James Buckley WOOD
Rank: Captain
Date of Death: 26 March 1918
Age: 24
Cemetery: Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, Somme, France

James was named after his father who was a successful calico merchant who lived at "Sunnyside", Woodford Road, Bramhall. At the time of the 1901 Census, Mr Wood was aged 58 and was married to Mary, some 15 years his junior. The eldest child at home was also called Mary, then aged 23. There was a considerable gap in ages to the other three children - Edith (then 8), James (7) and Sybil (9 months) - and it is possible that Mary was James' second wife.

James Buckley Wood had been born in Manchester, presumably before his father's business success permitted a move to Bramhall. He attended Manchester Grammar School (and his name is included in the School's entry in the Manchester City Battalions Book of Honour). When War was declared in 1914, James joined one of the so-called Public School Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. He served abroad with the Regiment as a private (service number 2266). In due course, he was recommended for promotion and he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusliers in 1916.

In the early hours of 21 March 1918, the German army opened a massive assault on British positions along a wide front. Within a couple of hours, they had broken through the British front line and, by 9,30am, James' Battalion was coming under attack. They were able to hold on for quite a while but were forced to withdraw during the night. They would be in more or less constant retreat for the next two days. The Regimental History then recounts "Late in the afternoon of 25 March, the Battalion occupied a line round the north western outskirts of Mametz where, after sending out patrols towards Montauban, it spent a quiet night until 3am on the 26th, when it once more took to the road and moved through Meaulte and Dernancourt to Henencourt. The march was uneventful except in the case of "D" Company (Captain J B Wood) on the right, which was not covered by the rear guard and was cut off."

James and all of his Company were taken prisoner. There is some confusion about what happened to him. Initial reports (confirmed by regimental records published after the War) indicated that he had been killed outright in the desperate fighting. However, the Stockport Advertiser, in its edition of 18 October 1918, reported that news had been received from the German authorities that, in fact, he had been badly wounded but had died at a German field hospital then at nearby Moislains. Whatever the facts, he was certainly buried by the Germans near to where he died. After the War, a new Cemetery was created at Harbonnieres and many bodies were moved from the small front line burial areas as the land was returned to civilian use. There are now approximately 1500 graves at Harbonnieres, cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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