Graham Oscar Lloyd Brisbourne was the second of three brothers born to parents Richard Brisbourne and his wife Martha Jane Brisbourne [née York], two other siblings having died in infancy. He was born on 1st November 1887 in Wellington, Shropshire where his father was a tailor and outfitter.
After receiving an education at Wellington College in the years 1900-04, no information can be located that tells what career path Graham then followed. One can only presume he joined his father in the business as he was living with his parents at their address in Church Street, Wellington in 1911.
No information as to the date of Graham’s enlistment in the army survives but an analysis of the records indicate this would have been between September 1915 and 7th April 1916. The Regiment he chose was 3/1st Battalion, The Herefordshire Regiment1, which was part of the Territorial Force.
On 22nd September 1916 approximately 250 men, including Graham Brisbourne, from 3/1st Herefordshire Regiment [renamed on 8th April 1916 to 1/1st Battalion, The Herefordshire Regiment] were transferred to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, The King's (Shropshire Light Infantry) and posted overseas to France as draft re-enforcements.
However not long after their arrival on 1st October they were subsequently transferred to yet another Regiment, this time to 11th (Service) Battalion (Lonsdale), The Border Regiment on 11th October.
This was one of eleven additional battalions raised by Cumbria’s County Infantry Regiment in the War and was universally known to all as ‘The Lonsdale’s’ after their founder Hugh Lowther, the 5th Earl of Lonsdale who raised the unit in September 1914.
Nearly all the men came from Cumberland and Westmoreland so Graham and the other transferees of the draft would have had little in common with the majority of his fellows, nor the area of northern England which they called home. He was however for all intents and purposes a ‘Lonsdale Pal’ and despite his Shropshire origins they remember him with gratitude as such today.
The Battalion was one of few who regarded it as an honour to fight on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916, suffering over 63% casualties including the Commanding Officer who was killed, [hence the need for mass re-enforcement from other units] and what came to be regarded as the last day of the Battle; 18th November 1916.
The adjutant recorded the events in the Battalion War Diary2 thus:
On the 15th November having paraded in battle order the regiment marched to ENGLEBELMER, equipped for the fight ahead the following day. They entered the line on the 17th November, via MAILLY MAILLET and 'White City', towards trenches opposite Wagon Road, occupying any trench back and front where we relieved the East Lancs & North Lancs all the while under shellfire and casualties were incurred.
At 12 midnight [17th November] the C.O. with adj left battn Headquarters and layed a tape as they went in the direction of Wagon Road, by 4am all were in readiness. The C.O. had a last instruction with C.O. Coys and at 4.30am Coys moved onto the tape being in position by 5am.
All through the night snow had fallen, which on the morning of 18th November had turned to sleet and then to rain with virtually nil visibility.
At zero time 6.10am [18th November] the artillery barrage opened and the Regiment advanced in perfect order to attack. The spirit of the men being a fine sight to see in spite of the intense cold in which they had to lie & wait. The Coys got well away and it is certain that the leading platoon and several others got well over Munich trench. From this time it was difficult to ascertain the exact position of every coy. The German put over a heavy bombardment. He sent up several rockets which burst into 4 red stars. There was considerable [hostile] machine gun fire some which seemed to come from a gun well [in...] FRANKFORT TRENCH doing indirect fire onto the ground over which the attack was delivered.
After dark several men, this is all who were left on the WAGON road side of Munich Trench returned after having held shell holes opposite the German line and undid his wire to a position along WAGON ROAD. During the day and up till 10pm stretcher bearers & where continually over the top & about attending & bringing in wounded men.
Those that were left after the battle were re-organised & WAGON ROAD placed in a state of defence by them.
From accounts it is believed that several men got right through MUNICH trench. Wounded men crawling back were continually sniped by enemy.
At the end of the fighting on Saturday 18th November, later coined ‘The Battle of the Ancre’, being the final large British attack of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, Private Graham Oscar Lloyd Brisbourne, 11th (Service) Battalion (Lonsdale), The Border Regiment failed to answer the roll. He was declared ‘missing in action’, later amended to ‘killed in action’ on or since 18th November. He was 29 years old and left a widow Madge [née Fox], whom he had married in King’s Norton in 1915.
As no human remains were ever found, Graham is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to The Missing in France alongside the 72,194 other British and South African men, including Stuart Hodgson, who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918, and who have no known grave.
Both of Graham’s brothers attended Wellington College; the elder, Battery Sergeant-Major Cyril York Brisbourne served with the Royal Field Artillery, and survived the war. He died in South London on 1st December 1964. His younger brother Captain Edgar Lionel Brisbourne also served with the Royal Field Artillery and he died in 1973 in Sutton Coldfield.
The Border Regiment is perpetuated today in the 1st Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (King’s Lancashire and Border).