had disembarked the
The Battery formed part of the 48th Heavy Artillery Group and according to the latter's war diary, the day on which James was killed, 23rd March 1918, was a fine day which saw the
situated west of Sapignies. The history of the 81st Siege Battery gives further
“During the afternoon of Mar 23rd No 3 gun received a direct hit. This exploded a fuzed shell which killed Cpl. Brazier. He was buried the same evening and the funeral party was bombed by enemy aircraft at the graveside, but no casualties occurred”.
James Brazier's grave must have been lost in subsequent fighting as today he has no known grave and is commemorated on Bay 1 of the Arras Memorial,
Pas de Calais under the name W J Brazier (above). His army service number was 37224 (below, courtesy of Ancestry).
It is possible that James Brazier was a pre-war regular soldier. When war was declared, the 81st Siege Battery was stationed in
and arrived back in
on 23rd December 1914. The photo included on this page
is of a trumpeter with the 81st when the Battery was stationed at England
in 1911. It is possible that this is James Brazier although this needs to
be confirmed. Roorkee, India