Although it cannot be said with absolute certainty, James was probably the 8 year old boy listed on the 1901 Census living at Ludworth, Marple Bridge. Assuming this is indeed him, then his parents were Fred, a carter, and May and he was the fifth of their eight children. The ten of them lived in only four rooms – literally a “two up, two down”.
In later life, his service number strongly suggests that he had joined the army before the War as a regular soldier and that he would have fought at the Army’s first engagement at the Battle of Mons in August 1914 and the subsequent engagements. James’ service has previously been researched for the book “Remembered” by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff (which contains more information about him). The authors conclude that his fighting unit was the 41st Brigade of the Field Artillery and, indeed, 70th Battery was part of that larger unit. It is presumably an error, therefore, in the records of the War Graves Commission to associate it with the 5th Reserve Brigade.
There is a brief account of the Battery’s fighting at Mons, in the War Diary of the 1st Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps. “After Givry we pushed on a couple of miles north-east in the direction of where the German Army was coming and dug some trenches there. Number 70 Battery RFA was on a ridge just to our left. ........... A couple of German aeroplanes came over, spotted the guns' flashes and opened fire. Then Jerry's artillery started searching the ground, which cut one section of my trench to pieces. The gunners had three of their guns knocked out of action but the gunners were jolly good and crawled from one gun to the other and kept them going. As one gun was knocked out, they got into action again…"
James is believed to have come though that unscathed and his luck held out until November 1917 when he is understood to have been wounded in the arm. He was treated at a military field hospital where his condition was stabilised and he was then evacuated back to England, also suffering form bronchitis. His condition failed to improve and the bronchitis was the cause of his death whilst he was a patient at a military hospital at Ashton under Lyne.