Unlike many men who lied about their age because they were too young, James probably lied to the recruiting sergeant as he might have been considered too old to join up. Perhaps a blind eye was turned.
Regimental records indicate he was born in Liverpool. By the time of the 1901 Census, he was living in Stockport where he was working as a print dyer. He had also married Mary Ellen, who was also 32 and worked as a bobbin winder. By the time of the Great War, they had three children and were living at 20 John Street.
James enlisted on 28 February 1915 and, after training, left for France on 4 May 1915. His war would last less than three weeks.
The 2nd Cheshires had suffered many casualties during a German attack on 8 May. James will have joined as one of draft of replacements whilst the Battalion was in rest billets. On the 22nd, they moved forward to positions at Brandhoek, some 6 kilometres west of the town centre of Ypres (now Ieper), but still some way behind the front line.
In the early hours of 24 May, the Battalion was ordered forward to positions south of Ypres to retake positions which had just been captured by the Germans. The Regimental History records "They reached a point east of Vlamertinghe and began to prepare their mid-day meal. Unfortunately they were ordered forward before they could eat it. All the Battalions of the 84th brigade were very weak, having been only partially made up to strength with drafts of young officers and raw men.... What men they had were immature, inexperienced and untrained and the officers were in much the same state. There were few NCOs. All ranks lacked training and discipline.......The actual attack started at 5pm. There had been no chance of cooking food and the men were all tired and famished, besides being without experience. Direction and cohesion were soon lost but a few men got within 200 yards of the German line and dug themselves in." The Battalion's War Diary records that they were subjected to a "withering shell fire" whilst advancing.
The Cheshires held the position until they were relieved at 11pm on 25 May. In the preceding 24 hours, the Battalion had suffered nearly 300 casualties - killed, missing or wounded. James was amongst the dead, along with William Wood and Thomas Hough. None has a known grave.