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James Albert Tinsley was born in Bolton Lancashire on 9th April 1894 to parents Henry and Sarah Elizabeth Tinsley (nee Hamer) who had married in 1892, he was baptised at St Marks Church, Fletcher Street on 23rd May 1894. His father was employed as a mule spinner in one of the many cotton mills around the area and at the time the family were living at 23 Brick Street, Great Lever.
He had an older sister Margaret Emma and three younger brothers Harry, John and William, on the 1901 census return the family were living at 53 Settle Street, Great Lever but by 1911 had again moved home to 21 Alston Street a larger five roomed house.
As a youngster James had joined the local Boys Brigade and served in No: 3 company, Kings Hall also No: 10 company as Staff Sgt at the Daubhill Wesleyan Chapel.
At 16 years old following in his father’s footsteps he was working in the cotton industry as a piecer on a spinning mule along with his brother Harry, he would later change occupations and gained employment at Messrs W Walker & Sons Ltd Rose Hill tannery as a warehouseman.
He joined the army as a Pte with the L.N.L. and was allocated the Army No: 15464 on enlistment. Although no attestation papers have been found Tinsley at 22 years of age quickly gained promotion and was to become a highly decorated senior NCO and go on to earn a Commission into the East Lancashire Regiment (officer’s papers ref: WO 339/91161).
He left Aldershot for Southampton sailing to France 24th September 1915 and according to the war diary the Transport & Machine Gun sections left England first on the 24th reaching Havre later that night, the rest of the battalion followed afterwards coming together at Armentieres on the 29th.
Sgt Tinsley won the DCM for his action between the 24th – 26th August 1916 at the Hindenberg Trench during the Battle of Pozieres the war diary contains three full pages dedicated to the action.
On the 23rd August 1916 the battalion had marched from Hedauville to dug outs in the south bluff at Black Horse Bridge close by to Aveluy Wood. From here they were to be support troops for an attack by the Wiltshire Regiment of the enemy stronghold of the Hindenberg Trench. ‘A’ & ‘B’ Coy’s 8 L.N.L. were at the Leipzig salient on the 24th, the trench having been taken, troops came under an intense enemy artillery barrage which lasted for two days. Fierce fighting had taken place during the engagement with the enemy resisting very strongly. ‘A’ & ‘B’ companies took over the captured trench on the 25th where they were continually shelled. Their casualties as a result were high and they were relieved on the 27th to make their way back to Hedauville, they had suffered 4 officers killed and 3 wounded with 85 other ranks killed and 181 wounded.
The citation for his D.C.M. which appeared in the London Gazette of 26 Sept 1916 reads as follows:
“For conspicuous gallantry during operations, during two days and nights of continuous bombardment his fine example was invaluable in rallying and cheering the men of his company. He repeatedly went out, dressed and brought in wounded men, and dug out others that were buried.”
The Bolton Journal & Guardian of 22nd September 1916 printed the following story entitled:
The first soldier of any Bolton Boys Brigade to win high honours is Sgt James Albert Tinsley son of Mr & Mrs Tinsley 83 Platt Street and the whole of the movement is naturally very proud of the distinction which one of their old members has gained. He is only 22 years of age and is serving with the L.N.L. in France. On two occasions his bravery and conspicuous conduct has been brought to the attention of his Captain and he has now been awarded the DCM. He has risen from private to sergeant in 9-10 months. He is on the Roll of Honour at St Marks, St Simon & Judes and Daubhill Wesleyan churches.
The battalion took part in no large actions during the month of September 1916 and had a relatively quiet time.
Tinsley however was to also gain the Military Medal 49 days later. In the war diary for 30th October 1916 his name appears in a list of 11 soldiers for award of the MM for the preceding month. Taking this number of awards into account, between the awards appearing, the battalion had not been involved in any action since the notification of his DCM, so the following described actions can only be the events for which he won the Military Medal.
On the night of 12th October 1916 German Storm Troopers had avoided detection and managed to approach the battalion trenches totally unseen, at three points they threw bombs into the trench system and entered. Close quarter fighting ensued with the Germans fighting fiercely for possession, they were however repulsed after 30 minutes of intense trench fighting. Having regained composure after this attack two days later the battalion engaged in a raid against the enemy trench system, the war diary of 14TH October 1916 contained the following information:
At 2.46pm an attack was made by ‘B’ Coy under Capt P.R.Shields against enemy trenches running on a NW direction from the N face of Stuff Redoubt to Stuff Trench. The objective was to gain a footing over the crest of the hill so as to obtain observation of the enemy in the valley beyond. At 2.54pm the objective had been gained with very slight loss to our troops. The position was at once put into a temporary state of defence whilst the permanent consolidation was carried out with great skill and determination. 1 officer and 110 other ranks were taken prisoner and sent to the rear. In the left CT the enemy offered a small resistance by throwing bombs into the trench from the bottom of a dugout. This obstacle was however rushed and the enemy either killed or captured. 20 Germans were found dead in it and another 35 who put up a fight in the trench were either bayonetted or shot. One machine gun, one bomb thrower and some telephone equipment, as well as arms and equipment etc were captured. For this attack 117 men and 3 officers were employed. These figures include carrying and mopping up parties. The enemy was caught at rather an inopportune moment for himself, as a relief had just been completed and the new troops were not properly settled in. The operation was successful in every respect, all ground required being captured and consolidated our casualties in the actual taking of the position were: 1 officer wounded Lt Bolton, and 8 other ranks killed and 20 other ranks wounded.
The award of the MM appeared in the London Gazette of 9th December 1916.
Tinsley was presented with his DCM by the Mayor in a ceremony at Bolton Town Hall on Friday 2nd February 1917. The Bolton Journal & Guardian of Friday 9th February 1917 printed the following story:
Bolton Heroes, Mayor Presents Two DCMs
“Two Bolton soldiers, now in training with a cadet corps prior to taking up a Commission, have been recommended for honours on four occasions and they have each been awarded a DCM and one has secured double honours in being the recipient of the MM. Last Friday in the Mayors Dining Room, the two DCM’s were pinned on the breasts of the men by the Mayor (Ald Knowles Edge). The second soldier Sergt James Albert Tinsley of 83 Platt Street has been doubly honoured in the receipt of a DCM and MM. For a soldier 22 years of age this is a very notable record.
The Mayor mentioned that Sergt Tinsley had received the MM which was not yet to hand and said it was interesting to recall that the DCM was awarded because he had exhibited great bravery and coolness under heavy fire and displayed gallantry in keeping his company together after the senior officers had been wounded. On behalf of the King himself he congratulated the two men on their distinguished conduct and the credit they had brought upon the town.”
As can be seen in the above February newspaper report stating Tinsley is now in cadet training, he in fact took up a Commission on 29th May 1917 as 2nd Lt in the East Lancashire Regiment.
James Albert Tinsley would survive the war and go on to marry Eva Roberts in 1923 at Deane Parish Church Bolton they had a son James B in 1931. They lived at 519 Wigan Road, Bolton a few doors from Eva’s parents’ home. James senior became a Commercial Traveller in leather goods and lived until 1969.
Garry's grandfather and great uncles served in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment during WWI, 2 Gt uncles were KIA at Ypres and Mesopotamia. A regular worldwide battlefield visitor and exhibitor at the OMRS Convention he spent 36 years as a civil and RAF policeman and served on operations in Bosnia, Cyprus, Kenya, North, Central and South America.
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- “I firmly believe I will pull through,” he proudly stated “The Germans can break my head, but they can never break my heart”
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