In 1901, when a national census was taken, young James was living at an institution run by the Stockport Board of Guardians - in effect it was the juvenile workhouse. Three other boys named Briggs were also living there and they may have been related, as it is known that he had at least two brothers. These boys were Alfred (born about 1897), James (1889) and Robert (1894).
When he left school he went to work for Thomas Ormesher and Sons - a furniture removal company on Duke Street. However, just as soon as he was old enough, he joined the army as a regular soldier. He completed his time and returned to Stockport and found work at Sainter Brothers' sawmill in the Portwood area of town. He probably returned to live at the family home - now thought to be 39 Cooper Street. His father, Michael, had died by the early 1920s and his mother was known to be living at this address.
When War was declared in August 1914, James was still an army reservist and was recalled to the colours, leaving for France within a few days. He died whilst in a military hospital on the Channel coast. As such, it cannot be known for certain when he received the wounds from which he died but an examination of the Battalion's records suggest it might have been 8 July. On this day, the Germans attacked the Fusiliers positions but were stopped in No Man's Land by British artillery shelling. The German artillery opened a major bombardment in the early afternoon which caused heavy casualties, prior to another attack (which was also beaten off)
A nurse at the hospital, Sister Helen Fox, wrote to the family "I am extremely sorry to tell you that your son, Private Briggs, died at 2.30am. He passed away very quietly and was suffering no pain. His poor head was frightfully injured and it was really hopeless from the first. Everything possible has been done to save his life and we spared him all the pain we could. It may comfort you a little to know he died in a nice clean bed and he was quietly and reverently prepared for his burial. He is to be buried tomorrow by our own chaplain in a grave at Camiers, a tiny seaside town close to here. Flowers will be placed on his grave. He mentioned you many times and someone called Dorothy. He brought very little with him from the firing line but anything he did bring will be sent to you. I am sorry to have to write this sad news to you, but he died for his King and country bravely and without complaint."
(NB: Sister Fox's service records have been traced at the national Archives and these confirm that, at the time, she was working at 18th General Hospital at Camiers. She was a pre-War Reservist of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service who went to France on 12 August 1914. She died in 1970 aged 91.)