James LUNT
Rank: Private
Number: 10162
Unit: 18th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 30 July 1916
Age: 21 (based on 1901 Census information)
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Nothing is known of James‘ life except that the 1901 Census records him as being the younger son of James Lunt, a corporation labourer, and Jane Lunt. He had an older brother called Joseph. At the time, the family was living at 18 Chapel Street, Shaw Heath.

He joined the army at the beginning of September 1914 when, with the War just a month old, he enlisted into third of the "Pals" battalions of the Manchester Regiment. He was assigned to No. 8 Platoon in "B" Company. The battalion was entirely recruited on the 5th & 7th of September and Arthur's posting to "B" Company indicates he was probably recruited on the first day. Some details of the men's recruitment and training can be found here.

After training, the Battalion left to go on active service in France on 8 November 1915 and, on 6 January 1916, took over front line trenches for the first time near the village of Vaux, near to the River Somme.

The Battalion was in support of the leading troops on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, on 1 July and James would have been in a major attack for the first time on 9 July.

On 29 July, the Battalion started a three mile march towards its assembly trenches just outside the recently captured Trones Wood, only a few hundred yards from the ground captured at the beginning of the month. The march was undertaken in the greatest discomfort as the men had to wear gas masks as an enemy attack was constantly feared.

At 5am, the next day, the Battalion slowly advanced through the morning mist towards the village of Guillemont. "C" Company, under Captain Blythe's leadership, quickly captured houses on the western edge of the village. By 5.45, the Company had captured about 100 Germans belonging to the 22nd Bavarian Regiment, but, also, had come under heavy machine gun fire from a nearby quarry. There were reports of hand-to-hand fighting with the German garrison. "A" Company now moved up to support their comrades in "C" and joined the fight.

"B" and "D" Companies had also advanced. As they did so, "D" lost its direction and came across thick German barbed wire which held them and made them easy targets for the enemy machine guns. There were very many casualties.

At the same time, the enemy had started to shell the area between Trones Wood and the village. This was preventing reinforcements moving up but, more importantly, meant that the Manchesters could not be resupplied with ammunition.

Casualties continued throughout the morning and, by 2.30pm, the Battalion had, effectively, ceased to exist. Some 450 men had been killed, wounded, taken prisoner or were missing. James was one of 102 who were dead - most had not reached the village and were lying in No Man's Land. Among them were two other local men, Arthur Dunn and Samuel Tunstall. It would be some six weeks before the area was fully secured and the bodies could be recovered and buried. It is no surprise that, by this time, it was not possible to identify many of the men. 

(Original research into the events of 30 July by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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