James was born in Shaw, Oldham, the son of Joseph and Mary Ann, but had lived in Heaton Norris for many years.
On 17 April 1897, he married Emma Laurence at Christ Church. Their marriage certificate shows he was then working as a dyer (probably cotton). It also notes his father, by then deceased, had worked as a carter. Emma, then aged 20, lived at nearby 12 Hope Street . Her father, John, was a miner. She was unable to write and made her mark on the certificate.
By the time of the War, the couple were living at 5 Ince Street and now had six children. James had changed jobs and was working for John Greenhalgh Ltd, a jam and preserves manufacturer with premises on Hurst Street, Reddish.
The Siege Batteries of the Artillery fired the heaviest guns in the arsenal of the British Army, and were used to batter enemy strongpoints. Unfortunately few records now remain of their day-to-day activities so it is not possible to know under what circumstances James was killed in action, but his officer wrote to the family saying “He was a brave, willing and cheerful soldier and a good comrade who will be greatly missed by the whole battery. It will no doubt be some consolation to you to known that he suffered no pain, death being instantaneous.” The fact that the Battery will have been a considerable way behind the front line almost certainly suggests that James was killed by the explosion of German shell which had been targeted on the Battery position.