Joseph Bridge and his wife Mary married in the mid 1890s and lived at “Lathkill”, Barrack Hill, Romiley. He worked as a clerk at a nearby calico printworks – almost certainly the one at Chadkirk. They would have two children – Annie and James. As a youngster, James had been connected with the Hatherlow Sunday School and, before he joined up in November 1915, had been employed as an apprentice engineer at the Belsize Motor Works in the Clayton district of Manchester. At the time, the Company was major car manufacturer but ceased trading in the mid 1920s.
When he joined the army, James was assigned to the Welsh Division Cyclist Company (service number 479), but was quickly transferred to the Fusiliers. His service number confirms that he trained with one of the Battalions formed for the duration of the War only, a so-called “Service Battalion”. The number belongs to a group of soldiers who went overseas only in September 1917 and he will have been transferred to the 5th , retaining his five-digit number, before he left the UK as it will have been in greater need of replacements.
After a period in reserve, James and his mates spent 22 October packing up and preparing to go back into the front line, near the village of Boesinghe, to the north of Ypres. The Third Battle of Ypres had been underway since 31 July and the Fusiliers left camp with orders that they would be undertaking an attack on the 26th. They arrived at Boesinghe by train the next day and made their final preparations. At 4pm on the 24th, they left their overnight camp and moved into the front line at a position known as Pascal Farm, south of the Houthulst Forest, relieving the 11th Suffolks.
They lay quiet all through the 25th until, at 11pm, they formed up behind the assembly tape. Whilst here, they were able to snatch some food and a drink of tea. As so often in this battle, the ground in front of them was a bog, rain having fallen heavily on many days since the end of July.
At 5.40am, the British artillery opened its barrage on the German trenches and the Fusiliers attacked. They crossed No Man’s Land quite quickly, although “A” Company was heavily shelled. By just after 7, reports were coming back that all the objectives had been captured. However, shortly afterwards, reports from men coming back wounded said that “B” Company had found wire strung across a road on the line of their attack. When the first two waves attempted to cut it, German machine guns had opened fire from a nearby wood practically wiping them out. “C” Company was also coming under very heavy fire from huts and pillboxes.
The attack had failed and, by 4.15pm, those who were able to manage to retreat were back in the original British front line. Reports said that “D” Company had taken its initial objective and had continued to advance still further, under heavy fire. “No further news can be obtained of this Company” was the note in the Battalion War Diary.
At about 11pm, the remnants of the Battalion were relieved from the front line. Amongst the many casualties were James and another local man, Valentine Hibbert.