James was the youngest son of the Ridgway family, who lived at 10 Whyatt Street, Heaton Norris. By the time of the Great War, his father may have died as he was no longer at the family home. James lived with his mother and his two sisters, Dolly and Florrie. He worked for Saunders & Wood Ltd, Manchester.
James' original service number, 4314, indicates he originally enlisted, in early 1916, into Stockport's local Territorial Battalion - the 6th Cheshires. After training, he went overseas as part of a draft of replacements for the Battalion. His number is part of a group that were re-assigned to other units before they could join the 6th, around July 1916. Once James was part of the 11th Battalion, he would have been given the above new service number.
By August 1917, James was attached to the 75th Trench Mortar Battery. This unit, staffed by soldiers from the 75th Brigade's four battalions, fired light "Stokes" mortars. These were used in very close support of the infantry, for example, by suppressing enemy machine guns or sniper posts. There were very effective and, as such, their positions were always targets for the enemy.
31 July 1917 was the opening of the Third Battle of Ypres (often called the Battle of Paschendaele). The next day, 75th Brigade move into positions on Westhoek Ridge, near the village of Zonnebeke (east of Ypres), relieving troops who had attacked 24 hours earlier.. It has not been possible to examine the War Diary of the Trench Mortar Battery, but the Diary of the 11th Cheshires notes that the weather was very bad and the trenches, where they existed, were knee deep in water. Over the coming days, the enemy continued to respond to the attacks with exceptionally heavy shellfire which caused many casualties, including James. He has no known grave