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James Fowler was the only son of William and Elizabeth Ellen Fowler (nee Stirzaker). William and Elizabeth married in Preston in 1896 and shortly afterwards they went to live in Fleetwood which is where James was born in 1897.

William Fowler was a wagon inspector but sadly he died in 1900 aged just thirty. In 1901 James and his mother Elizabeth were back in Preston living at 15 Percy Street with a couple of female lodgers and Elizabeth was working as a cotton weaver.

James` mother remarried to Joseph Waddington in Preston in 1908 and they had a daughter together, Constance May born in 1909. By 1911 Joseph, Elizabeth, Constance and James had moved to 5 St. Cuthbert`s Road in the Deepdale area of Preston. Joseph Waddington was a railway clerk working for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company at Preston and James was employed by the General Post Office as a messenger boy.

The British Postal Appointment Books show that by 1913 James had been promoted from a messenger boy to an assistant postman and was still working in Preston.

At some point after war broke out James went to the recruiting office in Preston to enlist. He was allocated the number 2773 and posted to the 4th Battalion.

James sailed to France with the main body of the battalion on the 4 May, 1915 and just over a month later he was posted missing presumed dead when the battalion was attacking enemy positions between Rue d`Overt and Chapelle St. Roch during the Battle of Festubert.

James was part of “C” Company and it was “C” Company that had been given the task of leading the attack at 6pm on the 15th June 1915.

The following is an extract from a letter written by an unnamed Officer to his parents after the attack on the 15th June. It was sent to the Lancashire Daily Post in Preston.

“I am feeling the most lucky man on earth to have come through with my life. We went into the trenches on Sunday night (13th June), and were told we were to attack the German trenches on the Tuesday evening. We got all information, even to the minutest details between Sunday and Tuesday.

At six o`clock we made the attack, after an awful bombardment of the German trenches. We took the trenches and it was simply fine to see our fellows; not a waverer amongst them.

We went 200 yards on the further side of the German trenches, but had to withdraw our men as they were absolutely isolated, and it was really pitiful to see men dropping on either side of one. What our losses will be goodness knows. I came through without a scratch, although I was in the front line of the charge. I have got one souvenir in the shape of a piece of shrapnel which entered my haversack, went through a tin of bully beef and stopped in a box of 50 cigarettes. We are now having a well-earned rest in billets.

In a further letter the same Officer mentions that his company was selected out of the Brigade to lead the attack. The charge was preceded by about half an hour`s bombardment but our fellows were in good spirits and did not seem to mind it very much, although we were being continually buried by earth being thrown up by `Jack Johnsons`. At exactly 6pm the range of the guns lifted onto the German reserve trenches and in we went, and our fellows did not half go. What Germans could get away ran for all they were worth. We went on for a further 200 yards, and could not get further on account of the barbed wire, so we dug ourselves in. Eventually we had to withdraw as we had no support on our right and left. I don`t expect we shall get any more trench work for a good bit, not until we get another draft out and are re-equipped.”

Elizabeth Fowler obviously desperate for news of her son had a photograph of James printed in the local paper appealing for any information about him.

Fowler 1

James Fowler`s death was eventually confirmed for official purposes as having been on or since the 15th June 1915.

As James has no known grave his name was recorded on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing. He was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals which his mother Elizabeth later signed for.

Rank: Private
Service No: 2773
Date of Death: 15/06/1915
Age: 18
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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