James William's Story.
James William Burgess
D o B :22 July 1896, Wilmslow ( Cheshire School Records 1782-1950 )
1901 Census : South Street, Alderley Edge, aged 4
9/1/1905: Admission to Alderley Edge Day School ( Cheshire School Records 1782-1950 )
22/7/1910: Withdrawal from Day School to work aged 14 ( Cheshire Schools Records 1782-1950 )
1911 Census: 6 Lydiate Lane, gardener’s assistant, Manchester Education Committee
1914: Enlisted into 10thBattalion, Cheshire Regiment at Macclesfield aged 19 years 43 days ( Army form B111 British Army WW1 Records 1914-1922 )
( 5ft 5 1/2ins tall, 126lbs weight, fresh complexion, blue eyes, light brown hair ) Army Form B178
15/9 1914: posted to 10thBattalion, Cheshire Regiment
26/9/1915: Expeditionary Force embarked for France at Folkstone. No major battle yet. Time spent alternating between tours of duty and periods in reserve, they would carry out training and undertake fatigues work.
20 – 26/4/16 Easter at Mont St-Eloi: Back to front line at Mont St-Eloi, a small village, 8 kilometres NW of Arras. Battalion War Diaries only describe the weekend as ‘quiet’. However on the 26th The war Diary records ‘Hostile artillery and trench mortars very active on left of sector held by Battalion'. 20 men lost their lives that weekend.
17-21/5/1916 German attacks north of Arras: Return to trenches near Mont St-Eloi, near Ecoivres.
Casualties could be expected on a daily basis. Hostile attacks, severe hand to hand fighting, shelling and trench mortar fire. Most trenches levelled. 48 killed, 101 wounded and 41 missing.
24/5/1916 Gun shot wound to back: Admitted in field then returned to England on 30th May. Admitted to Scottish Red Cross Hospital, Bellahouston, Glasgow. Remained in hospital 244 days. Discharged 30/1/1917 ( Form B 103/1 British Army WW1 Records 1914-1922 )
9/2/1917: Posted to 3rd Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, Rouen. 7/5/1917 posted to 15th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, Rouen. (Form B103/1 British Army WW1 Records 1914-1922)
8/6/1917: Posted to 1/6th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. ( Form B103/1 British Army Records 1914-1922 )
31/7/1917 – 10/11/1917: 1/6th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment was engaged in the 3rd Battle of Ypres.
21/12/1917 – 31/1/1918: Granted leave to UK. Wounded in action, gas, shell wound. ( Form B 103/1 British Army Records 1914-1922 )
10/6/1918: Joined Battalion. (Form B 103/1 British Army Records 1914-1922)
8/8/1918: Battle of Amiens beginning of the last 100 days, Allies advance along the Western Front.
15/9/1918: 1/6th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. For several days, the Battalion had been in reserve at Kemmel Hill, near Ypres. On 14th September, it moved forward to support positions at ‘Daylight Corner’, going into line near Wulveghem the next day. It replaced the 2/23rd Londons and the 7th Royal Irish Regiment. The Battalion History records ‘The casualties that day were fairly heavy; four other ranks being killed
( one of whom was James W Burgess ) four wounded and 34 gassed'.
November 11th 1918: Germany signs the Armistice at Compiegne.
In all James served 4 years 8 days in the war. He was just one of 70 others recorded as fallen, on the War Memorial in Alderley Edge, a village of a population of 2223 in 1901.
As a descendant whom James never knew, I don’t wish him to be defined by the war. Moreover he was one of many Cheshire lads who enjoyed village life at the beginning of the 20th century - going to school, his teenage years, his gardening job for the council and happy times with his family; made up of father James senior, mother Ellen and siblings Sam, Jack, May, Leslie and Nellie.
The final sentiments are those of his family, and were chosen by his mother to be recorded on his gravestone in Belgium:
'Too dearly loved to be forgotten'