Edward James, the son of William Airth and his wife Margaret nee Andrew, was born on the 17th February 1899 baptised 19th of March 1899 at St. Werburgh’s. It was also confirmed there in 1909. His father William, who was born near Bala, North Wales, was a baker In Watergate, Chester. His mother Margaret had been born at Holt, Denbighshire but often visited the house of her grandparents, who lived at Parry’s Entry, Foregate Street, Chester. William eventually became a master baker and after his marriage to Margaret in Chester in 1884 the Airth family lived at 13 Railway Terrace, in Chester and later at 42 Water Tower View, Hoole.
Edward add 4 elder sisters, Mary Elizabeth, Margaret Ethel, Isabel Kathleen, and May Victoria Sullivan. He also had three younger sisters, Edith Ann, Josephine, and Dorothy. His three brothers, one called Robert and two called William, did not survive childhood. Robert and the first William died in infancy and the second William died in 1916 age 12. All the siblings were baptised at St. Werburgh’s and attended St. Werburgh’s Schools.
In September 1915 Edward was registered as an assistant postman In Chester - 188347. This was regarded at the time as a good job, being secure and with promotion prospects. Such jobs were difficult to procure and required a good reference both from school and from another well-respected citizen. Edward would have regarded by other as being fortunate.
Nevertheless, Edward enlisted first with the Cheshire Regiment at Chester, 15th January 1917 at the age of 17 years 11 months. He was place on the army reserves list. On 23rd March 1917 he was posted to the Glamorgan Yeomanry Cyclists. On 13th April 1918 he was sent to join the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) in France. Here he was transferred to the Welsh Regiment at Etaples and then on 19th April 1918 he was transferred to the Durham Light Infantry.
Edward was killed on 27th May the battalion war diary for the day reads:
27th 1 am. Terrific enemy barrage consisted of every calibre of shells and trench mortars accompanied by gas shells
6.30 am. C & D companies were ordered to proceed to the intermediate line and ordered to reinforce this position.
7 am. The enemy attack had commenced at 4 am. but owing to the heavy barrage all communications were out and no information had come back from the front line.
On reaching the intermediate line it was found that the enemy were already round the right and left flanks. The battalion had suffered extremely heavily and only a portion of B Coy. was to be found. This detachment withdrew and held a position at a clearing north west of Pontevert and held up the enemy in their front for a considerable time. Ammunition was very short.
Edwards body was not recovered and so he is named on the Soissons Memorial.
Cheshire County Memorial Project would like to thank Mandy Lloyd for the picture and information on Edward.