James was born in Bredbury in about 1892 and was the son of Thomas and Catherine of Romiley. Nothing is known of his early life but Catherine is known to have died on 24 May 1913, aged 56. Thomas died only a few days before his son, on 30 November 1916, aged 58. They are buried locally in St Chad’s Churchyard and their headstone also includes the inscription “In loving memory of James, their son, who was killed in action in France, Dec. 5th 1916, aged 24 years (at rest in a far off grave)”.
James originally enlisted into the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (service number 22470). However, this does not appear on his medal entitlement records at the National Archives, confirming that he never served abroad with the KSLI. No doubt, he was transferred to the Fusiliers when he had completed his training.
After a period in reserve, the Fusiliers moved back into the front line near the French village of Thiepval on 1 December. The village was in the centre of the Somme battlefield that had been the scene of so much fighting throughout the summer and autumn. Eventually the British had made headway, but at a very high cost in lives and the major attacks had petered out in November.
The Battalion’s War Diary for the 4th & 5th records only “Quiet on our front”. Quiet would always be a relative term and the British lines would always be subject to sniper and artillery fire. This day was no exception and eight men, including James, were killed.