Nothing is known for certain about James' life except that Regimental records published after the War indicate he had been born in Stockport and was living there at the time he enlisted into the army at Manchester. Assuming this is correct, then he may be the 6 year old boy, called James A Pearson, recorded on the 1901 Census as living with his family at 61 Read Street, Stockport.
In the late autumn of 1914, James joined the fifth of the "Pals Battalions" being formed by the Manchester Regiment. He was assigned to No. 8 Platoon in "B" Company. Some details of the pals recruitment and training are here. He will have gone overseas on active service in November 1915 and will have taken part in the Battalion's attacks during the early weeks of the Battle of the Somme.
On 2 September, James was back in the front line opposite Ginchy, preparing for a major attack the next day. Zero hour was set for noon and the Manchester attacked on schedule. On their left was a battalion of Royal Welsh Fusiliers and, on the right, one from the Leinster Regiment. "A" and "C" Companies led the way, with "D" following closely behind ready to mop-up any pockets of resistance. "B" was held in reserve and given the task of carrying forward ammunition supplies, etc.
The attack went well at first and the Manchesters entered the village. However, the Fusiliers had not been so successful and this enabled the Germans to fire onto the Manchesters from the left as well as from the front. The Germans were in strongly defended positions in the village with firing loopholes knocked through building walls and had effective trenchworks.
The Manchesters managed to hold on to their gains, south of the village church for some hours but the Germans then re-organised and launched a large-scale counter attack. There was no option but to withdraw back across No Man's Land to the original font line. There had been very heavy casualties and only 150 men (from probably 800 who attacked) were still at duty. The remainder were dead, wounded or missing. Amongst the forty dead were James and another local man, Albert Knowles. In two months of fighting, the fifth City Pals had been virtually wiped out.