10125 PTE. J. FAIRCLOUGH. SCOTS GUARDS.
James Fairclough was one of six brothers from Lostock Hall who all enlisted for service in the War. His parents were James Fairclough and Alice Ellen Fairclough (née Cornwell) (both b. 1860 or 1861) and they lived at 1 Lostock View, Lostock Hall. James (senior) was a spinner in the cotton mill. He and Alice married on Christmas Day 1880 and had 8 children, 7 of whom survived infancy. Thomas b. 1883, William b. 1886, Alice b. 1889, James b. 1891, Albert b. 1892, John b. 1895, and George b. 1897. Their youngest son, Edward b. 1899, died in 1910. All the boys in the family were cotton spinners, Alice was a card room hand.
By January 1915, the War had reached its first stalemate. The British and French had managed to halt the initial German advance and begun to force them back, but now both sides were entrenched and conditions during the winter became appalling. On some days it was ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, but some days were murderous; such a day was 25 January 1915. Recruits had been arriving from England to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force and a group of men from Lostock Hall, Farington and Leyland arrived to join 1st Battalion Scots Guards on 14 January and were immediately sent to the front line. The new draft included William Collinge (who turned 21 on 13 Jan), and Robert Holmes, from Leyland, Harold Southworth from Farington, and James Fairclough from Lostock Hall. 1/Scots Guards had been in France since October 1914, and in January 1915 they were in the trenches near Cuinchy in northern France. This area known as 'The Brickstacks' sat on a flat piece of land between the towns of Béthune and La Bassée and here the front line did not move for most of the War. Both sides were fully entrenched. The trenches by now were knee-deep in mud and water and infested with rats. The Battalion’s War Diary says: At 6.30am (on 25 January) a German deserter reported that an attack was going to be made in half an hour, bombardment first and then our trenches were to be blown in by previously made mines. After an hour all happened as the deserter had said. The Germans first shelled and then got out of their trenches and attacked and then threw bombs in, got to the lip of the parapet and shot down into the trenches. The Germans afterwards swarmed up to the 'keep' where Major Romilly was. There they were checked and held.
All four local men were in a trench which was blown up by a German mine. They were either instantly killed or buried alive. Their bodies were not recovered at the time and so they lay ‘in some corner of a foreign field that is forever England’. They had been in France for just 11 days before they were killed. The bodies of Robert Holmes and William Collinge were discovered by a farmer ploughing his fields some time after the War, and they were re-buried side-by-side in the Canadian Cemetery near Arras. The other men’s bodies were never found and they are commemorated on the memorial at Le Touret.
Service No: 10125
Date of Death: 25/01/1915
Regiment/Service: Scots Guards, "B" Coy. 1st Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 3 and 4.
Memorial: LE TOURET MEMORIAL
The Fairclough family and the War
Thomas, the oldest of the boys, married Mary Durham in 1904, whereupon they moved to 13 Lostock View where they lodged with Mary’s father Richard. The 1911 Census says that in the interim period they had 4 children 3 of whom died. Although one child is still alive, s/he is not listed as living with the parents at the time of the Census. Thomas enlisted in 9/Cameronians Scottish Rifles and served in France from 3 October 1915 (his brother James had already been killed). He was promoted to L/Cpl then Cpl. In May 1918, Thomas was engaged in action during which he displayed conspicuous bravery for which he was awarded the Military Medal. The award was reported in the Preston Guardian at the time.
His brother William married Margaret Hodson in 1912 and they lived at 17 Lostock View. He enlisted with 12 Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment at Southport/Seaforth on 5 Sep 1914. From his military records (which have survived) we know that he was 5ft 4in tall and weighed 110lbs (a fraction under 8st). He was initially passed as fit for service but was shortly afterwards (23 Sep) discharged as being ‘not likely to become an efficient soldier’ under King’s Regulations para 392.iii.(c) as a result of a 35% disablement (not specified). He was given a gratuity of £5 for his service. Although he never served abroad, William did nevertheless enlist and was discharged due to sickness and he has a medal card to record his service. It is likely that he qualified for the King’s Silver War Badge, which was awarded to all of those military personnel who had served at home or overseas during the war, and who had been discharged from the army under King’s Regulations. Although instituted in 1916 it was also awarded in retrospect.
Albert, John and George all also served in the Army. It seems that Albert was enlisted in the Artillery in 1915 and his younger brothers John and George enlisted later, but we have no firm data about this. Tom, Albert, John and George Fairclough all survived the War. Perhaps you are a descendant and have some information you would like to share? If so, please get in touch.