James Thomas LANG
Rank: Private
Number: 29113
Date of Death: 3 December 1917
Cemetery: Cambrai Memorial, Louveral, Nord, France

Nothing is known about James except for his commemoration on the Stockport War Memorial and the fact that regimental records published after the War indicate he enlisted in the town. He may well be the man of the same name who, in 1899, married Lily Rogerson at Christ Church, Heaton Norris.

Assuming that this is the man, he must have been in his mid-late 30s when he joined the army. He was originally assigned to the Cheshire Regiment and his service number, 61945, suggests this was probably in late 1916. It is not known when or under what circumstances James was transferred to the Warwicks. The 2/5th was a Territorial Battalion and, by 1917, its soldiers all had six-digit service numbers - James must have been originally assigned to a different Battalion before a further move to the 2/5th.

On 20 November, British forces launched what was the first "all arms" attack with infantry, artillery, tanks and airpower combining to punch a large hole in the German defences at Cambrai. The assault continued over several days, pushing the enemy back but, by the end of the month, the Germans had regrouped and started to push back. On 2 December they had attacked near the village of La Vacquerie capturing positions from the 2/6th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment.

That night, the Warwicks moved up to the front with orders to retake the ground. "B" Company held the main trench but "A" and "C" deployed in shell holes in No Man's Land ready to make the attack from an advanced position. "D" remained to the rear in support.

At 7.30am, the leading troops dashed across No Man's Land covered by the teams operating the Battalion's light Lewis machine guns. But they met very heavy opposition and both companies were almost wiped out. Only a handful returned back to the relative safety of the British trench.

At 8.20, the German artillery started to shell the rear area to pin down "D" Company and prevent them form moving to the front line. Meanwhile, strong parties of German infantry attacked "B" Company in the trench with grenades. 30 minutes later, there was a general German infantry attack with their leading soldiers moving through the interconnecting network of old trenches, throwing grenades in front of them o clear the way. All the while, they were supported by very heavy machine gun fire.

The Warwicks managed to hold off the attack for some time but supplies of grenades and ammunition ran low and there had been heavy casualties. Those who could do so now retreated about 50 yards to another line of trenches where they were able to reorganise and hold the position.

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