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James Anselm Darwen was born on the 20th April 1891 in Bamber Bridge the son of Robert and Margaret Darwen (nee Wrigley). His parents married on the 6th October 1883 in St. Mary`s Roman Catholic Church at Brownedge in Bamber Bridge. James had eight siblings, six of whom survived;

  • William (1884-1884)
  • Mary Agnes (1885)
  • Margaret Ann (1887)
  • Theresa (1888)
  • James Anselm (1891)*
  • Martha (1893)
  • William (1896-1897)
  • Robert (1899)
  • Bernard Austin (1903)

In 1901 the Darwen family home was at 7 James Street in Bamber Bridge, Robert Darwen`s occupation was described as a public window cleaner and James` three eldest sisters were all working as weavers in one of the local cotton mills. By 1911 the family had moved to 2 Sergeant Street, a few minutes` walk away from their former home. James` father was now a brewer and the majority of his siblings were all mill workers, James, however, was working as a bus driver.

James left his job at Messrs. Hopwood and Brothers in Bamber Bridge and enlisted into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on the 2nd September 1914 where he was issued with the service number 13965. His medical inspection record notes that he was just short of 5`6” tall and his weight was measured at 136lbs. He had a 36” chest and had brown hair and brown eyes. James was passed fit to serve and was then posted to the 8th Battalion LNL. The 8th Battalion was formed in Preston in September 1914 and in December 1914 they went off to Boscombe, then Bournemouth in January 1915 before returning to Boscombe again in March 1915. It would appear that while James was in Bournemouth he met a lady by the name of Annie Amelia Andress, his papers record that the couple married at All Saints Church in Bournemouth on the 31st July 1915.

A little under two months after their marriage James sailed to France with the 8th Battalion on the 25th September 1915, the Battalion coming under the Command of 74th Brigade in 25th Division. In late October 1915 they were transferred to the 7th Brigade in the same Division. James remained with the 8th Battalion throughout, the Battalion taking part in actions at Ypres, Loos, Somme, Albert 1916, Bazentin, Pozieres, Ancre Heights, Messines 1917, Pilckem and Menin Road. On the 19th January 1918 he was allowed some home leave, returning to the front on the 2nd February 1918. Two weeks after he arrived back from leave, the 8th Battalion was disbanded in France. James` papers then show that he was transferred to the 2/4th Battalion LNL on the 7th May 1918 but he does not appear to have joined the Battalion until the 22nd September 1918.

On the 25th September 1918, the Battalion moved by road and rail via Saulty to bivouacs at Noreuil in preparation for their involvement at Cambrai (27th September 1918 – 9th October 1918).

Sadly, James was killed in action just six days after joining the Battalion, his date of death given as 28th September, 1918.

Extract from Battalion War Diary

27th September 1918; 4.30am Moved forward through Pronville to Tadpole Copse and crossed the Canal du Nord at noon, then halting for three hours to be in position in the Sunken Road near Graincourt where the night was spent.

28th September 1918; 6am Moved forward under harassing fire from the enemy in support of the 2/5th King`s Own Royal Lancaster. On reaching Marcoing Trench “A”, “B” and “C” Companies formed up for attack with “D” Company in reserve, our left flank on the Bapaume-Cambrai road and our right on La Folie Wood. The advance was carried out by short rushes under heavy machine-gun fire until 11.30 when we were held up by a very severe bombardment in front of the enemy wire.

29th September 1918; 8am Battalion, having suffered many casualties, was withdrawn to refit and reorganise in a position to the south of Anneux.

The Battalion returned to the front line again at 5am the following morning until finally being relieved at midnight on the 4th October 1918 for a rest.

James` parents, who had by this time left Bamber Bridge and relocated to Broughton on the outskirts of Preston, were notified of his death and the following announcement was made later in the Preston Guardian;

James` widow, Annie was awarded a pension of 13s/9d per week with effect from the 21st April 1919 and according to his papers, the couple did not have any children.

In recognition of her husband`s war service Annie later received the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

James` body was recovered from the battlefield where he fell and was later interred in Anneux British Cemetery alongside a number of 2/4th Battalion men who also perished in the same battle.

Additional family information

51864 Private Robert Darwen 9th Battalion Cheshire Regiment

Robert was born on the 22nd February 1899 in Bamber Bridge. He attested at Preston on the 23rd September 1916 and was immediately posted to the reserve. He was then mobilised on the 23rd February 1917, the day after his eighteenth birthday. Robert was issued with the service number 51864 and posted firstly to the 60th Training Reserve Battalion and then to the 74th Training Reserve Battalion. His papers then note that he embarked for France on the 28th February 1918 and on the 2nd March 1918 he was transferred to the 9th Cheshire Regiment.

Sadly, Robert was killed in action on the 29th April 1918. Another newspaper article then appeared in the Preston Guardian referring to Robert`s death;

His body was never recovered from the battlefield and so Robert has no known grave, his name is therefore remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.

For his war service, his parents would receive the British War and Victory Medals together with his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Both brothers are remembered on the War Memorial which is sited close to St. Mary`s Roman Catholic Church in Brownedge, Bamber Bridge;

War Memorial, Brownedge, Bamber Bridge with St. Mary`s RC Church spire in the background

War Memorial Panel

Janet Davis
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