THOMAS WILLIAM JAMES 1892–1916
Born in 1892, Adbolton, Nottinghamshire
Married 30th May 1916 to Daisy Hopkinson Briggs
Killed in action 18th October 1916
Private Thomas William James is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme and on Holme Pierrepont Lychgate.
Living at Adbolton with father, a farm yardman, mother and four sisters.
He was working as a farm labourer and living with his father Walter, a cowman, mother Harriet née Whitaker, brothers Walter (b.1904) and Albert (b.1907), sisters Florence (b.1894), Annie (b.1896), Nellie (b.1898) and Gertrude (b.1901).
Known as William James
Service number: 29302
Military unit: 1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment, 11th Brigade, 4th Division
Enlisted with the 4th North Staffs Regiment initially, service number 45216.
British War and Victory
Circumstances of death
He was killed during the battle of Le Transloy on 18th October 1916.
From Lancashire Infantry Museum
On the 18th October the 1st East Lancashires, who had only recently returned to the Somme, attacked at Le Transloy through “a vast lake of mud, pitted with shell-holes”, losing all the officers, warrant officers and senior NCOs of the assaulting companies and a total of 362 other ranks.
The transcribed extract below from the regimental war diary was written by Lt Colonel Charles James Burke DSO, commanding. It describes the circumstances in which Thomas William James lost his life.
From the War Diary of the 1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment October 1916
Les Boeufs 17th October Tuesday
Orders received to take over line that night and that attack would be at 3.40a.m. on 18th i.e. by night instead of by day. This was most unfortunate, as only Company Commanders had been up the line, and the men would have no opportunity of seeing the ground they would have to attack over. The Bn moved off by platoons at 5.30p.m. to take over the line from the 2nd Seaforths, and occupy Assembly trenches for the attack on the 18th. The night was very dark, and pouring with rain. The relief was a very difficult matter; the roads were terribly blocked by transport and in a frightful condition from the rain. Cross country tracks were impassable. The relief was not completed till about 3a.m. on 18th. 2 platoons whose guides had lost their way did not get into position with their Coys, and only joined up later in the day after the attack.
Les Boeufs 18th Oct Wednesday
At Zero hour A and C Coys were to advance in extended order each covering 225 yds of frontage. D Coy in section columns in file covering the Bn frontage of 450 yds. B Coy in reserve to remain in assembly trenches.
Each wave to advance 30 yds from the one in front.
First wave to go through RAINY and take DEWDROP trench. 2nd wave to pass through 1st wave in DEWDROP and each platoon to dig a post some 50 to 80 yds in front, one section per platoon to go forward as covering party. Third wave to occupy RAINY, get in touch with situation in front, and support any threatened point.
A fixed barrage on DEWDROP for 4½ minutes was arranged for, this being the time it was calculated it would take the leading wave to reach there; a sweeping barrage to be kept up on the ground in rear.
Shortly before ‘Zero’ D Coy was taken out of SHAMROCK and advanced to position in shell craters 30 yds in rear of 2nd wave.
At Zero hour 3.40 a.m. the weather conditions were appalling, pitch black, extremely cold, and pouring with rain. The 3 waves advanced up to time under cover of the barrage. The advance was by the left. C Coy on the left had the LES BOEUFS-LE TRANSLOY road to guide it, the Coy on the right (A Coy) in the darkness went too much to its right and got somewhat mixed up with the 1st Rifle Bde. Machine Gun fire was opened by the enemy immediately the 1st wave advanced and severe losses were incurred. Owing to the tremendous shell fire concentrated on the enemies trenches for some days past, it was extremely difficult to tell where RAINY and DEWDROP trenches were, but from the distance traversed, the first 2 waves must have got past these trenches. No organized lines held by the enemy were met, but heavy Machine Gun and rifle fire were directed on our waves from front and flanks, and owing to the absolute darkness, it must have been impossible for any officer or NCO to organize the digging of any advanced posts at the limit of the advance.
The few remaining men withdrew to RAINY where D Coy had arrived having suffered fairly heavy casualties getting there. O.C. D Coy seeing that the first 2 waves were practically non-existant, and that the enemy had Machine Guns trained on RAINY decided to withdraw to our original front line trenches, and hold that line. The situation in front was always obscure. No officers or Senior NCOs of A and C Coys came back, and no messages were received back. I think that no rifles of the men who went forward could have been in working order 10 minutes after they left our lines. The ground was terribly torn up by shell fire, and as slippery as ice. The men kept on slipping and falling into the holes in the dark. The few who returned were one mass of mud from head to foot, and completely exhausted. I consider that a considerable portion of the missing (8 officers and (this is blank and unknown) Ord Ranks) are in all probability prisoners. There was no counter attack, though the enemy barraged our front trenches heavily with Artillery and Machine Gun fire till dawn.
The day passed normally, at dark ……….patrols were sent out, who on approaching RAINY and DEWDROP were fired on heavily. Wounded were searched for, and a few bought in. Many severely wounded in our own trenches, who were unable to walk, were evacuated during the night by special stretcher bearers sent down.
LES BOEUFS 19th October Thursday
A quiet day as far as enemy shelling was concerned; the men in great discomfort in the pouring rain and cold. The trenches had no shelter or dugouts, deep in mud and water………….after dark our search parties bought in a few more wounded men from No Mans Land.
20th October Friday
………..weather very cold and men unable to get dry. Blankets were not obtainable.
(Note: Lt.Col Burke who describes so vividly what happened at Le Transloy was to lose his life in April 1917 on the first day of the Battle of Arras).
Thomas James was married five months before his death. His wedding was conducted by the Rev W.J. Saward at St Edmunds Church, Holme Pierrepont.