Rank: Private
Number: 22340
Date of Death: 25 August 1916
Age: 29
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial

For many years, the Pickford family home was at 8 Hempshaw Lane, Stockport. James' parents are believed to have died before the 1901 census was taken and their names are not known. The eight children continued to live together cared for by the two eldest - 24 year old Elizabeth and 21 year old Henry. 13 year old James had already left school and was working as a messenger delivering telegrams. He enlisted at Stockport, probably in 1915.

Official records show James' unit as above. Assuming it is correct, then the Battalion's War Diary at the National Archives records what happened to him. The Shropshires had only arrived on the Somme battlefield sector on 3 August, being transferred from Ypres and had yet to be involved in any serious fighting. On the 25th, they were in dug-outs near the village of Auchonvillers when their positions were heavily shelled. One dug-out, occupied by "C" Company's stretcher -bearers took a direct hit and one man, presumably James, was killed.

The only hesitancy in this record is that work by another researcher with particular interests in the Shropshires has established that a number of men, including James, are believed to have been attached to the 2nd Battalion, Welsh Regiment at the time.

If this is the case, then he was killed whilst in trenches that had been earlier captured from the Germans between Bazentin-le-Petit and High Wood. Although no casualties are mentioned by the Diary writer, such a thing is not uncommon. And, as will be seen, the Diary writer had something much more interesting to record than the death of another Tommy.

"Early this morning, a figure moving along the parapet of our forward sap, having been challenged twice, hesitated and eventually bolted away. He was brought down by rifle fire after rushing from shell hole to shell hole. As he fell, he was envelope din flames. He proved to be a German and beside many luxuries carried in his equipment and in parcels, he had an expired leave ticket. Presumably he had come straight from leave to our front line. His gifts were greatly appreciated. He died of his wounds, however, a bomb having been exploded by the bullet that struck him."

One wonders how many other troops, on both sides, returned from leave, stumbling through the dark to find their mates - only to find the front line had moved since they went away.

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