James was a regular soldier who had served with the Fusiliers in the Boer War. His parents, James and Alice, lived on Stockport Road in Cheadle.
When War was declared on 4 August 1914, the 2nd Battalion was at Dover. British troops first went in battle at Mons on 22 August. They were forced to retreat and, over the next two days, would fight a series of rearguard actions until they reached Le Cateau. The Battalion arrived in France and went straight to the intended battle position. The plan was to stand and fight and deliver a "stopping blow" to the German advance.
The men arrived at high ground near Longsart Farm, between the villages of Haucourt and Wambaix at 3.45am and were ordered to dig themselves in to shallow trenches. They had done this by 5.45am. At about the same time, German machine gun fire opened up on them, but there was still no sight of the enemy. Fire was returned in the general direction of the Germans.
By 8am, the Germans had started to attack the right flank of the Battalion and then started to move behind to cut it off. "A" and "D" companies now retired to the cover of a nearby hedge. Later in the day, several small scale counter attacks were mounted but the Battalion was ordered to withdraw. The new line was very heavily shelled causing many casualties. The men dispersed with no real officer control. Major Griffin assembled those he could muster on the road to Selvigny and a further retreat was ordered.
A total of 772 British soldiers died that day. James' body was never recovered and identified. Three other Stockport men lost their lives fighting alongside him in the Fusiliers - William Kitchen, Fred Lee and John Mannion. None have a known grave.