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James Roberts was born on 2 November 1891 in Accrington, and baptised there on 26 November.  His father was John Roberts (b. 1867 in Baxenden, near Accrington), and iron foundry worker.  His mother’s name was Hannah, she was born in Padiham in 1868, but I have not found their marriage records so I don’t know her maiden name.  John and Hannah had four children: George (b. 1890), then James, then Mary Jane (b. 1893) and Margaret Ann (b. 1899).  The family moved to Bamber Bridge sometime after the turn of the century and in 1911 they were living at 54 St Mary’s Road, Bamber Bridge.  James, then aged 19, was working for the Birmingham and Leyland Rubber Co. as a rubber tyre buffer.

James attested he was willing to serve in the army on 11 December 1915.  He was 5’ 5½” tall and weighed 123lbs.  He initially indicated he wanted to serve in the Royal Field Artillery and was given service number 4/7585.  However, he was not called up immediately; he was posted to the reserve and went back to work at the rubber factory.  He was eventually mobilised on 20 January 1917 and sent to France on 30 May 1917.  Once in France, he was posted to 2/5 Battalion, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, and was assigned a new service number, 203806.  He joined the Battalion at the front on 8 August 1917.  He almost immediately fell ill and was briefly hospitalised suffering from PUO – Pyrexia, or fever, of Unknown Origin.

2/5Bn formed part of 170th Brigade in the 57th (West Lancashire) Division, and James joined them near Armentières, close to the Belgian border, where the Division remained until the end of September.  In October, the Division was moved north to Boesinghe near Ypres, where it would play its part in the Third Battle of Ypres (Second Battle of Passchendaele).  By 24 October, they were ready to enter the line near Poelcappelle.

From the Regimental history:

Throughout the 25th (October) the Battalion held the line under the very worst possible conditions of rain and mud, the enemy keeping up a heavy if intermittent shelling, which caused fifty-three casualties; and about 5 o’ clock in the morning of the 26th the companies formed up to attack an objective which was distant about 1000 yards from the original line.

 At 5.40 (26 October) the Battalion moved off in attack formation, three companies being in the front line and one being held in readiness as a counter-attack company, each platoon having a frontage of about 160 yards.  The “going” was almost impossible, but the men pushed on steadily if slowly.  Owing to the state of their weapons it was practically impossible to use ether rifle or Lewis gun, and the men had to trust to the bayonet, in the wielding of which the men of the 2/5 excelled themselves, and it is estimated that the non-commissioned officers and men accounted for some five hundred of the enemy and captured eight machine guns.  One sergeant attacked and killed the detachments of two German machine guns single-handed, and was still advancing when he himself became a casualty.

Author Note: From the list of casualties that day, it would seem the Sergeant referred to here is 241458 Sgt. Edward Hill, MM, of “A” Coy.

In all, 101 men of 2/5Bn were killed on 26 October 1917, including James Roberts, who was 25 years old.

Rank:  Private
Service Number:  203806
Date of Death:  26/10/1917
Age:  25
Regiment/Service:  Loyal North Lancshire Regiment, 2/5Bn
Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 102 to 104.
Memorial:  TYNE COT MEMORIAL

Bill Brierley

Bill Brierley

Before taking early retirement in 2007 and returning to his native Lancashire in 2009, Bill Brierley was head of the School of Languages and Area Studies at the University of Portsmouth.Bill has researched his own family history and has developed a further interest in World War 1 especially as it impacted on the villages of Lostock Hall and Bamber Bridge, where his family originates from.Bill has also displayed his work at Lostock Hall library and contributed to other displays at Leyland Library and South Ribble Museum.
Bill Brierley

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