James was born in the parish of St Mary's C of E Church, Stockport and his family lived at 4 Wellcroft (?) Street. In November or December 1914, he volunteered for the army and said goodbye to his mates at the Goyt cotton mill, where he worked as a doubler. He also said goodbye to his "sweetheart", Eva, who lived at 29 Kendall Street, South Reddish.
The 15th Cheshires was a newly formed "Bantam Battalion", made up of men who had previously been rejected as being under regulation height (5' 2"). After training, the Battalion went overseas on active service in February 1916.
In the early morning of 22 October, James and his comrades were in positions south of the Houthulst Forest, to the north of the Belgian town of Ypres (now Ieper). They were to be held in reserve but ready to go forward to support an attack by the 16th Battalion. At 5.30am, the 16th attacked on schedule. Its advance is described here.
At 10.30am, "Z" Company of the 15th Cheshires was sent forward to bolster the attack of the 14th Gloucesters and, half an hour later, "Y" Company moved up to support the 16th Cheshires. The attack was initially successful but, under a strong counter-attack, the Cheshires were forced back. In the evening, the 16th Battalion was relieved from the battle field and the 15th took up the front line position.
Some time during the day, James had been badly wounded. He would have received attention from the Battalion's own medical officer and would then have been evacuated to the main dressing station. This was about 3 kilometres away, at Beluet Farm, and James would have been carried this distance by stretcher-bearers. Presumably, there was nothing that the military surgeons could do to save his life.