James was born in Newton, Derbyshire and was named after his father. It’s not known when he moved to the Stockport area but, at the beginning of 1914, he was working locally as a porter for the Midland Railway Company and was living at 11 Aberdeen Crescent. On 20 January 1914, he joined the local 6th (Territorial) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment and was given the service number of 1556. He cannot have known that, within a few months, he would be mobilised and sent to the Western Front. But, he was indeed called up on 4 August and, shortly afterwards, went to France with the Cheshires. His service papers still exist and these show him to have been just short of 5’ 9”, with good vision and a good standard of physical development.
He went overseas on 9 November but, as with many of his comrades, his stay was short-lived. Unused to the rigours of the developing trench warfare, many of them became victims of frostbite and he was invalided home, aboard the Hospital Ship “Oxfordshire” on 29 December.
After recovering, he was posted on 12 March 1915, to the 3/6th Battalion - the home service reserve unit for his original Battalion. The following month, he was promoted to acting Lance Corporal. On 24 June, he was transferred to the artillery and reverted to being a private (or gunner as the rank is known in the artillery). He was posted to 22nd Reserve Brigade and, the following month, to 99th Brigade.
He went overseas to France with the Brigade on 4 September, sailing from Southampton to Le Havre but, by the middle of November, he and his mates were transferred to the Salonika theatre of the War, in northern Greece, where they faced the Bulgarian army.
He became ill while he was there and was invalided home again, on 4 April, and was attached to 49th Reserve Brigade. A medical board in the UK recorded “He had always a weak chest, getting bronchitis every winter. Family history good. Cough became worse in France. Returned to Shrewsbury Hospital with frostbite. Went to France then to Salonika. Had operation for appendicitis on January 11 1916. Sent to Hospital and then had pleurisy some weeks later. Cough is still troublesome. Night sweats. Lost about one stone in weight. Physical signs indicate tuberculosis. Infiltration of both upper lobes. Tubercle bacillus found to be present. Result of active service – strain and exposure to infection. Not stated whether aggravated by service. Total incapacity.”
With his fragile health confirmed by the army doctors, it was no surprise that he was discharged back to civilian life on 30 June. He died, of tuberculosis, just eight days after the War ended.