James was born at Garston, Liverpool on 31 March 1885, the youngest son of Thomas Evans. Although nothing is known for certain about his early life, all the indications are that the Evans' were a solid middle class family. It is not known when they moved to the Stockport area but, by the time of the War, had been living for some time at "Wilford", 16 Clifton Road, Heaton Moor. James worked as a commercial traveller and, in his spare time, was a member of Heaton Moor Cricket Club (of which Thomas Evans was president). By all accounts, he was a talented bowler. He was also a popular member of the local Conservative Club.
He enlisted into the Army at Manchester on 12 September 1914, joining the 20th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. Like James, most of its original members came from fairly privileged backgrounds and it was unofficially known as the third of the Regiment's "Public Schools" battalions. His service papers still survive at the National Archives and they show him to have been exceptionally tall for those days - standing at 6' 1" - and weighing 151 pounds. He had brown eyes, a sallow complexion and the medical examination described his hair colour only as "scanty". James had recorded his religious denomination as Anglican.
He was quickly promoted to Corporal and, as with many of his comrades, was also quickly selected to become an officer, promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 12 March 1915. Unusually, he remained with his original unit. Around this time, he is known to have married. His wife's name is not known but she went to live at the family home in Heaton Moor.
James appears not to have gone overseas with the Battalion in November but was seconded to a Trench Mortar School from then until May 1916. Before rejoining the Fusiliers, he was promoted to Lieutenant and was made second in command of "D" Company.
The Battalion's War Diary has scant details of the day James was killed. It was a warm Sunday and other units were to make another attack on German positions at High Wood in the south of the Somme battlefield. Two companies of the Fusiliers moved up to be in close support of the leading troops but the attack appears to have been cancelled and the Fusiliers were not required to go into action. However, they were easily within range of the German artillery.
Private N H Dawson was taken prisoner, probably the next day, and submitted a report through the Red Cross saying that James had been "severely wounded in head and stomach".
The Colonel commanding the Battalion also wrote "Lt. Evans was hit through the stomach. His wounds were dressed in shellhole but no-one can be found who dressed these wounds. Nothing has been heard of this officer since and it is feared that he and the other occupants of the shellhole perished."