Rank: Private
Number: 206251
Unit: 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment
Date of Death: 6 June 1918
Age: 24 (based on 1901 Census)
Cemetery: Soissons Memorial, Aisne, France

James' father had died by the time of the 1901 Census and his name isn't known. The family was  living at 10 Hole House Fold, Romiley and Sarah Ainley kept her family by taking in washing. James had an older brother and sister, William and Sarah. The family worshipped at St Chad's Church and James furthered his education by attending the church Sunday School. When he left school, he found a job at the local bleachworks.

When War was declared in 1914, James joined the local 6th (Territorial) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment and was abroad on active service with them when, in 1916, he was gassed . This may have been in the April when the Battalion's History records a gas attack, although it suggests there were no casualties. It was probably after he recovered that James was transferred to the Worcesters which will have been in greater need of replacements at the time.

William Ainley had also joined the army and took part in the attack on 1 July 1916 which marked the opening of the Battle of the Somme. He was wounded in the leg, taken prisoner and spent the rest of the War in captivity.

There are no details of the day James was reported to have been killed in action. On 27 May, the Germans opened the third and final phase of their spring offensive. As the previous weeks, it was delivered with devastating effect and the Tommies became heavily engaged in a fighting retreat. It was chaos. By 6 June, the Battalion was no longer an effective force, being reduced to 3 officers and 70 other ranks - less than 10% of its full strength. Many had become casualties or been taken prisoner. Others were fighting alongside men of other units. It is possible that James had been killed during the previous days but that reports were not submitted until they were relieved from the action. Also recorded as having been killed the same day was another local man, Albert Clarke, who had also served in the 6th Cheshires. Their bodies were never recovered and identified.

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