James WILLIAMSON
Rank: Private
Number: 39521
Unit: 13th Battalion ROYAL SCOTS
Date of Death: 23 April 1917
Age: 27
Cemetery: Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

James spent all his life in the Bredbury area until he enlisted in the army. In 1901, when a national census was taken, the family was living at 32 Bredbury Green. Head of the household was 36 year old Josiah, a felt hat planker. His wife, Elizabeth, was also 36. They had six children - Eliza (14), Annie (13), James (11), William (9), Tom (5) and Ralph (1).

As a boy, James had attended St Chad's Sunday School in Romiley . He worked as a hatter at Lees hatworks and, later, for Howe's of Denton.

When War was declared, William was the first of the brothers to enlist, joining the Royal Army Medical Corps on 8 August 1914. James enlisted on 14 September into the Seaforth Highlanders (service number S/4792). It's not thought that the family had any Scottish background and it is entirely possible that James felt that joining a kilted regiment would add to the excitement of war. Tom also joined the army, but it is not known which regiment.

James went overseas in 1915 but was wounded in 1916 and was invalided home. When he had recovered, the Royal Scots was in greater need of replacement troops and he was transferred.

Tom was wounded on 15 February 1917 and, after a spell in military hospital, returned home on 10 days leave. He was there when news of James' death reached Bredbury. He had been killed in what would eventually be officially designated as the Second Battle of the Scarpe.

In the early hours of 23 April 1917, James and his comrades moved up to assembly positions astride the road running between the French towns of Arras and Cambrai. Their objective in the attack was to capture a section of German trench known as Dragoon Lane. At 4.45am - zero hour - the men left their trenches, following closely behind the protection of a British artillery barrage which rolled forward in front of them. The Regimental History records that the barrage was more noisy than effective and it meant that the German snipers and machine gunners were able to pour a heavy fire onto the leading troops.

"B" and "D" Companies had led the attack, but now "A" and "C" were hurried forward to plug the gaps caused by the accurate German fire.

The Regimental History continues "The most gallant efforts to expel the enemy from Dragoon Lane were all bloodily repulsed and within a short time all the officers of the attacking Companies were either killed or wounded. The Sergeant-Major of "A" Company taking over command of the firing line fell dead while leading the men in a last desperate charge against the Lane. Less than 100 of the Battalion now remained and these slowly retired across the open ground, ruthlessly combed by hostile machine gun fire to a series of shell holes near our front line."

By late morning, the Germans had run short of ammunition and a second attack by a Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, supported by the few men remaining from the Royal Scots, was successful in capturing Dragoon Lane.

   
           
   
     
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