Edmund James was born in Shaw in 1895. His mother was Mary James, it's unclear as to who his father was. When he was born Edmund had three older siblings - Alice,Frances and Henry. Alice & Frances were half sisters but it's possible Henry shared the same father as Edmund. Mary James was originally from Bradford but before Edmund's birth had spent time living in the Birkenhead area and that is where her three eldest children were born. She then moved to Shaw to live with her parents John & Grace Roberts.
In 1898 Mary James married John Miller in Liverpool and at the time of the 1901 census were living, along with Edmund, at 38 Edge Lane Road in Oldham. Mary & John Miller had four children who survived infancy - John, Joseph, Robert & Matilda.
In 1911 the Millers were living at Morton Street in Oldham and Edmund James, by then 15 years old, was working as a piecer in one of the local cotton mills.In the years between then and the outbreak of war Edmund moved in with his sister Alice, who had married Henry Hardman in 1902, at 6 Faulkner Street in Chadderton.
Edmund and his brother in law Henry Hardman were amongst the rush of recruits to the Oldham Pals unit after it's formation in October 1914, enlisted on November 30th. The Battalion, actually named the Oldham Comrades rather than the more familiar 'Pals' adopted by most towns, was to become the 24th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. The two men were members of 8 Platoon, B Company.
Date of Death:07/02/1916
Cemetery:Point 110 New Military Cemetery
8 Platoon, B Company, 24th Manchesters
photo courtesy of Peter Bennett. Thanks also to Pierre Vandervelden
Edmund's brother in law, Harry Hardman
In March 1915 the unit moved out to Llanfairfechan in Wales and the following month to Grantham. A further move came in September of that year, to Larkhill in Wiltshire. Then in early November 1915 it was finally time for the men to head out on active service and they set off for France.On November 9th 1915 the battalion landed at Le Havre and then underwent a few days training in the arts of trench warfare under the tutelage of men of the Leicestershire Regiment.
After that the Comrades had further periods of training in areas behind the lines and did not take control of a portion of the front line until February 6th 1916. They were welcomed by the German artillery and within their first 24 hours in the line they had lost 17 men killed and at least 15 wounded. On their first day six were killed by a trench mortar shells and then on February 7th a shell penetrated a large dug out where most of 8 Platoon were getting ready to stand to. Ten or eleven men were killed outright and a further 8 men listed as wounded. Both Edmund James and his brother in law Harry were killed.
A few days later a Sergeant wrote home to his father:
"No doubt you will have heard that we have again been in action. I am sorry to say that we have had some casualties,my platoon,poor old No.8 having suffered a lot. We were in the support trenches, and in a dug-out on Monday afternoon, when a shell from the German artillery crashed through the roof. Eleven of the lads were instantly killed and eight had to be taken to hospital. By a stroke of good fortune I was not in the dug-out at the time. I had only a few minutes earlier left to go to the firing line to see a Captain of another company...."
Back home in Oldham, Edmund's mother received a letter from the Battalion's chaplain, Rev.Hugh McCalman:
"I am so sorry to tell you that your son (14519) Private E.James, was killed two days ago. What a dreadful blow it must be to you all, I know. Perhaps it may be some consolation to know we are so proud of him. He had kept up all the honour of the Manchester Regiment. This, of course, you must share, as you so bravely spared him. May God compensate you"
Alice Hardman in Chadderton, no doubt shattered by the simultaneous deaths of her husband and brother received a letter from Corporal Hill who had enlisted with the two men:
Dear Mrs.Hardman - I write these few lines on behalf of my comrades and myself to send you our deepest sympathy and sorrow in your sad loss of your husband and brother. If it will be any consolation to you I assure you everything was done for them that could be, but we found they had been killed outright. They were buried at night by our chaplain, who held a service for them amid the shot and the shell. I had never to ask twice for volunteers for anything, as your husband was always willing to be doing something. He was well respected by all who knew him, officers and men alike, as was also your brother Edmund. I can assure you if it is in the power of the 8th platoon after this war is over to do our little bit to cheer you and help you it will be done if God spares us. We all mourn the loss of two real good pals and I close with deepest sympathy. I remain,
Corporal HIll (B Company)
On February 10th, 1917 the following appeared in the Oldham Chronicle. It appears to be from his biological father as Edmund's mother was still alive and is not mentioned
In loving memory of Signaller Edmund James,
24th Manchesters,who was killed in France on February 9th 1916
Too far away thy grave to see,
Yet not too far to think of thee,
Some day we hope to meet him,
Some day - we know not when,
To clasp his hand in the better land.
Never to part again
From Father,Sister,Brother & Sister in law
There is as yet no evidence that Edmund James ever lived in Royton but he appears on the town's war memorial and is also commemorated at St.Ann's Church in the town. His half sister Frances lived on Middleton Road in Royton, if any other relatives lived there isn't known. Edmund is also commemorated on Oldham's War Memorial. The names of Chadderton's war dead are unfortunately not recorded on it's memorial. Harry Hardman is not on Royton's Memorial although his parents were living in the town.
The other members of 8 Platoon killed alongside Edmund and Harry were:
BRIERLEY GEORGE 28 Private 28097 from Oldham
CONNOLLY MICHAEL 19 Private 28008 from Oldham
DAKIN HAROLD 21 Private 15186 from Chadderton
FOTHERGILL WILLIAM 18 Private 15318 from Hollinwood
HIGGINS ARNOLD Private 28133 from Whitworth
O'NEIL GEORGE 24 Private 14585 from Oldham
SCHOFIELD WILLIAM 25 Private 14593 from Oldham
SMITH WALTER 19 Private 4344 from Oldham
THORPE LEONARD 22 Lance Corporal 14597 from Lees