(L to R) General Service Medal 1918-62; 1939-45 Star; Pacific Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal
James was born on the 11th February 1917 in Ardwick, Manchester. His father was called Thomas and his mother was Elizabeth Ann. We don't know anything about his early life or the rest of his family.
By spring 1935 James was working as a crane driver. This must not have suited him though, as on the 14th May he enlisted in the Manchester Regiment. He was given the service number 3528090.
When he enlisted James was 5 feet 4 1/2 inches tall and weighed 118 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion and brown hair and eyes. At the time his parents lived at 4 Shakespeare Street in Ardwick. At some point during his service they moved to 7 Marsh Road in Thornton Cleveleys, Lancashire.
James began his service with training at the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ladysmith Barracks, Ashton-under-Lyne. Whilst he was at the Depot he obtained the 3rd Class Army Certificate of Education on the 5th December.
After James passed out of training on the 21st March 1936 he joined the 2nd Battalion at Strensall in Yorkshire. He arrived at a busy time, as they were converting from an infantry unit to a mechanised machine gun battalion. This meant soldiers needed to be trained in driving, vehicle maintenance and machine gun shooting.
We don't know anything about what James did with the 2nd Battalion. He left them on the 3rd January 1938, shortly before they moved to Aldershot, and sailed to Palestine to join the 1st Battalion on Active Service.
A rebellion had broken out amongst several of the Arab tribes living in this territory, and the British needed more soldiers to bring it under control. James served there between the 4th January and the 23rd September 1938.
The 1st Battalion was based in the area around the city of Acre. Their roles were to search for gangs of rebels, to patrol the countryside and to guard important areas against attack.
After serving in Palestine the 1st Battalion moved to Singapore. They began to build defences and train to resist an invasion. Their main role was to man pillboxes on the beaches of the island.
The Japanese invaded Malaya on the 8th December 1941, and by the 27th January 1942 the British had been forced back onto the island of Singapore. The island was constantly bombed, and as the Japanese closed in their position became hopeless. The British garrison surrendered on the 15th February and James became a Prisoner of War (POW).
At first British POWs were held in Changi prison, but soon the Japanese began to move groups to work on construction projects. We believe that James was sent to a POW camp in Thailand and put to work on the Burma railway. We don't know when he left Singapore.
Conditions in Changi had been poor, with little food or medical supplies, but in Thailand they were far worse. Sanitation, food and shelter were in short supply, and the POWs were expected to work long hours in tropical conditions. Disease was rampant, and if a soldier fell sick the Japanese would no longer feed him, on the grounds that he could not work.
We don't know what happened to James. He died from cerebral malaria on the 28th January 1945. He was 29 years old.
James died at Tha Makhan Camp in Thailand. This camp was on the edge of the Kwai Yai River. POWs worked here from October 1942 onwards. They built 2 railway bridges, the first of wood, and the second of concrete and steel. Both were finished by April 1943.
We don't know whether James was involved in their construction, or if he was held elsewhere before he came to Tha Makhan.
James was originally buried in the camp cemetery. After the end of the War the graves of those soldiers who had died working on this section of the Burma Railway were transferred to Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in Thailand. James is one of 4946 soldiers buried there. His grave is 2. K. 24.
James's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in August 1997. For some reason his General Service Medal doesn't have the 'Palestine' clasp attached, but we know he earned it.