James Anselm Darwen and Robert Darwen were brothers. James was born on 20 April 1891 and Robert on 22 February 1899. Their father was Robert Darwen (b. 1862 in Whittle le Woods), a brewer by trade. Their mother was Margaret Wrigley (b. 1862 in Bamber Bridge). Robert and Margaret were married in 1883 and they had nine children, though two died young. The survivors were: Mary Agnes (b. 1886), Margaret Ann (b. 1887), Teresa (b. 1888), James Anselm, Martha (b. 1894), Robert and Austin Bernard (b. 1903). In 1911, the family was living at 2 Sergeant Street, Bamber Bridge. James was working as a bus driver, Robert aged 12 had just started work as a mule spinner.
Service Number: 13965
Date of Death: 28/09/1918
Regiment/Service: Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 2/4Bn
Cemetery/memorial reference: I. A. 20.
Cemetery: ANNEUX BRITISH CEMETERY
13965 PTE. J. A. DARWEN. L.N.LAN.R.
James was working at Messrs. Hopwood and Brothers in Bamber Bridge when he enlisted in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 2 September 1914. He was assigned service number 13965. He was just short of 5’ 6” tall and weighed 136lbs. He had a 36” chest, brown hair and brown eyes. He was posted to 8th Battalion. 8Bn was formed in Preston in September 1914 and in December 1914 they went off to Boscombe, then Bournemouth in January 1915 before returning to Boscombe again in March 1915. It would appear that while James was in Bournemouth he met Annie Amelia Andress (b. 1892 in Bridport), and the couple married at All Saints Church in Bournemouth on 31 July 1915.
8Bn came under orders of 74th Brigade in 25th Division and they landed in France on 25 September 1915. In late October 1915 they were transferred to the 7th Brigade in the same Division. In 1916, 25th Division fought at Vimy Ridge and on the Somme at Albert, Bazentin, Pozières, and the Ancre Heights. In 1917, they fought at Messines, then during the Third Battle of Ypres at Pilkem (31 July – 10 August, including the capture of Westhoek). On 19 January 1918 James was allowed some home leave, returning to the front on 2 February. Two weeks later, 8th Battalion was disbanded in France. James was transferred to the 2/4th Battalion LNLR on 7 May 1918 but he does not appear to have joined the Battalion until 22 September 1918. It was while James was in this limbo between battalions that he discovered that his brother had been killed.
So James joined his new battalion on 22 September and on 25th they moved to Noreuil to prepare for their involvement in the advance on Cambrai. James was killed during the advance, on 28 September. The War Diary records:
27 September 1918; 4.30am Moved forward through Pronville to Tadpole Copse and crossed the Canal du Nord at noon, then halting for three hours to be in position in the Sunken Road near Graincourt where the night was spent.
28 September 1918; 6am Moved forward under harassing fire from the enemy in support of the 2/5th King`s Own Royal Lancaster. On reaching Marcoing Trench “A”, “B” and “C” Companies formed up for attack with “D” Company in reserve, our left flank on the Bapaume-Cambrai road and our right on La Folie Wood. The advance was carried out by short rushes under heavy machine-gun fire until 11.30 when we were held up by a very severe bombardment in front of the enemy wire.
29 September 1918; 8am Battalion, having suffered many casualties, was withdrawn to refit and reorganise in a position to the south of Anneux.
51864 PTE. R. DARWEN. CHESH.R.
Robert was always keen to join the army. He enlisted in the Training Reserve in 1916 and signed up proper the day after his 18th birthday, 23 February 1918. He was 5’ 5½” tall and weighed 121lbs. He originally joined the King’s (Liverpool Regiment), with service number 93594 and in training was also with the Manchester Regiment, but he was sent to France on 28 February 1918 where he was transferred on 2 March to the Cheshire Regiment, with a new service number 51864 and posted to 9th Battalion. 9Bn came under orders of 56th Brigade in 19th (Western) Division. 19th Division was engaged in Operation Michael, the opening phase of the German Spring Offensive in March and April 1918, and again in the second phase, Operation Georgette, in April. During Georgette, 17th Division fought at Messines, Bailleul and Kemmel Ridge. It was in this area that Robert was killed. He was 19 years old. It seems odd that Robert has no grave (and is commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial), given that the newspaper article says that James identified his brother’s body, but this may just be journalistic licence.
Service Number: 51864
Date of Death: 29/04/1918
Regiment/Service: Cheshire Regiment, 9th Bn.
Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 61 to 63.
Memorial: TYNE COT MEMORIAL
Additional Information: Son of Robert and Margaret Darwen, of "Glenthorne," Hawkhurst Avenue, Broughton, Preston.
The two brothers had a cousin, William Darwen, who appears in the Roll of Honour for St Mary’s. He was born in 1897 and lied about his age to enlist in 1914. He was a spinner and lived at 39 Brownedge Lane. He first tried to enlist with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 8 September 1914, but suffered an abscess on a tooth and was rejected on medical grounds. Undeterred, he enlisted again on 9 December 1914, this time with the Royal Field Artillery. He was given service number 1800, but he was later transferred to the Royal Garrison Artillery with a new service number, 308721. He served with 1/1 West Lancashire Heavy Battery. He served throughout the War, and was demobilised in July 1919. In 1918 he was hospitalised again with a recurrence of his tooth abscess. Even when he was discharged he was still claiming to have been born in 1895. In 1925, he married Eleanor Hayes (b. 1902 in Preston). He died in 1961.