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James Doolan and his large family came from Bamber Bridge.  Although James’s father, Michael (b. 1857) hailed originally from Preston and his mother Margaret (née Russell, b. 1857) was from Ireland, all 15 of their children were born when the family lived in the School Lane area between Bamber Bridge and Walton-Le-Dale.  In 1911 they were living in Oakland Street.  The family consisted of Catherine (b. 1883), Susannah (b. 1884), John (b. 1885), Thomas (b. 1886), then James (b. 1889), Michael (b. 1891), Peter (b. 1894), Margaret (b. 1896), William (b. 1898), George (b. 1899) and finally Robert (b. 1900).


Catherine, Susannah and John had all left to start families of their own by 1911, but the remaining children were still living with their parents, and all working in the mill except the three youngest boys who were still at school.


James married Jane McCabe in 1914, just before he signed up and they lived at 1 Tanner’s Row, Croston Road, Lostock Hall.  The McCabe family lived at Garfield Terrace, Croston Road, Lostock Hall and Jane was a cotton drawing tenter.  James was a mill worker.  James and Jane had a son, James G Doolan, who was born later in 1914.


James joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was posted to France to join the 10th Battalion probably in July 1916, in which case he would have fought with them at the Battle of the Ancre in November that year, although a further large draft joined them in December.  For much of the war the opposing armies along the Western front were at stalemate.  The Battle of Arras in April and May 1917 was an attempt by the British and French to break through the German lines.  Despite some spectacular advances in the first few days of the battle, the Allies were unable to achieve the breakthrough they sought, and once again there were very heavy casualties, with more than 160,000 allied soldiers killed or wounded.  The 10th Battalion lost about 500 men and officers, killed or wounded.


A novel feature of the battle was the use of the ‘creeping barrage’, during which the artillery would lay down a barrage of shells and shrapnel and the infantry would advance about 100 yards behind the barrage.  Whilst this was sometimes successful in stopping the enemy from advancing or attacking with machine guns, given the difficulties of managing the barrage, there were often errors and men were sometimes killed by their own artillery.  Even when it was successful it must have been horrific.


Given their heavy losses in the battle, the Battalion was withdrawn to ‘quiet sectors’ and by July was near Mesen in Belgium, south of Ypres, where the armies were preparing for what would later be known as the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele).  Although this was a ‘quiet’ period there was still regular shelling and sniper fire by both sides.  James died on 3 July 1917.  He was 28 years old.  He is buried at Pond Farm Cemetery, near Heuvelland in Belgium, about half way between Armentières on the French border and Ypres in Belgium.


His effects of £2 10s 8d and the war gratuity of £4 were paid to his widow Jane.  His mother had died in 1916, presumably while James was at the front. 


Rank:  Private

Service No:  24648

Date of Death:  03/07/1917

Age:  28

Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment 10th Bn.

Grave Reference:  M. 4.


The newspaper article, from the Preston Guardian in August 1917, says James was one of five soldier brothers.  I have found records for three of the others: 

  • Thomas enlisted on 11 December 1915 in the Army Service Corps.  He landed in France in August 1916 where he joined 143 Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery.  Immediately after the end of the war, in December 1918, Thomas married Catherine Mercer.  He was demobbed the following year.  He died in 1952.

  • Michael enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery on 19 May 1915 in Bamber Bridge, along with the Brierleys and Halpins and many others from the village.  His service number was 680875, my grand uncle Tom Brierley was 680873.  He had married Sarah Crook in October 1914.  He was demobbed in 1919, but I don’t know what happened to the family after that.

  • Peter was 12212 PTE. P. DOOLAN.  He joined 7Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regiment(the ‘Preston Pals’) in 1914 and went to France on 7 July 1915.  He was subsequently transferred to the Labour Corps with ser. no. 482088.


His brother William, who was sickly all his life, died in 1919 at the age of 20.


Jane McCabe’s extensive family, from Croston Road, Lostock Hall, also provided several soldiers in the War:

  • John b. 1881 was a platelayer and he signed up on 27 August 1915 to join the Royal Anglesey Royal Engineers, no 3 Railway Company, and was engaged in laying railway tracks to support artillery and troop movements during the war.  He served in France from September 1916, and was demobilised on 20 December 1918, and was probably home for Christmas.

  • Vincent b. 1884 was a regular soldier.  In 1911 he was serving in India with the East Lancashire Regiment.  The Regiment served in France from 1916-1918.

  • Hugh b. 1887 joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 9 December 1915 and served with the Labour Corps, involved in logistics.  He was demobbed on 13 November 1919.


Jane suffered a number of personal family tragedies, as well as the loss of her husband in 1917 after such a short marriage.  Her mother Dinah had died in February 1917, six months before she lost her husband.  Her father Hugh died in 1919.  She also lost three brothers who died in infancy.  She never remarried and died in Bamber Bridge in 1974 aged 82.

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