James was born in Sale but, by 1901, had moved to live at 27 Tatton Road, Heaton Chapel. His father, George, was a manager in the fruit trade and was married to Gertrude. The couple had married, in a civil ceremony registered at Birkenhead, in the late 1880s.The 1901 Census shows that James was their only child and that he had two sisters - Bessie who was three years older and Marjorie, four years younger. Also living at the house was Gertrude's mother and brother - Mary and Russell Johnson. George's income provided a comfortable lifestyle for the family, including the employment of a live-in general servant, Ruth Wilson.
Nothing else is known of James' life until he enlisted into the army at Manchester. This was in early September 1914 and he joined the fourth of the "Pals Battalions" being formed by the Manchester Regiment. He was assigned to No. 6 Platoon, "B" Company. Some details of the Battalion's recruitment and training are here.
The Battle of the Somme had been underway since the beginning of July 1916 and James and his comrades had been in the thick of it. However, by the middle of October, they were having a relatively quiet time. It may have been quiet, but it was not a rest period. They had spent time in reserve undertaking training and, on the 10th, they moved to near the village of Longueval where they worked on building a new road to nearby High Wood.
The next day, they moved to Crest Trench near Montauban where they dug communication trenches and, generally, improved the defences. The Battalion War Diary notes that, during the afternoon, they were heavily shelled by the enemy. Six men were killed and another two wounded.
It is known that James was at a field hospital when he died of wounds and, although it cannot be said for certain, it is most probable that he was one of the two men wounded. He will have received treatment from the Battalion's own medical officer before being evacuated to Heilly Station by a light railway. There were three field hospitals on the gentle slope leading away from the Station. The Cemetery where he is buried is further up the slope.