‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

Date of Death:22/06/1916
Service No:2022
Regiment:Manchester Regiment
Unit:1st Bn.
Amara War Cemetery
Grave Ref:VIII.D.7

James Ward was born in High Crompton in 1890, the eldest child of parents John and Mary. Both John & Mary were originally from Yorkshire, Skipton & Meltham respectively. Leonard followed in 1892(died 1893) & Harry in 1896. Then, in 1898, at the age of only 32 Mary died. James' father remarried, with Isabella Thwaite, in 1904 and the family settled on Rochdale Road in Shaw. Two half siblings for James followed, Ernest and Emily.
On August 9th 1913 James married Mary Barnes at the Oldham Register Office. Mary was from Royton and this is where they set up home. By the time of his death the family home was at 3 Dale Street in the Luzley Brook area. James & Mary had a son, Ernest who was born in 1914.
It's unclear as to how long James spent in the army. He was a pre war soldier and his service number suggests he joined up in 1911. However by the time of his marriage in 1913 he was a piecer in one of the local cotton mills. The likelihood is that he paid his way out. His brief spell of pre war soldiering would have been with the Manchester Regiment's 2nd Battalion who were stationed in Ireland during that period.
James would have been called up shortly after the outbreak of war in August 1914, he reached France on January 12th 1915 and joined the 1st Battalion Manchester Regiment. The 1st Battalion had been in India at the outbreak of war and had reached France in late September. By the time James Ward joined the unit two Royton men had already been killed serving with it, Fred McSweeney & James McGivern.
On March 10th the Battle of Neuve Chapelle began, the 1st Manchesters were not part of the initial wave and marched to the south east of Neuve Chapelle that day. The following morning they were due to attack but this was cancelled, nevertheless they were close enough to the enemy to come under machine gun fire and take casualties. At 1pm on the 12th the 1st Manchesters moved forward after a half hour artillery bombardment. The leading two companies immediately came under intense fire and men were falling fast. By 1:30 these two companies had reached front line trenches occupied by Gurkhas, they were followed by the remainding two companies who suffered heavy casualties from machine gun fire before they could reach the comparative safety of the trenches. The men were supposed to press on and attack the German positions but it was decided against by General Willcocks. The battalion were withdrawn from the line between 03:15 & 04:30 on the morning of the 13th but unfortunately the dying didn't finish there. Bertram Lees is listed as being killed on March 14th along with sixteen other men of the battalion.
On March 28th the battalion was visited by General Sir James Willcocks:

"First Manchesters! Once again how gloriously you have fought in front of the enemy! The Battle of Neuve Chapelle was a hard one, but bravely you faced it. I have been requested by the Commander-in-Chief to visit you personally and thank you for your gallant work. You are a credit to the country to which you belong;and you have gallantly maintainted the splendid traditions of your Regiment. How proud and pleasead I am to have such a splendid Regiment under my command, and every man here should be proud to belong to it"

James Ward and the rest of the 1st Manchesters were again in battle the following month. The Second Battle of Ypres began on April 22 and for a time the Allied position was perilous due to the massive use of chlorine gas by the attacking Germans. On April 26th the 1st Manchesters were called upon to counter attack. They attacked through clouds of gas and in the face of machine gun fire and shelling and took many casualties. William Henry Roberts & William Holt were two of the men killed along with six others from the Oldham district.
The toll taken by the battalion since reaching France can be gauged by the number of replacements it had received. They had left India with 16 officers and 891 other ranks and by the end of May 1915 had received 38 new officers and 1449 other ranks after no more than 8 months of war.
The battalion were again in action at the Battle of Loos in September 1915 but did not play a direct role, with total casualties of 56.
The Indian Corps that the 1st Manchesters belonged to had suffered dreadful casualties with most of the battalions being unrecognisable from those that had arrived in Europe in September 1914. By the beginning of November 1915 the 47th Sikhs had only 28 men left and no officers from it's original force.The 59th Rifles had no British officers left, just 4 Indian officers and 75 other ranks. It was decided to transfer the Corps to a theatre of war nearer to the home depots of it's Indian battalions. News was received on October 31st that the Indian Corps would be leaving France soon.
The 1st Manchesters left Marseille on December 10th/11th on board the Huntsend along with the 1st Connaught Rangers. The Manchesters strength at this point was 28 officers, 7 warrant officers and 812 nco's and men. They reached Basra on the morning of January 8th 1916.
The British were locked in a fight in Mesopotamia (now known as Iraq) with the Turks. At the point in time when James Ward and his comrades landed there was a British force besieged in the town of Kut and the other British forces present were a shadow of their former strengths. After arriving at Basra the men were sent upriver towards the front. The battalion, while not suffering great casualties in any one engagement, lost men steadily through enemy action & illness in the months after their arrival. On June 5th 1916, James Ward was injured - another man is listing as having died that day, Private Thomas Tootill (2133) from Heywood. James was taken to hospital at Amara, a town on the River Tigris that was a hospital centre for the British Army. A little of over two weeks later on June 22nd James died.There is some confusion after this as the Oldham Chronicle reported that his wife Mary received notification on Tuesday July 11th that James had died in hospital in Bombay of disease following a wound. He appears to be buried in Amara though which obviously rules out having died in Bombay.