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James Idle was born in Bolton in the forth quarter of 1884. His parents were Timothy and Helen Idle (nee Applegate). Jame’s siblings were Bertha Appleyard Idle (1882 – 1915), Ada Elizabeth Idle (1883 – 1960), Sarah Ann Idle (b.1887), Timothy Idle (1890 – 1913), Herbert Idle (1892 – 1951), Ernest Idle (1901 – 1976), Percy Idle (b. 1909) and George William Idle (b. 1910).

In 1901 the family were living at 12 Cardwell Street, but by 1911 had moved to 31 Edgerton Street. James, now 16 years old, had left school and was working as a piecer in a cotton factory as were his two older brothers. His three older sisters were all employed as cardroom workers and their father was an iron moulder.

In 1914 James enlisted in to the Territorial Force and joined ‘B Company’ of the 5th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 1878. The family had by now moved to James Terrace and James had followed his father being employed as a moulder.

Soon after war broke out the newly designated 1/5th Battalion of the Regiment were instructed to guard the railways and moved down to Chipping Sodbury to begin their duty.

When Rudyard Kipling met the Bolton Territorials shortly after they had finished their stint on the railways, he wrote;

Then they told me what guarding a line really means. How men wake and walk, with only express troop-trains to keep them company, all the night long on windy embankments or under still more windy bridges; how they sleep behind three sleepers up-ended or a bit of tin, or, if they are lucky, in a platelayer’s hut; how their food comes to them slopping across the square-headed ties that lie in wait to twist a man’s ankle after dark; how they stand in blown coal-dust of goods-yards trying to watch five lines of trucks at once; how fools of all classes pester the lonely pickets, whose orders are to hold up motors for inquiry, and then write silly letters to the War Office about it. How nothing ever happens through the long weeks but infallibly would if the patrols were taken off [Read more..]

James was killed whilst patrolling the line at midday on 27th August 1914. His was 19 years old. Deputy coroner J. W. Pridham, Lieutenant Makant and Surgeon-captain Taylor were present at the inquest in Robourne. The following article was printed in the Manchester Evening News two days later.


Distressing Inquest Story.

Distressing facts were related at the inquest yesterday, at Rodbourne, near Malmesbury, Wilts. touching the death of Private James Idle (19), of the 5th Loyal North Lancashire Territorials.

Sergeant W. F. Lowe, who gave evidence of identification, said deceased was a moulder, 19 years of age, and his home address was 12, James Terrace, off Blackburn Road, Bolton.

Private Joseph Rowland Houghton stated that on Thursday he and Idle were on duty at the G.W.R. bridge at Rodbourne Bottom. Witness was doing sentry duty and Idle was patrolling the line. At 12.30 midday when Idle was proceeding down the line witness saw the Bristol to London express train approaching.

Idle was on the same side as the train and facing it. Witness shouted to him but instead of stepping aside off the metals, Idle turned round and walked up the line. He seemed to lose his head, for he took no notice of witness’s shouts, and in a moment the train was upon him, cutting him to pieces.

Private True, another sentry, said Idle appeared to be making for safety, but he had new boots on and those apparently caused him to slip on the sleepers. Witness shouted three times to warn him.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

The remains were interred today (29th August 1914) with military honours at Hullavington, a village near the scene of the accident.

There is a lovely story about nine year old school-girl, Marjorie Dolman, who witnessed James Idle’s funeral at Hullavington. This event so early in the war and her understanding that his family wouldn’t often be able to visit his resting place 150 miles from his home, led Marjorie to make it her duty to tend his graveside and place fresh flowers there every day. She continued this ritual every day until not long before her own death ninety years later in 2004. [Read more..]


Rank: Private
Service No: 1878
Date of Death: 27/08/1914
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 5th Bn.

Paul McCormick
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