Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

James Kay

James Kay :

James Kay : Allied Victory Medal

Allied Victory Medal

James was born in around 1894 in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, Australia. His mother was called Amelia. We don't know his father's name. He had 3 older siblings: Jack, Annie and Thomas, and 1 younger: Emily.

Emily was born in around 1898, and at some point after that the family moved to the UK. By 1911 they were living at 2 Norbury Street in Higher Broughton, Salford. James' father had died by then. We don't know exactly when he died, or whether this was before or after the family moved to the UK.

Amelia had been born in Reddish, on the other side of Manchester, in around 1861. We know she had relatives in the Manchester area in 1919. Jack was older than his siblings, and he stayed in Australia. In 1919 he lived in Melbourne.

In 1911 James worked for an electrical engineer. We don't know exactly what his job was. Except for Emily, who was at school, every member of the family had a job.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and James joined the Manchester Regiment on the 1st July 1915. We believe he joined the 6th Battalion. This was a unit of the Territorial Force and before the war it was based in Hulme, Manchester. As the Army expanded at the beginning of the war the 6th Battalion had formed a second 6th Battalion (2/6th). We don't know whether James served with the 1/6th or the 2/6th Battalion.

Soldiers serving with units of the Territorial Force were given new service numbers in around March 1917. James' became 251090. We don't know his old number. We don't believe he went overseas before this time.

From March 1917 onwards the 1/6th and 2/6th Battalions fought on the Western Front, although not side by side. They took part in the Passchendaele Offensive, which was fought around the Belgian town of Ypres during the autumn of 1917. From the 21st March until the end of April 1918 they took part in the desperate attempts to stop the German Spring Offensive. The 2/6th Battalion was disbanded during April, but the 1/6th continued and took part in the Allied attacks of the Hundred Days Offensive. This began in August 1918 and led to the end of the war on the 11th November.

All we know about James' time in the Army is that he was either wounded or fell sick at some point. He was returned to the UK, but whatever had happened to him meant he could not return to duty. He was discharged as 'no longer physically fit for war service' on the 7th December 1918. He was awarded a Silver War Badge, with serial number B61277, to show that his discharge was honourable.

Thomas also served in the Manchester Regiment during the First World War. He was a member of the 18th Battalion when he was killed attacking Ligny-Thilloy on the 12th October 1916. He was around 24 years old. He is buried in the Australian Imperial Force Burial Ground near Flers.

After the war James returned to 2 Norbury Street. We know he was there in December 1919 because the Army asked Amelia to list the names and addresses of all of Thomas' relatives so that his medals could be sent to the appropriate person. Amelia could not write, instead of a signature on the form, she made 'her mark' (an 'x'). Annie was not listed on the form, which may mean she had died.

We don't know what work James did after the war. He married Doris Hill in Salford, Lancashire between April and June 1922. They had no children. The couple would live at 2 Norbury Street for the rest of their lives. He died between October and December 1950 at the age of 56. Doris lived in the house until the 2nd June 1965, when she died aged 66. James' nephew in law remembers that he spoke with 'an Australian accent' his entire life.

James' and Thomas' medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment together in July 2007. As well as their Allied Victory Medals, both brothers also received the British War Medal for their Army service.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council