Long Service and Good Conduct Medal
James was born in around May 1886 in Birmingham. We don't know anything about his early life or family, except that he was a Roman Catholic.
In mid 1901 James was working as a filer, but he must have wanted more from life because on the 12th July he joined the Manchester Regiment. They gave him the service number 6786.
When he enlisted James was 4 feet 11 1/2 inches tall and weighed 82 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, hazel eyes and light brown hair. After training at the Regimental Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne he joined the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Aldershot, Hampshire.
Between the 16th April and the 2nd May 1902 James fell ill with severe influenza and had to be treated in hospital.
In late July 1902 the 3rd Battalion was sent to the island of St Helena, in the mid-Atlantic. They spent around 5 months there, and then set sail for South Africa, arriving on the 31st December. The Boer War had ended there just 7 months earlier, so the British were keeping large numbers of soldiers in the country. It is very likely that James had helped guard Boer prisoners of war during his time in St Helena.
The 3rd Battalion was based in and around Middelburg in the Cape Colony (the modern Eastern Cape Province) for most of its time in South Africa. Soon after his arrival there James was taken ill with diarrhoea and spent the 9 days between the 19th and the 27th January in hospital. This appears to have been a 'severe' or 'serious' attack of the illness.
On the 23rd February 1904 James was admitted to hospital, again suffering from diarrhoea. This was a mild attack, and he was discharged on the 5th March.
The 3rd Battalion moved from Middelburg, Cape Colony to Middelburg, Transvaal (now Mpumalanga Province) in January 1906. We believe James returned to the UK in around November 1906 and we believe he joined the 2nd Battalion, which was split between the Channel Islands of Alderney and Guernsey. The 3rd Battalion had been disbanded by the end of the month.
The 2nd Battalion moved to Portsmouth in Hampshire during October 1907, then to Mullingar in Ireland during the autumn of 1909. Here, on the 23rd August 1911, James married Catherine Dunne.
James already had a daughter. Leah Emily had been born in Birmingham on the 29th June 1903. James and Catherine would have 5 children before he left the Army. Margaret was born at the Curragh Camp in County Kildare on the 17th April 1912. Alice Harriet was born here on the 13th June 1913. Sadly she died on the 6th September. Dora was born in Birmingham on the 1st January 1916, Mary Josephine was born on the 21st May 1917 and Annie on the 18th December 1919. They were both born in Mullingar.
By spring 1913 James had been promoted to Lance Corporal and was a member of G Company. On the 10th April he re-engaged in the Army. He had originally enlisted for 12 years; he now agreed to serve a total of 21.
The First World War broke out in early August 1914. The 2nd Battalion was quickly mobilised. They left the Curragh and arrived in France on the 15th. James had been promoted to Corporal by this time. He will first have seen combat at Le Cateau on the 26th, when around 350 members of the battalion were killed or wounded.
We don't know anything about James' experiences during the war. In the Regimental Enlistment Book James' war service is recorded as 'France 1914, France 1918'. This suggests he only served aboard in these two years, as continuous service is usually recorded in the form 'France 1914-18' in this book.
In March 1920 James was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal to recognise 18 years service. He held the rank of Lance Sergeant at the time.
We don't know where James served after the end of the First World War in November 1918. He did not go to Mesopotamia (now Iraq) with the 2nd Battalion in February 1920. The next year he was given a new service number: 3512622.
James' 21 years in the Army came to an end in mid 1922. He was discharged on the 11th July with the rank of Sergeant. His conduct had been 'exemplary'. He gave his address as The Stamford Park Hotel on Mossley Road in Ashton. The rest of his life remains a mystery.
James' medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in around 1960. As well as his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, James was also awarded the 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914', the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.