2334 PTE. J. SHANNON. M.M. L.N.LAN.R.
James Shannon was born on 16 May 1895 in West Derby, near Liverpool. His father was James Shannon and his mother was Elizabeth Fairclough. They probably also came from Liverpool and James may have been a merchant seaman. Not much more is known about them, all we know for sure is that in 1911, James was living with his grandmother, Elizabeth Fairclough, and two sisters, Maria (b. 1891) and May (b. 1898) at 4 Charnley Fold Lane, Bamber Bridge. James was working as a creeler in a cotton shed. As the article tells us, he shortly afterwards moved a few streets away to Brandiforth Street.
Aged 19, James enlisted before the start of the War in 1Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was assigned service number 2334. He landed in France with the Battalion on 22 September 1914. 1Bn was part of 1st Division and had a fine fighting record: in 1914 at Mons, the Marne, the Aisne and the First Battle of Ypres; in 1915 at Aubers in May and Loos in September-October; in 1916, in all phases of the Battle of the Somme, at Albert, Bazentin, Pozières, Flers-Courcelette and Morval.
The article appeared in the Preston Guardian in September 1917 and official confirmation of the award of the Military Medal appeared in the London Gazette on 14 September. There are no citations for the MM award, but we know that in the Spring of 1917, 1st Division were engaged in the pursuit of the Germans to the Hindenburg Line and then the Division was ordered to prepare for an operation along the Belgian coast – ‘Operation Hush’ – in the summer of 1917. A full account of the operation can be found here. Operation Hush was intended as an amphibious landing on the Belgian coast to take back control of the ports occupied by the Germans and serving as bases to harass British shipping in the Channel. The landings were planned to take place after the launch of the attack at the end of July which would become known as the Third Battle of Ypres. However, in the face of ferocious German attacks from 6-10 July and given the failure of the attack at Ypres to make significant advances, Operation Hush was finally abandoned. This German attack marked the first use of mustard gas in an artillery bombardment. It was during these attacks in July that James demonstrated the bravery for which he was awarded the Military Medal. James’ grandson, John Shannon, has found a copy of the citation. It reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During the afternoon of the 10th instant (i.e. 10 July 1917) previous to the enemy attack on our front systems east of the River YSER, many attempts were made to get orderlies across the canal to the left front. These attacks were not successful owing to the fierce artillery barrage on the West bank of the river and on NIEUPORT BAINS. Bridges themselves were practically unapproachable. About 5pm in response to an urgent appeal from the left front Battalion sent by pigeon post, these two men (2334 Private James Shannon and 11983 Private John Robert Sutcliffe) volunteered to attempt the crossing. As all the bridges were destroyed, they were to cross the river in tubs. By great efforts, they succeeded in getting through the barrage to the river bank, the barrage for the time being having lifted slightly off the bank, and commenced their preparations for getting across. The barrage on the river however was renewed and they were driven back. Several attempts were made before they finally retired, showing great determination and pluck. On their return journey they had to pass through the final intense barrage put down before the enemy left their lines.
According to James’ medal records he was then transferred first to 1Bn South Wales Borderers and then to 18Bn Welsh Regiment, and he was assigned a new service number, 79242, and also promoted to Lance Corporal. James fought with these Battalions through the remainder of the War.
James moved to Preston after the War and in 1920 he married Catherine (Katie) Welsh and the couple had two children. James was then a bus conductor for the Ribble Bus Company and he died in Preston in 1966.