34799 PTE. J. H. WOODS. R.SC.FUS.
James Harold Woods was born on 24 March 1888 at Cuerden (close to Woodcock Hall) and baptised at Bamber Bridge St Saviour’s on 20 May. His father was George Woods (b. 1856 in Farington), a railway locomotive engine driver. His mother was Mary Jane Swindlehurst (b. 1860 in Barton). George and Mary Jane were married at St Saviour’s in 1887 and James was their first child. They had 5 more children: Amy (b. 1891), Sarah Ethel (b. 1893), Fred (b. 1896), Hilda (b. 1899) and Robert Henry (b. 1902).
In 1911, James was living with his family at Clayton Terrace, Watkin Lane, Lostock Hall and working in the mill as a cotton piecer. In 1913, he married Margaret Holmes (b. 1889 in Farington) and they had a daughter, Dorothy Amy, born in 1914.
From his attestation form we learn that James enlisted on 6 December 1915. At the time he gave his address as The Gates, Farington Lodge, near Leyland, and his occupation as a spinner. He appears to have enlisted with the Lancashire Fusiliers but this has been crossed out and replaced with 1st Reserve Cavalry Regiment. He was 5’ 5” tall and had a 35” chest. He was mobilised on 1 May 1916 and then transferred to the Royal Scots Fusiliers 2nd Battalion and posted to France on 2 December 1916.
2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers came under the orders of 90th Brigade in 30th Division. In 1917, the Division was engaged in the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, and the First and Second Battles of the Scarpe, which were part of the Arras offensive.
On 23 April, at 1.00am in the morning, the Battalion was assembled in the trenches ready for their attack. Their objective was to advance to take the high ground overlooking Chérisy and the Sensée River. Zero hour was 4.45. British guns opened a heavy barrage which drew an equally heavy enemy barrage response. Each platoon left the trenches on time, as planned, but they were met by heavy machine gun fire and despite their valiant efforts, they were halted long before they reached their objective. At 6am the enemy launched a counter-attack, but they likewise were held by Lewis gun fire. In the afternoon and early evening, another artillery barrage was laid down. Part of the enemy line was occupied but the objective was not reached. On the day of the battle, the War Diary counted 6 officers dead, 5 wounded and 5 missing. Other ranks had 58 dead, 195 wounded and 309 missing. CWGC now records 155 officers and other ranks from 2Bn killed that day, including James Woods, who was 29 years old. The British had seen spectacular gains in the opening two days of the Battle of Arras (9-10 April) but subsequently, as in this operation, had been unable to break through the German lines and the War reverted to stalemate.
Service No: 34799
Date of Death: 23/04/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Scots Fusiliers, 2nd Bn.
Grave Reference: D. 27.
Cemetery: BOOTHAM CEMETERY, HÉNINEL
James’ wife, Margaret, never remarried and she died in 1989, aged 100.
38134 L.CPL. R. HOLMES. LANC.FUS.
One of Margaret’s brothers, Robert, also fought in the War. Robert was born in 1894. In 1911, Margaret and Robert were living with their parents at Spring Gardens, Farington (near Farington Lodge). Robert was apprenticed as an engineer in a cotton mill. He served as a Lance Corporal with the Lancashire Fusiliers, 1/8Bn, and landed in Gallipoli on 5 May 1915. They formed part of 125th Brigade in 42nd (East Lancashire) Division. They were evacuated from Gallipoli at the end of December 1915, at which time Robert was invalided home suffering from dysentery. He spent a year convalescing then rejoined this time with 18Bn, returning to France in December 1916. 18Bn fought at Passchendaele in 1917 and also in the final push in Flanders in 1918. From Chorley Guardian: Cpl Holmes, who was 24 years of age, joined up at the commencement of hostilities. He took part in the landing at Gallipoli coming out scathless. He contracted dysentery afterwards and was invalided home. On recovering he served for two years and then received injuries to both legs.
Family Information from the late Mr Fred Holmes. Over the years that I knew Fred, he would often speak of his brother Bob – of how he lay wounded in no-man’s-land for 24 hours with serious wounds to both legs after an attack on German trenches, before being ‘brought in’ and eventually brought home to the Military Hospital at Cuerden Hall, Cuerden, near Farington. The date of the action in France is not known (see below), but was late in the war. At Cuerden Hall the doctors decided that Bob needed an amputation to save his life, but he refused the operation and was allowed home where he died on 29 March 1919.
According to medical records at Cuerden Hall, Bob was wounded in his left leg, behind the knee, on 23 April 1918.
Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: 38134
Date of Death: 29/03/1919
Regiment/Service: Lancashire Fusiliers
Grave Reference: 5. 156.
Cemetery: LEYLAND (ST. ANDREW) CHURCHYARD
Additional Information: Son of Robert and Ann Holmes, of 4, Spring Gardens, Farington, Preston.