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  • Writer's pictureSarah von Allmen

Remembrance 2020 (4)

A short series of blogs about Stockport men for Remembrance Sunday.

4. William Thomas James of Heaton Norris

William Thomas James was born in Heaton Norris in 1876, the second of eleven children born to Charles James and his wife Emma Barlow and one of only five who would survive past infancy. He was baptised at Christ Church on 6 August 1876 at the same time as his older sister Elizabeth Ann and by the age of 14 he was working as a hatter. Soon afterwards he moved into another local industry and was employed in a cotton mill when he married Edith Emily Woodbridge at Christ Church on 13 August 1900.

The couple initially made their home in Longsight Street before moving to Lower Bury Street, where they lived with William’s now-widowed father Charles. They had four children, but the first three died young , leaving just William, born in 1911 and named after his father.

At some point William was a member of the 4th Volunteer Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment (a forerunner of the Territorial battalions) and had later joined the Class II National Reserve, so he had at least a little military experience. He attested for service with the 14th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment on 27 September 1915 and was mobilised on 4 May 1916: at the age of 39 he was one of the older volunteers, as 41 was the maximum age at the time.

While in training at Prees Heath William twice returned a few hours late from leave and was docked a day’s pay for the first offence and three days for the second, but there are no further entries on his disciplinary record. He was drafted to France with the 9th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment on 30 August 1916, but was transferred to the 8th Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment almost immediately – probably because they were in need of reinforcements.

William’s war lasted barely a month, as he was badly wounded on the Somme on 1 October 1916 and died at 44th Casualty Clearing Station three days later. When his few personal possessions were returned to his widow, these included a chintz bag, possibly made by Edith for his belongings, and a periscope which was advertised to soldiers as a “safe” way to see out of a trench without exposing themselves to snipers.

William was buried at Puchevillers British Cemetery, close to the casualty clearing station. He is remembered on the Stockport war memorial, but Heaton Norris has no civic memorial of its own.

My WWI website is dedicated to all First World War servicemen from the Heatons and Reddish: the survivors as well as the casualties.

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