James Heywood was born in either Middleton or Chadderton in 1893 (all his records state Middleton but his birth was registered in Chadderton), the eldest child of parents James and Alice. James' younger sister was Norah. James Heywood senior was a bricklayer and labourer. At the time of the 1901 census they were living at 27 North Street in Middleton.
By 1911 they had moved to Royton and were at 41 Orchard Street. James was working as a piecer in one of the local mills (perhaps the Grape where before enlistment he was working as a joiner-minder), his father also having taken up employment in the cotton industry.
James enlisted in the army on December 9th 1915 in Royton. He was then sent away to await his call up which came the following month and he presented himself at the depot of the Manchester Regiment in Ashton under Lyne on January 24th 1916. He was posted to the Regiment's 25th Battalion, a reserve and training unit who were based at Southport at the time.
A little under four months later he was sent out for active service to France, leaving Folkestone on May 20th and arriving the following morning. James' first port of call was the giant training camp at Etaples where he and other fresh troops were put through their paces before heading for their new battalions. James joined his, the 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment, on June 5th.
The battalion had come out of the front line on June 1st and when James joined them they were encamped in huts at Bois Celestins where they were providing working parties carrying out such tasks as quarrying, unloading barges, road building etc.
From June 8th-11th they were billeted at Bray whilst doing similar work. On the 11th they moved up towards the front line at Maricourt at the point where the British & French lines met. James and his new comrades were kept hard at work unloading and carrying stores and ammunition and also carrying for tunnelling companies. On the night of June 14th the battalion came under shellfire, probably James' first experience of this, and they suffered six casualties. On the 18th the men were relieved and marched to the railhead at Heilly, from there they were transported to Ailly-sur-Somme before another march to Briquemesnil.
Here they took part in Brigade training - in preparation for the giant Somme offensive about to begin - until June 26th when they marched back to Ailly, entrained for Mericourt-sur-Somme and from there marching onto Etinehem. It was here that the 17th Manchesters made their final preparations for the battle to come. At 22:00 on the night of the 30th James Heywood and the rest of the battalion took up position in assembly trenches, south of Cambridge Copse, a little to the north-west of Maricourt village. Zero hour was to be at 07:00 the following morning, July 1st. It's hard to imagine the thoughts of James, he had been with his battalion for less than four weeks and was now to go into action.
As the men awaited the battalion's zero hour of 08.30 a rolling barrage of artillery fire crept forward towards the village of Montauban as the 19th Manchester’s and the 17th Kings Liverpool Regiment advanced.
A and B companies occupied the first line of trenches and C and D the second. At 08.30 the battalion left the assembly trenches and proceeded up a slight rise ahead of them which until they reached it's crest shielded them from enemy fire.
As the men reached the top of the slope,shrapnel and machine gun fire started to take its toll. Only 400 yards from his original starting position, the Commanding Officer, Colonel Johnson was wounded. He took no further part in the advance. Major MacDonald assumed command of the Battalion and pressed on with the assault. The assault had, by necessity been carried out at slow walk as the amount of extra kit carried by the men made anything else impossible. As the leading waves of men reached Glatz redoubt, they were held up by the British creeping barrage and were forced to take cover for 45 Minutes until the barrage lifted to the North side of the village. As C Company moved into extended line formation, heavy casualties were taken by machine gun fire from the direction of the village of Mametz.
As the barrage lifted to the village, the advance was continued. By this time the 1st and 2nd lines had all but amalgamated and the advance of the Men was held up by wide trench which could only be crossed at one or two places. With German prisoners streaming out of the village and moving towards the British lines the advance faltered slightly as the men regained their extended line formation on the other side of the trench. The men pushed on towards their objective and the first waves led by Captain Madden entered the village at 10.20am. The men moved quickly through the village to its northern edge and from this position could observe the enemy fleeing towards the villages of Longueval and Bazentin-le-Grand.
Parties of men were at once set to work to consolidate strong points and reverse the trenches-cutting fire steps to face the direction of the inevitable counter attack. This proved to be immensely difficult as the ground was a mass of shell holes, rubble and loose crumbling earth. Before the counterattack came that evening the men of the 17th Manchesters suffered under a very heavy German bombardment. When the German infantry did come forward they were swiftly dealt with under vigorous fire from the British lines.
The battalion's casualties, like all others on that terrible day - the British Army's bloodiest, were heavy. James Heywood had been wounded and died that day. He has no known grave so either it was lost in later fighting or he died of his wounds before he could be evacuated from the battlefield and his body was never recovered.
A Second Lieutenant with the battalion, Dick Macardle, who was shortly to die himself wrote a brief diary of his experiences at the Somme and said of that day:
"...we advanced in artillery formation at a slow walk, leading our sections in and out of the stricken men who were beyond help or whom we could not stop to help. It seemed callous, but it was splendid war. Men,crawling back,smiled ruefully or tried to keep back blood with leaky fingers. We would call a cheery word or fix our eyes on Montauban - some were not good to see. German shells littered the battlefield with dead and wounded. All around us and in front, men dropped or staggered about. A shrapnel shell would burst high up and a tidy little section in two-deep formation would crumple and be gone. The ground was rough and broken, yet we had advanced too quickly although we had done it at the slowest walk; so we lay down for 40 minutes under the flight of shells, waiting. Waiting is hard. We were to rush the village at 09:56.
The time came and I watched for 'A' Company to rise, but the seconds ticked on. I hailed a sergeant and shouted a question to him on where his officers were. 'All gone, sir', he shouted a question to him on where his officers were. 'All gone, sir', he shouted back. I caught a glimpse of a young Wain, his face haggard with pain and a leg soaked with blood. He was smoking a cigarette and pushing himself forward with a stick. His voice was full of sobs and there were tears of pain and rage. 'Get up, get you, you bastards! Blast your souls - get up!' I waved to him. He smiled and dropped - he knew it was not absolutely up to him and longer. We of 'B' Company took over, for he was the last of 'A' Company's officers and their sergeant-major was killed.
We were enfiladed by machine-gun and rifle fire, but we took the village from a fleeing and terror stricken enemy. All was wreck and ruin - a monstrous garbage heap stinking of dead men and high explosive "
On coming across German survivors going into captivity, Macardle said:
"Large parties, laughing and dancing like demented things full of mad joy, streamed unguarded back to Maricourt - holding their hands up and calling, 'Mercy,Kamerad'. The village was full of the terrors and horrors of war; dying Germans among the brick dust and rubble, horrible wounds and reeking. We began at once to consolidate, working like demons.
Rumours trickled through. Vandrey was killed, Ford was killed, Kenworthy was wounded, the Colonel was down - seen last in a shell hole with the doctor. We were almost too busy to heed, but the messages stabbed just the same."
On the evening's bombardment by the German artillery:
"It was rather terrific and we lost heavily. Sproat was killed, blown to bits. A great many men were buried in the trenches we had dug; one shell killed Sgt.Butterworth and more or less destroyed five others in my platoon. My platoon dwindled down to four men and no NCO - and still I was not touched. There was no dugouts in 'B' Company's side of the village and Humphreys, who was left in command when Vandrey was killed, had his HQ in a shell hole. We made our men dig holes for themselves under the parapet, for the Alley was about eight feet wide, but first they had to dig fire steps.
The trench became littered with dead and wounded. The dying called for water, but there was none. Those in agony asked pitiably for stretchers, but eight stretcher bearers had been killed and three of the four stretchers destroyed;the doctor was overwhelmed with work. It was impossible to spare a sound man to help along a broken one. We were standing to for a counterattack"
At some point before heading for France, James had gotten engaged to Dora Ridgwick from Shaw. She had written twice to him without reply before she received one of them back with the following note from Signaller Reginald Richards (33976) from Brigade HQ:
"Dear Miss Dora, I hope you will not take offence at me writing this letter to you. I do not know who you are, but I am writing to ask you if you know this letter enclosed. I am very,very sorry to say that I picked this letter from the dead body of this soldier. If you care to answer it I will give you all particulars as far as allowed. You have my deepest sympathy".
In early August, James' parents received the official notification that he had been killed. In February 1917 they received a communication to inform them that the Army had none of James' personal effects to pass onto them.
James senior and Alice stayed in Royton and died in 1951 and 1944 respectively. James' fiancee, Dora Ridgwick, married in Shaw in 1919.
Towns and cities across the north of England suffered devastating losses on July 1st 1916 and Royton, although luckier than some, was no different. It was the worst day of the war for the town and along with James there were 12 others killed.
The men of the 17th Manchesters who were killed alongside James Heywood on July 1st were:
AMOS PERCY 35 Serjeant 8047 from Ipswich
ATKINSON ROWLAND Private 10337 from Manchester
BARNFIELD TOM Private 8076 born Pendleton,enlisted Manchester
BARRETT ALFRED Lance Corporal 8391 born Liverpool,enlisted Manchester
BENNETT ARTHUR Private 8392 born Denver,USA.enlisted Manchester
BENNETT ALBERT 18 Lance Corporal 8393 from Salford
BERRISFORD CHARLES Corporal 8417 born Salford,enlisted Manchester
BICKERTON THOMAS 25 Lance Corporal 8438 from Manchester
BLOUNT HAROLD Lance Corporal 8080 from Manchester
BLUNDELL GEORGE 21 Private 9005 from Manchester
BOARDMAN JAMES 31 Private 9022 from Manchester
BRAZNELL JAMES Lance Serjeant 9245 born Market Drayton,enlisted Manchester
BRIERLEY HARRY 26 Private 9389 from Manchester
BRUCKSHAW GEORGE 40 Serjeant 9006 born Salford,enlisted Manchester
BULL JOHN 29 Private 9052
BURNS HENRY Private 9464 from Manchester
BUTTERWORTH WILLIAM 24 Serjeant 8418 from Bolton
BYRNE FRANK Private 9115
CAWLEY HARRY Private 8110 from Manchester
CHAMBERS JOHN 18 Private 26297 from Manchester
CLARK JOSEPH Private 8472 from Salford
CLARKE EDWIN 21 Private 8101 from Bolton
CLESHAM THOMAS 34 2nd Lt. from Co.Mayo
DUNN WILLIAM 24 Private 8121 from Manchester.Two brothers also killed in WW1
EATON CHARLES Private 8541 from Hale
EDWARDS EMRYS 23 Private 9033 from Manchester
ELLIOTT CHARLES Private 9166 from Manchester
ELLIS ROBERT Private 8134 born Salford,enlisted Manchester
FALLA ERNEST Lance Corporal 8554 from Manchester
FAWKES EDWARD 22 Private 9036 from Stockport
FELSTEAD CHARLES Private 27321 from Manchester
FLOWER ERNEST 21 Private 8999 from Leek
FORD REGINALD 28 Captain from Oxford
FRENCH RICHARD 24 Private 27334 from Manchester
GRIFFITHS WILLIAM 21 Private 9466 from Alderley Edge
HALLWORTH ARTHUR Private 26464 from Greenfield
HANSELL ABRAHAM 21 Private 9444 from Manchester
HARDING FREDERICK 24 Private 8643 from Whitefield
HARDMAN GEORGE 28 Private 9273 from Bury
HARE SIDNEY Corporal 8170 from Pudsey
HARRISON ALBERT Private 11195 from Manchester
HAYES HARRY 33 Private 8606 from Manchester
HIGGINS CHARLES 21 Private 8178 from Eccles
HILTON WALTER Private 8654 from Manchester
HOBSON JOHN Serjeant 9250 born Staffordshire,enlisted Manchester
HOBSON WILLIAM Private 26433 from Frodsham
HOLMES JOHN Private 8656 from Manchester
HOLT JAMES Lance Corporal 8637 born Heywood,enlisted Manchester
HOOLEY ALFRED 27 Private 8180 born Cheadle Hulme,enlisted Manchester
HOUSEMAN WILLIAM 23 Private 8182 from Manchester
HOWARD JOSEPH Private 8657 from Manchester
HOWARTH HERBERT 21 Private 8658 from Bury
HUNTBACH CHARLES Private 9193 from Manchester
HURST CHARLES Private 8158 from Manchester
JACKSON FRANK 25 Lance Corporal 8679 from Hazel Grove
JACKSON MARK Serjeant 8197 born Salford,enlisted Manchester
JOHNSON ARTHUR Private 8198 from Manchester
JOHNSTONE ALEXANDER 37 Corporal 8685 from Manchester
JONES LEWIS Private 9375 from Manchester
KENWORTHY STANLEY 32 Captain from Cumberland
KENYON LEVI Private 9515 from Manchester
KIMBER BERNARD Private 9333 from Manchester
LANGSHAW WILLIAM Private 8715 from Manchester
LINDSAY GEORGE Private 9041 from Manchester
MARSDEN STANLEY 20 Private 8727 from Manchester
MARSDEN THOMAS Serjeant 7047
MENDES NORMAN 20 Private 8240 from Manchester
MILLS WILLOUGHBY 23 Private 8747 born London, enlisted Manchester
MITTON CHARLES 32 Lance Corporal 8763 from Manchester
MOORES HERBERT 19 Private 8359 from Salford
NORTON LEONARD Lance Corporal 8770 born St.Neots,enlisted Manchester
OWENS RICHARD Private 9314 born Holyhead, enlisted Manchester
PEAT JOSEPH Private 26269 from Manchester
PENDLEBURY THOMAS Private 9358 from Astley
PICKTHALL JAMES 28 Private 8804 from Kendal
QUINN JOHN Corporal 8815 born Isle of Man,enlisted Manchester
RAIN RALPH Private 8816 from Manchester
RAMSDEN NORMAN Private 9521 from Prestwich
REMMOS ALBERT Lance Corporal 8273 born London, enlisted Manchester
ROBERTS MAURICE 33 Lance Corporal 9218 from Manchester
RODGER GEORGE 20 Private 9511 from Manchester
ROTHWELL ALBERT 21 Drummer 9078 from Manchester
ROTHWELL JOSEPH 21 Private 27335 from Manchester
SCHOFIELD REUBEN 22 Private 9519 from Salford
SCOTT WALTER 20 Private 8856 from Manchester
SCOTT WILLIAM Private 9417 from Manchester
SHARPLES TOM 26 Lance Corporal 9048 from Manchester
SHAW CHARLES Private 8895 from Manchester
SIDWELL FREDERICK 27 Serjeant 9253 from Manchester
SMITH GEORGE 23 Lance Corporal 8866 from Salford
SMITH JOHN 23 Private 8867 from Pendlebury
SPROAT GERALD 22 Lieutenant from The Wirral
STABLEFORD DONALD 19 Serjeant 8282 from Manchester
STARKIE RICHARD 24 Private 26441 from Manchester
STOCKS RALPH Private 26303 from Salford
TABBRON ALBERT Private 8904 born Urmston,enlisted Manchester
THOMAS GEORGE Private 8309 from Manchester
THOMSON JAMES 28 Lance Corporal 8901 from Manchester
TOOLE WILLIAM 19 Private 8312 from Manchester
TRUEMAN CYRIL 25 Private 8306 from Manchester
TURNER JAMES 35 Serjeant 8903 from Manchester
TURNER LEONARD Private 8919 from Stockport
TWEDDLE CHARLES 25 Private 8313 from Manchester
VAUDREY NORMAN 33 Captain born Eccles
VIGGERS RICHARD Private 26435 from Audlem,Cheshire
WADE PERCY Private 8317 from Middleton
WALDRON FREDERIC 20 Private 8949 from Manchester
WALLWORK GILBERT Corporal 8968 from Manchester
WALTON WILLIAM 23 Private 8958 from Manchester
WEILDING JAMES Private 9503 from Astley
WHATMOUGH TOM 24 Serjeant 8928 from Hollingworth
WHELAN WILLIAM Private 8974 from Manchester
WHITEHEAD GEORGE 24 Private 8327 from Manchester
WHITWORTH JOSEPH 20 Private 31309 from Manchester
WILKINSON FREDERICK 26 Serjeant 8336 from Wilmslow
WOOD STANLEY Private 8992 from Manchester
WOOLFORD ROBERT 20 Private 8352 from Manchester
WOOLRICH GEORGE 20 Private 26434 from Nantwich
WORRALL ARTHUR 25 Corporal 8993 from Whitefield
Date of Death:01/07/1916
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 14C