10497 LCPL. J. WILSON. L.N.LAN.R.
James Wilson was born in the first quarter of 1895 at School Lane, Bamber Bridge. His father was Harry Wilson (b. 1859 in Preston), a cloth-looker in a cotton mill. His mother was Elizabeth Douthwaite (b. 1858 in Galgate). Harry and Elizabeth were married in 1879 at St Leonard’s, Walton Le Dale and they had 8 children: Hannah (b. 1881), Jannett (b. 1883), Mary Ellen (b. 1885), William (b. 1887), Lily (b. 1892), then James, then Henry (b. 1897) and finally Walter (b. 1899). Elizabeth died in 1899, just after Walter was born, and Harry remarried later that same year. His second wife was Ada Mellings (b. 1872 in Yorkshire). I haven’t been able to trace all the Wilson family in the 1911 Census and it’s possible that both Harry and Ada were dead (both James and Walter give their siblings as next-of-kin in their military records). . James enlisted with the Loyals at the outbreak of War and was assigned service number 10497 and posted to 6th Battalion. His Medal Index Card gives 12 August 1914 as the date of his disembarkation, although this isn’t quite correct. 6Bn was raised on the outbreak of war, on 6 August, and came under orders of 38th Brigade in 13th (Western) Division. After training, in the spring of 1915, it was decided to send 13th Division as reinforcements to Gallipoli and they left Avonmouth on 17 June and sailed via Malta, Alexandria and Mudros, before arriving at Cape Helles on 6 July.
So James fought through, and survived, the latter part of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. His Bn was evacuated on 20 January 1916 and they made their way to Port Said in Egypt. By now, the situation in Mesopotamia had become very precarious for British and Empire forces so 13th Division were sent as reinforcements, arriving in Kuwait Bay on 27 February 1917. By 23 March, the Division had moved up the River Tigris to Sheikh Sa’ad, their objective being to relieve British forces besieged at Kut-al-Amara. The attempt failed and Kut fell to the Turks on 28 April. The Kut campaign had cost some 24,000 British casualties. During the summer, British forces were strengthened and reinforced but the torrid heat and appalling conditions took a heavy toll. By December, the British were ready to renew their offensive. The advance began in earnest on 15 February and by 24 February the Tigris Corps was forcing the enemy to retreat in disorder. General Maude reported “When darkness closed in on the 24th, what was left of the Ottoman forces was in full flight from the scenes of their triumphs a few months before, and that night the British gunboats, pushing up from Falahiyeh, moved off Kut.” The War Diary gives a brief account of what happened the following day: “25 February, 5.40am. The Battalion advanced as advance guard to the Division up the left bank of the river and came under heavy shell fire over very flat country; had to halt till dark about 400yds from enemy position; dug in.” It was during this fighting that James was killed. He was 21 years old. The campaign led eventually to the capture of Baghdad on 11 March 1917.
Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: 10497
Date of Death: 25/02/1917
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 6th Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 27.
Memorial: BASRA MEMORIAL
James’ brother Walter enlisted underage. He was 90944 Pte. Walter Wilson, King’s (Liverpool Regiment). He was still only 19 when he was killed during the German Spring Offensive on 24 March 1918.