James suffers the indignity of having his recorded as John on both the High Lane and Marple Memorials. His story has previously been researched for the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff. The authors' research led them to conclude that the Memorials were wrong. Information not available at the time the book was written now provides the confirmation. Private Hayes' medal entitlement records at the National Archives; the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission together with CD-ROM "Soldiers Died in the Great War" all confirm his first name to be James. The final piece of evidence is the 1901 Census which records the name of James W Hayes, then aged 9. The Census records the name of his younger brother - John. Their parents were Joe and Eliza and, at the time, the family was living in Disley, where Joe was a shoemaker and clogger.
James' original service number, 5178, is not an early one and it is probable that it was as late as 1916 before he joined up. He would be killed on the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres (often called Passchendaele).
On 30 July, the Battalion moved into assembly positions astride the village of Wiltje (to the north of Ypres). The plan was that the leading battalions would assault and capture the German front line. The South Lancashires and other battalions would then "leapfrog" them and move on to capture the second trenches known as the Stutzpunkt Line.
At 3.50am on 31 July, the British artillery bombardment opened and the leading Battalions "went over the top", taking their objective with relative ease. At 5.05, James and his mates moved forward on schedule. As they advanced past the captured German front line, there was heavy machine gun fire from Square Farm which held up one of the advancing battalions. Again the second line was taken with comparatively few casualties. As they pressed on to the next objectives, they experienced strong opposition from three positions - Capricorn Trench, Pond Farm and Spree Farm. Capricorn Trench was taken at about 10am and further advances were made, but the German troops still occupied Spree Farm and Pond Farm and there was accurate rifle fire coming from these positions, which prevented the captured trenches being consolidated. Other units captured the third and final objective and during the afternoon, Pond and Spree Farms were taken, securing the sector.
31 men were reported to have been killed. Another 11 were missing. In comparison with many other Battalions across the battlefield, the South Lancashires' casualties were low (for example 46 men from Stockport had been killed whilst with the 6th Cheshires). Amongst the Lancashires' dead was another local man, Alfred Flower. James was one of the men posted as missing. His body was never recovered and identified.