James is one of three brothers who served during the War. He and Tom are known to have died and it is likely that the John Potts also commemorated on the Reddish Memorial is a third brother. The loss must have had a devastating effect on his surviving family.
For James to have been serving abroad at the age of 17 means he must have lied about his age and, possibly, a "blind eye" was turned. James is the proof that underage enlistment certainly occurred, but it was, by no means, as common as popular myth suggests.
James was born in Ashton-under-Lyne. The family home was a four room house at 157 Church Street. In 1901, when the Census was taken, the head of the household was James' 48 year old father, Henry. He worked as a cotton machine minder and was married to Elizabeth. Seven children were also at home - Henry (15), Tom (13), John (12), Samuel (10), Elizabeth (9), Leonard (6) and James (2). By the time of the War, the family had moved to Reddish and was living at 47 Broadstone Road.
James probably enlisted in early 1915 and information from the Regimental Museum confirms he first went overseas on 2 September 1915. Probably, he will have joined the 6th Battalion at Gallipoli, before they were evacuated from that ill-fated expedition in the January 1916. After the withdrawal, the battalion spent several weeks refitting in Egypt (and it is also possible that this is where James joined his unit). In February, they moved to Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq).
Conditions for the men in this theatre were appalling. Extremes of heat, poor sanitation, lack of water, vermin - all contributed to very high levels of sickness and disease. It is not known exactly what killed James, but it was not a Turkish bullet or shell. Regimental information published after the war records him as having "died". This designation indicates a death from natural causes (as opposed to say "died of wounds" or "killed in action"). He was in a military hospital at Amara when he died.
In the early 1920s, when the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information, Henry and Elizabeth had moved to 157 Palmerston Street, in the Beswick area of Manchester.