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James Thomas Bretland was born in Wrockwardine, Shropshire in about 1894. He was the son of James and Esther Emma Bretland and had one brother, William Bretland, who had been born in Heath Charnock in about 1902 which gives us a rough idea of how long the family had been living in Lancashire. He attended Adlington Congregational Church

James enlisted in the Lancashire Fusiliers in July 1915 and was given the number 22365. He was 22 years old but only lasted 7 days and was discharged as ‘not being likely to become an efficient soldier’. This was due to a failed varicocele operation he had previously. His address was 8 Babylon Lane, Heath Charnock, Adlington and he had been working as a miner.

Subsequently he enlisted with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was given the number 22357. He sailed to France to join his battalion in the field sometime between January and November 1916. At the time of his enlistment he gave his next of kin as his father who lived on the same street as him at 150 Babylon Lane.

James was killed in action just after the Battle of the Somme had ended, 23rd November 1916. This may have been whilst the 10th Battalion were in the process of entering BEAUCOURT trench, as indicated in the diary entry below;

10th Bn. War Diary: 23rd November 1916 – first entry

During the relief last night we had two killed and four other ranks wounded. Trenches are in a deplorable state.

However as his body was not recovered from the battlefield and he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing, it is more likely he was a casualty of the operation conducted during that afternoon

10th Bn. War Diary: 23rd November 1916 – second entry

At 4.30pm this afternoon we are to attack a triangle position rather like this –


Click image to enlarge

Our objective is to capture the trench marked and establish posts at junction of LEAVE ALLEY. Zero time is 4.15pm.

One and a half Coys (one under Second Lieutenant Smith; and a half Coy under Captain Steel) did this attack. By 7pm we had taken 200 yards of the left of the trench but had not entered the right half at all. Casualties were Second Lieutenant Smith killed and about nine other ranks killed. Another 25 other ranks were wounded.


Thiepval Memorial


The other 10th Battalion men killed in action on this day were;

  • Second Lieutenant ALEXANDER AYRE SMITH
  • 16621 Lance Serjeant HERBERT ELLAMS
  • 17343 Private THOMAS SISSON HEALD
  • 23677 Private WALTER HOUGH
  • 21312 Private THOMAS JEFFREY
  • 27605 Private REUBEN HENRY KNAGG
  • 14718 Lance Corporal THOMAS HAROLD PENDLEBURY
  • 14726 Private ALBERT EDWARD POWELL
  • 33102 Private ARTHUR JOHN QUINN
  • 13854 Private JAMES SAMUEL SCOTT
  • 31830 Private GEORGE WIGNALL

Rank: Private
Service No: 22357
Date of Death: 23/11/1916
Age: 23
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 10th Bn.

James’ father also served, he joined the Royal Engineers Depot Lab. Bn. in October 1914, number 124633. He was discharged as a Lance Corporal in July 1917 also due to a Valvular disease. He was aged 49 by the time he was discharged.

Paul McCormick
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