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James Mayor was the son of John Henry and Margaret Mayor (nee Trafford) and he was born in the village of Croston in Lancashire on the 27th March 1896. He was christened in the parish church of St. Michael`s and All Angels in Croston where his parents had married six years earlier on the 7th June 1890. When John Henry Mayor and Margaret Trafford married Margaret already had a two year old daughter named Annie (1888) and then the couple went on to have another eight children together;

  • Mary (1891)
  • Lizzie (1893)
  • James (1896)*
  • William (1898)
  • Thomas (1900)
  • John (1902)
  • Nellie (1904)
  • Sarah (1908)

James` father was originally employed as a coachman but by 1901 he had taken up a job as a grocer`s assistant and at the time the family lived in Highfield Lane in Croston. By 1911 the family was living at 21 Highfield Road in Croston and James was working as a cotton weaver and his father was employed as a grocer`s `van man`. His two sisters, Ann and Mary both worked in a mill as cotton weavers and his twelve year old brother William was a “half-timer” (half a day in school and half a day in a mill).

Unfortunately James` service papers appear to be amongst those destroyed in WW2 so his enlistment date is uncertain. However, another soldier with a number not too far removed from his enlisted in August 1915 so it`s very likely James himself joined up around the same time. He was issued with the number 4265 which would later be changed to 201632 when the new style numbers came into force in January 1917.

There is also no information available to say when James sailed to France other than it was after January 1916 so he would have gone with a batch of reinforcements. After arriving in France he was at some point posted to the 1/4th Battalion and subsequently joined “C” Company of the Battalion.

Sadly, Private James Mayor was posted missing in action on the Somme on the 8th August 1916.

Battalion account of the actions 8th August 1916

After a night in bivouacs, preparations were made to go over the ground prior to an attack on GUILLEMONT on the 8th. The Battalion returned to the line that night and assembled in trenches east and west of the road than ran south from the east corner of TRONES WOOD, C Company being detailed to consolidate the right of the enemy line and D Company the left on the west side of GUILLEMONT. A and B Companies acted in conjunction with the 1/4th Royal Lancasters and the 1/8th Liverpool Regiments respectively.

The attack was not a success. The right was held up from the start by the switch line which had been reported by our patrol on the 6th, such reported having been either overlooked or ignored, and the men had to fall back to the original line, though the 1/8th Liverpools went through the village on the left, and D Company of our Battalion commenced to consolidate, but were driven off by the enemy, coming behind them and cutting them off from the Liverpools.

Considerable confusion was caused owing to the mist and the employment by the enemy of smoke bombs, the four platoons in reserve not being called upon, for this reason, though all their Officers were killed and they suffered many other casualties. The operation was a costly one. Nine other ranks were killed, 97 wounded and 107 reported missing; whilst of the Officers, Captain E.M. Rennard and Captain H. Lindsay were killed, Second Lieutenants O.H. Ducksbury and J.H. Holden missing (afterwards found to be prisoners of war) and Lieutenants De Blaby and A.T.D. Evans and Second Lieutenants E.L. Fairclough and T.A. Bigger wounded. Lieutenant Blaby died the following day.

After receiving the news that his son was missing in action John Henry Mayor posted the following article in the Preston Guardian;201632 Private James Mayor

In January 1917 when the new style service numbers came into force James received his new number because at the time the Military Authorities still considered him to be `missing`, his death not yet officially confirmed. His family would have to wait almost a year before they would be told officially that his death was `presumed` to have taken place on the 8th August 1916.

After the war James was awarded the British War and Victory Medals. As his body was never recovered from the battlefield James` name was later inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.

Private James Mayor`s name also appears on War Memorial in the village of Croston where he lived.

croston war memorial croston war memorial panel
Rank: Private
Service No: 201632
Date of Death: 08/08/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn

Janet Davis
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