James' surname is wrongly recorded as Minchall by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is not prepared to change its records without James's birth certificate.
(UPDATE....James' death certificate, issued by the army, was discovered in early 2007. It was forwarded as evidence to the Commission in February. The Commission accepted the original error in July 2007 and has amended it online record in the country's Debt of Honour Register. In due course, his headstone at Gommecourt will be replaced with one showing his correct name.
James lived with his parents, Emma and Thomas at 19 Bank Street, Cheadle. According to the 1901 Census he also had two younger sisters, Emma & Pricilla. He had previously worked at Clay's Bleachworks. Jim will have joined up shortly after war was declared.
On 12 June 1915, he wrote to his mother thanking her for a parcel he had received which had included her pasties (he had not tasted them for 9 months). "We are in the reserve dug-outs about 800 yards behind the trenches and we take rations, water and anything which our chums require in the trenches. We get down for a sleep just as it is getting light. We have had somewhere fifty casualties, nine killed outright, the rest wounded. It brought to my memory the "slack" which people have thrown at us as we passed them in the village going to the Drill Hall, such as "Here comes the Saturday Afternoon Soldiers". Well I must say, we have proved the Saturday Afternoon Soldiers are of some use to King and country."
Jim went on to describe a comrade's act of bravery which had won him a DCM. "........the German trenches were only 50 yards from ours. One or two of our men were sent out to fasten the barbed wire entanglements, and while doing so one was wounded and was fast on the wire. The officer asked for volunteers to bring him off the wire and one lad stepped out. He went out and the sniper fired at him and he had to return empty handed. He did this twice and the third time he succeeded."
By August, Jim's unit had moved to a much quieter sector. He wrote to the Stockport Advertiser with an appeal from the "Cheadle lads serving at the front". They wanted someone to send them a pair of hair clippers. A week later another letter was published saying he had received a pair from a James Madden of Cheadle Heath and that he had "been kept very busy for a long time" as there was always a crowd waiting to be operated on.
1st July 1916 was the first day of the Battle of the Somme and was the last of James' life. He was in trenches opposite Gommecourt in the north of the battlefield. Alongside him, in the same platoon, was John Clifford who would also be killed and is remembered on the Cheadle Memorial.
"A" Company's job was to follow the leading attack battalions across No Man's Land to consolidate the captured German trenches and establish strong points to repel any counter-attack. The Cheshires left their trenches at 8am, in the third wave of troops. In the smoke and confusion, many lost contact with their officers and comrades.
They made it across No Man's Land to the captured trenches but quickly found themselves having to drop their tools and engage in fierce hand-to-hand fighting with groups of enemy soldiers who had come out of their "dugouts". Initially, the attacking battalions were able to consolidate but, by the middle of the day, were coming under intense artillery fire. Germans were attacking them with grenades from both sides of their positions. By mid afternoon, retreat was the only possibility.
It is not known exactly when and how James was killed. He was one of over 100 men who, out of "A" Company's 200, were wounded or killed that day.
A final advert was published in the Advertiser a year after his death:-
"'Tis just one sad year since that sad day
The one I loved was called away
On earth there's strife, in Heaven rest
They miss you most who loved you best
From his fiancée, Alice"
(NB: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website). Updated: February 2008.