Nothing is known about James, except that Regimental records published after the War indicate he had been born in Stockport and enlisted into the army in the town.
His service number suggests this might have been as early as 1915. He was assigned to the 18th Welsh. This was known as a "Bantam" Battalion - its men shorter the army's original regulation height of 5' 3" - and many of its original recruits were Welsh miners.
20 November 1917 would see the opening of the British assault later named as the Battle of Cambrai. It was the first "all arms" attack, with infantry, artillery, aircraft and the new tanks combining to support the advance. The 18th Welsh were not in action that day but were ordered forward for the second phase which would be an attack to strengthen the flank by capturing Bourlon Wood. The attack would led by three other battalions. The 18th Welsh would be held as a reserve.
The attack started at 10am and went reasonably well. However, at midday, the Welsh were ordered forward and told to be ready to go into action. Vicious fighting was still going on in the Wood and, at 3pm, "B" and "C" Companies were sent in to support the leading troops.
Meanwhile, "D" Company was sent to the left flank of the attack to capture some high ground near the Wood. They moved forward quickly capturing the position and taking 135 prisoners in the process.
Back in the Wood, the two Companies had engaged the Germans but had lost many men from heavy machine gun fire. Seeing that "C" Company was being particularly hard pressed, the commanding officer, Colonel Kennedy, went forward but was killed by the enemy machine gunners. The Company now had no alternative but to withdraw about 50 yards to regroup but was not able to resume the attack.
During the day, "A" Company was held back and the men acted as carrying parties bringing up ammunition for the Brigade's Machine Gun Company. They undertook this under heavy shellfire.
At 9am, the next day, the Germans mounted a strong counter-attack. "D" Company managed to hold them up for a while, allowing the Battalion to withdraw a short way to regroup. Fighting continued all day and around dusk, the position of the British troops became very uncertain. There had been heavy casualties and much of the fighting was now taking place in an uncoordinated and disorganised way. However, they managed to continue to hold the general positions throughout the night.
Sometime during the two days, James was badly wounded - the Regimental records mentioned earlier indicating he was not killed outright. However, he has no known grave confirming that he died near to the front line and before he could be evacuated to a field hospital miles to the rear.