James DANIELS
Rank: Private
Number: 16418
Unit: 7th Battalion (British Columbia Regiment) Canadian Infantry
Date of Death: 10 November 1917
Age: 28
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

James was born locally on 2 March 1890, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Daniels, 19 Davenport Road, Hazel Grove. Thomas does not appear on the 1901 Census and may have died by then. Apart from Elizabeth, then aged 46, the rest of the family were recorded as Isaac (26), William (21), Mary (19), Thomas (17), James (11) and Florence (8).

Nothing is known of James' early life but, by 1914, he had emigrated to Canada and was working as a miner and logger. War was declared on 4 August and James was quick to join up, enlisting at Valcartier, in Quebec, on 23 September. It is possible that he had connections with the Vancouver area of British Columbia as the 7th Battalion was raised there during September. His attestation papers can be viewed on-line at the Canadian National Archives and these allow the reader to form an impression of the man. He was 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a 38 inch chest. James had dark complexion with black hair and light blue eyes. The examining doctor recorded he had a mole under his left nipple. On the form, James had ticked that he worshipped as a Protestant but has not included his denomination.

The Battalion quickly left Canada and was in Plymouth by 16 October, where it undertook 4 months training in Salisbury before going to Belgium in February 1915.

The Third Battle of Ypres had started on 31 July 1917. It is more commonly known as the Battle of Passchendaele, after the village that was the original objective. The Battle has come to represent many of the difficulties of the Western Front - well defended and fortified positions being attacked by infantry; rain and mud, etc. A series of attacks, over the weeks, had slowly advanced the Allied line up the ridge. The village itself was finally captured on 6 November, but to secure the position one final attack was required to take the crest of the ridge. This attack would be undertaken by the Canadians and the British 1st Division.

The Canadian Official History of the War records "It was raining heavily when the 7th and 8th battalions jumped off from positions north and north east of Mosselmarkt on 10 November, shortly after six o'clock. By 7.30am, both units were on the first objective, only 500 yards away, but to secure its goal the 7th Battalion on the right had to push on another 300 yards to quell troublesome German machine guns in a nearby trench." The Canadian 10th Battalion then moved up to overlap the 7th to continue the attack towards the final objective. On the left, the British Division's attack had stalled due to a German counter-attack and this left the Canadians open to a very concentrated artillery fire from the German guns. The History records that the shelling was heavy from 9am until late afternoon and, indeed, many German prisoners on the way back to the original Allied front line were killed by their own guns.

The Canadian forces had suffered 1094 casualties, of whom 420 were dead. The bodies of many were, like James, never recovered and identified. It cannot be known what happened to him. He might be buried in a grave marked by the War Graves Commission as "Known unto God"; he might have taken a direct hit from one of the shells and there was nothing left to bury; or his body may have sunk into the Flanders mud and still be out there waiting to be found.

Further information about James is in the book "Hazel Grove to Armageddon" by John Eaton.

   
           
   
     
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