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James Campbell Houlding was born in 1892 in Preston to Richard and Agnes Mary Houlding (nee Kirkham). Richard and Agnes married in Preston in 1882 and son James was one of six children born to the couple although sadly two of their children, both daughters, did not survive.

In 1901 James and his siblings, Jane Ellen (1888), John (1891) and Richard (1899) were with their parents living at 4 Grove Street in the parish of St. Marks in Preston. Richard Houlding was employed as a carter in a local brick works at the time.

By 1911 the family had moved a short distance away to 81 Old Lancaster Lane and James, his brother John and sister Jane Ellen were all employed in John and Adam Leigh`s Brookhouse Mill. James was a weaver, Jane Ellen was a ring spinner and John was a loomer. Brookhouse Mill (now Plumbs Ltd) was situated on Old Lancaster Lane so they didn`t have far to travel to work. The youngest sibling Richard was still at school. James` father was still working as a carter but had left the brick works and was now working for a coal dealer.

James enlisted on the 3 August, 1914 at Preston having already served four years in the Territorial Force. He was allotted the service number 78 and posted to the 4th Battalion. He confirmed his occupation prior to his enlistment was a weaver at Leigh`s Brookhouse Mill and also that he was unmarried at the time. The Medical Officer noted that he was 5`2” tall and had good physical development. James confirmed his mother Agnes of 81 Old Lancaster Lane as his next of kin.

In the December quarter of 1914 James married Ellen Eccleston in Preston.
After a few months of training James sailed for France on the 4 May, 1915 with the 1/4th Battalion. Just over a month after the Battalion landed in France they were in the front line. An attack was scheduled to take place at 6pm on the 15 June in the Festubert area.

Extract from the Regimental History
At 6pm on the 15th June the attack was launched by the 4th Loyal North Lancashire and the 6th Scottish Rifles. The attack was at first successful; the west end of the German salient was carried, and the attack pushed on to the main German line near the Rue d`Overt, and for a time the third German trench was occupied and held.

Unfortunately the attack by the Division on the right of the 51st made little or no progress, and when night fell the 154th Brigade had penetrated the German line on a narrow front, but had both its flanks in the air. The attack consequently failed, but as stated in the Divisional History, “great praise is due to the 154th Infantry Brigade for their advance in the face of heavy artillery and close range rifle and machine gun fire. There is little or no doubt that had the operations on the flanks been successful, they would have had every prospect of holding their gains”.

James and Ellen had only been married for a few months when he was killed. James Campbell Houlding`s date of death was officially recorded as the 16th June 1915.

News of the 1/4th Battalion attack soon reached the soldier`s families back in Preston and letters describing the action began to appear in the local papers. One such letter describing the events of the 15/16th June was penned by Private Jack Whittle to his family in Preston.

“The charge was made in brilliant style, and the Germans were cleared from two lines of trenches. As we passed through their trenches an awful sight met our gaze, for dead and wounded Germans abounded everywhere, and in places they were piled up one on top of another. There were many who pretended to be wounded and pleaded for mercy. It was a creepy business having to run over their bodies as we advanced. I need scarcely say there were some awful sights and it almost makes me feel sick to write about them.

It was when we got into the open we began to lose our men, for what with their artillery and machine guns, it literally rained lead. Pals fell on all sides of me, and it was miraculous that I got through without being hit.

Unfortunately although we were quite successful in taking two lines of trenches we could not get in touch with our right wing and as it looked as though the Germans would surround us, we were ordered to retire.

During the retirement we all got mixed up and I found myself in a German communication trench with about eight more chaps of another regiment. It was getting quite light by now and none of us knew which way to get to our lines. However, we spotted some more chaps of another regiment and we joined them. Although there were scarcely 30 of them they were keeping the Germans at bay. The two chaps next to me were shot, one dead and the other through the shoulder. Shortly after this, however, a man came along and we slipped away one by one on all fours, followed by showers of bullets as we made for safety.”

The following article appeared in the local newspaper not long after James died.

James and Ellen did not have any children so Ellen was awarded a pension of 10/- per week for herself. She later remarried to Arthur William Ball in Preston in 1918.

James was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals which his parents later signed for. As his body was never recovered from the battlefield James has no known grave and so his name is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.

Rank: Private
Service No: 78
Date of Death: 16/06/1915
Age: 23
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, “B” Coy. 1st/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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One Response to 78 PTE. J. C. HOULDING. L.N.LAN.R

  1. Mike Houlding says:

    Thank you so much for your work. I was born in Preston in 1948, and until we left for NZ in 1956 lived at 38 Heatley St. James is undoubtedly a relative, my father was Hubert Ronald jnr, his father H.r. snr, his uncle was Norman W Houlding. My guess is that james Campbell was Norman’s brother.

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