15165 LCPL. J. McMULLEN. L.N.LAN.R.

 

James McMullen was born in Preston in January 1892.  His parents were Miles McMullen (b. 1868 in Preston) and Elizabeth Rawcliffe (b. 1871 in Preston).  Miles, a cotton spinner by trade, and Elizabeth were married in Preston in 1891 and Miles was born the following year.  The couple then went on to have seven other children, three of whom survived, daughters: Mary (Polly) b. 1895, Elizabeth b. 1898 and Mary Ellen b. 1908.  Sometime between 1898 and 1901, the family moved to Blackpool, Miles taking up employment as a joiner’s labourer.  In 1911 the family was living at 91 Boothely Road, Blackpool.  James was working as a brickyard labourer.

 

James is listed on the Hope Terrace Memorial in Lostock Hall and also on St Gerard’s memorial, as he was a Roman Catholic, but no formal record has been found of his association with the village, other than these memorials.

 

James signed his attestation form at Preston on 15 September 1914.  He was 5’ 5” tall and weighed 132lbs and had a 36” chest.  He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. There are some crossings out on the form indicating that at some stage he may have been considering joining the Royal Army Service Corps but he ended up in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, with service number 15165, and was assigned initially to 8 Battalion.  8Bn remained at home and in training throughout most of 1915 and finally moved to France at the end of September, arriving at Lillers on the 27th, and James was with them at that time.

 

Sill in 8Bn, James was appointed unpaid Lance Corporal on 14 January 1916, and paid LCpl from 7 May. However, James was sent back to hospital in England on 28 September 1916 suffering from P.U.O. (Pyrexia – or fever – of Unknown Origin).  He was in hospital at Norwich War Hospital for a month, 29 Sep – 27 Oct 1916, and after that it seems he spent the period until 28 March 1917 as unpaid LCpl at Divisional Headquarters.  During that time he was granted a week’s home leave, from December 6-17 1916, which he spent at his parents’ home in Blackpool.  On 28 March 1917 he was posted to 3Bn, the Regimental Depot at Fulwood Barracks, where he spent the next few months. But then he returned to France, embarking at Folkestone on 15 June 1917.  He landed at Boulogne later the same day and then proceeded to Étaples, where, on 10 July 1917 he was posted to 2/5Bn.  The Battalion formed part of 170th Brigade in the 57th (West Lancashire) Division, and he joined them near Armentières, close to the Belgian border, where the Division remained until the end of September.  In October, the Division was moved north to Boesinghe near Ypres, where it would play its part in the Third Battle of Ypres (Second Battle of Passchendaele).

 

From the Battalion’s War Diary:

Throughout the 25th (October) the Battalion held the line under the very worst possible conditions of rain and mud, the enemy keeping up a heavy if intermittent shelling, which caused fifty-three casualties; and about 5 o’ clock in the morning of the 26th the companies formed up to attack an objective which was distant about 1000 yards from the original line.

 

At 5.40 the Battalion moved off in attack formation, three companies being in the front line and one being held in readiness as a counter-attack company, each platoon having a frontage of about 160 yards.  The “going” was almost impossible, but the men pushed on steadily if slowly.  Owing to the state of their weapons it was practically impossible to use ether rifle or Lewis gun, and the men had to trust to the bayonet, in the wielding of which the men of the 2/5 excelled themselves, and it is estimated that the non-commissioned officers and men accounted for some five hundred of the enemy and captured eight machine guns.  One sergeant attacked and killed the detachments of two German machine guns single-handed, and was still advancing when he himself became a casualty.

 

James McMullen was killed during this action.  He was 25 years old.  Unusually for men who died at Passchendaele, his body was recovered and he is buried at Poelkapelle British Cemetery.  

 

His effects, £8 4s 10d plus a War Gratuity of £14, were sent to his mother in Blackpool, who also received his medals.

 

Rank:  Lance Corporal

Service No:  15165

Date of Death:  26/10/1917

Regiment/Service:  The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment 2nd/5th Bn.

Grave Reference:  Plot XXXV. Row F. Grave 16

Cemetery:  POELCAPELLE BRITISH CEMETERY

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