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Pte James Ireland was one of the L.N.L. soldiers killed in action on 10th January 1917 in the trench raid at Wieltje north east of Ypres, his body was never found and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial to the missing on panels 41- 43.

His parents were Alfred and Margaret Elizabeth Ireland (nee Merser b. Lytham Lancashire) and they married in 1890. In the 1901 census the family lived at 200 Chorley Old Road, Bolton his 39 year old father continuing a family tradition as a greengrocer, he had an older sister Elizabeth Eleanor aged 9 and a twin brother Alfred they were born in 1895. By 1911 the family resided at 121 Lawn Street in Bolton a very long cobbled street with many red brick terraced houses on either side so typical of the housing of the time in the town servicing the local cotton mills. The Irelands home was a mid-terraced house with a brick walled back yard and still inhabited today, when old enough to start work James became a side piecer at the local Wolfenden’s Columbia Mills.

James’ mother outside the shop

He was a well-known member of the Bolton central boxing club and had won several competitions and medals in connection with his chosen sport.

He enlisted into the L.N.L. Regiment for 4 years’ service on 1st February 1915 aged 19 yrs 6 months old he was just 5’ 4’’ in height. He embarked at Southampton for France on 27th June 1915 and within the month on the 25th July he had been admitted to the hospital at Rouen.

On his surviving army casualty form his condition is not described but was serious enough to transfer him to the hospital ship St George on 8th August 1915 and from there he was invalided home and admitted to the Lord Derby War Hospital at Warrington in Cheshire.

After a short stay in hospital he had been placed on light duties and was given furlough from 4th–11th September 1915. Eventually he regained his health and was again embarked at Southampton for France on 17th March 1916. Two days later he joined the 55th Division depot and in April he was at the front and was posted and joined ‘A’ Coy of the L.N.L. on 7th of that month he was to become part of the bombing section.

On the 1st July 1916 at the opening of the battle of the Somme the battalion had not been engaged, they were in the trenches at Bellacourt and had mainly been employed on working parties. They were however to take part in the action at Guillemont 8th – 9th August 1916 where they had 131 killed, wounded and missing. They had also suffered many casualties throughout September from enemy fire whilst being used for salvage work and as burial parties on the edges of Delville Wood after the major battle that had taken place there.

With the change to the new army numbering system in 1917 his army number became 241596.

He was one of 140 men who on the 9th January 1917 marched to spare land near to Ypres prison and practiced their actions that would be put into effect a day later, watched by the Divisional Commander who afterwards expressed his approval of their display. The area today is close by the site of the CWGC Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.

On the 10th January 1917 the men had divided into two groups, left and right parties, both groups had Bangalore torpedoes with them to cut any obstructing enemy wire. The left party under the command of Lt Robert Keith Makant MC would assemble at 15.00hrs at Lone Farm and the right party under 2nd Lt John Cecil Frankland at Prowse Farm. They moved onto to their jump off point a ditch running S.E from Argyle Farm and at 17.15hrs they left their trenches and approached the enemy defences. The right party was immediately met by a heavy machine gun fire and artillery, a single shell accounted for both Bangalore parties of this group as they moved together and all became casualties.

2nd Lt Frankland had been killed and the reserve officer 2nd Lt Charles Warburton Whitaker who had also been wounded gave the order to retire as the wire they encountered had not been cut and they no longer had the means to destroy it. The left party gained their objective and was successful in their attempts in the enemy trenches though the raid had been costly.

Of the officers 1 had been killed and 2 wounded and of the other ranks 7 had been killed and 49 wounded with 4 missing presumed dead, of the wounded some would later die of their wounds.

His twin brother too had also been returned to England for convalescence after being wounded at the front.

The only item returned to his mother was his identity disc in May 1917.

For his war services he was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, British war medal and victory medals, these were issued to his mother who acknowledged their receipt on 31st December 1919 and 7th February 1921 respectively she would have also received his memorial plaque and scroll commemorating his sacrifice.

Menin Gate memorial panel

For the Weiltje Trench Raid main index please CLICK HERE.

Garry Farmer
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