James Bernard SHARRACKS (SHORROCKS - CWGC)
Rank: Private
Number: 27065
Unit: 1st Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Date of Death: 4 December 1917
Age: 19 (approx)
Cemetery: Cambrai Memorial, Louveral, Nord, France

James' name is spelt as Shorrocks in all military records but the correct spelling, as confirmed by birth, marriage and census records, is Sharracks and this is how it appears on the Memorial. Although, James' death is officially recorded as being on the 4 December, an examination of his unit's activities (as below) suggests it was more likely to have been on the 3rd.

His parents, James Sharracks and Elizabeth Sheehan, married in the late autumn of 1896 and, two years later, they had a son who they called James. In 1901, when the Census was taken, James and his mother were living with his grandmother, Elizabeth Sheehan (then aged 60) at 58 Ridgway lane, Stockport.

Nothing else is known of James's life until the outbreak of the Great War. He enlisted into the army at Stockport, joining a Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment and served abroad with them. At some point, he was transferred to the Shropshires. This was, probably, after a long period of illness or whilst recovering from wounds he had received. When he was fit enough to return to duty, it will have been decided that the Shropshires were more in need of replacement troops.

The Shropshires took over trenches on the east side of the St Quentin Canal, east of Marcoing railway station on the night of 2 December 1917. The position astride the Canal was a salient in the British line subject to shell, rifle and machine gun fire from the north, south and east.

At 10.30am the next day, the Germans opened a very heavy bombardment, followed by an infantry attack which was beaten off. The bombardment started up again about an hour later and another infantry assault was made on the sector held by the Durham Light Infantry on the right of the Shropshires. Two platoons were sent to help the Durham Battalion. Soon after, news reached Battalion headquarters that the Germans had got into the trenches being held by "C" Company and fierce hand-to-hand fighting  was taking place. The Germans were now in force on the Shropshires' right rear and, to avoid being cut off, they were ordered to cross to the west bank of the Canal.

This withdrawal started about 2pm and the men had to fight their way out. Many had to swim the Canal owing to the bridges being partly destroyed. The Battalion re-assembled in a previously captured German trench. At 4.30am on the 4th, the Battalion withdrew to take up position as the reserve unit for its Brigade at Premy Chapel Ridge.

The Battalion's War Diary gives no details of casualties for the two days, but the Regimental History records that, on the 3rd, 20 men were killed and another 40 posted as missing. It also mentions no casualties on the 4th. It will be reasonable to assume that, as James has no known grave, he was one of those "missing".

   
           
   
     
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