James Smith 1878-1918

James was my husband's great uncle, older brother to his grandmother, Emma Smith.

He was born in Newton Heath, Lancashire to Charles and Annie in 1878.

The family lived in Newton Heath until James married Margaret O'Hara on 16th February 1901 at St Patrick's Church, Rochdale, Lancashire.

James and Margaret had 3 children and lived in Rochdale. James was a leather currier's labourer.

James signed a short service attestation to serve with the Lancashire Fusiliers (12838) for the duration of the First World War on 9th December 1915. His address was given as 56 Mills Road, Rochdale.

Margaret Smith and her daughter Clara.

On 3rd August 1916 James was posted to the Lancashire Fusiliers. Some time in the next 18 months he transferred to the 7th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment (36103) A War Diary entry for the 22nd March 1918 records. "FRONT LINE, EPEHY. The early morning of the 22nd March brought with it the same heavy mist, the hostile artillery displayed little activity and up till 9.00am the enemy made no further attack, observation of any kind was quite impossible and the movements of the enemy on our right could not be seen. During the night of the 21st/22nd March from information received it was evident that small parties of the enemy had reached the EPEHY – ST EMILIE ROAD, it was also reported that a small party about 20 strong had been seen near the advanced dressing station in the south west edge of EPEHY. About 9.00am favoured and hidden by the heavy mist the enemy infantry commenced to push into the village from the EPEHY – ST EMILIE ROAD. Three posts on the south east edge of the village were rushed from the rear and taken and the enemy continued to advance in a north eastern direction through the village. By this time the right flank of the Battalion was completely in the air and the hostile infantry were threatening the RED LINE form the east, south and west. The Commanding Officer decided to evacuate the RED LINE at 10.00am, at the same time moving Battalion HQ from FISHERS KEEP. Accordingly the decision was communicated to the 4 Companies holding the RED LINE and to the 2 Companies of the 6th LEICESTERSHIRE REGT defending the village. The evacuation of the RED LINE was carried out under very difficult circumstances as the enemy were rapidly closing in from three sides. A defensive flank was then formed along the SAULCOURT – EPEHY ROAD to link up with the 7th LEICESTERSHIRE REGT holding PEIZIERE and the YELLOW LINE, held by 2 Companies of the 6th LEICESTERSHIRE REGT and 2 Companies of the Reserve Brigade. About 10.30am the mist lifted considerably, very large forces of hostile infantry were seen advancing west along the high ground behind VILLERS FAUCON and EPEHY. It was very evident that the enemy would make a serious attempt to drive in the right flank of the YELLOW LINE. Towards 11.00am small parties of the enemy infantry began to break clear of the west side of EPEHY and to collect together in the dead ground west of the village, these parties were made to pay dearly for their enterprise, but shortly after 11.00am, the mist descended again and the enemy was able to complete his concentration in comparative safety. At 11.30am the Brigade received orders to withdraw through SAULCOURT to LONGAVESNES (ST QUENTIN A1) and to reorganise there. At the same time the enemy about a Battalion strong pushed forward from EPEHY towards the SAULCOURT – EPEHY ROAD. The Brigade slowly withdrew through the defences of SAULCOURT (BROWN LINE) held by the Reserve Brigade and details of 110th Brigade HQ to LONGAVESNES. From there the Brigade marched to AIZECOURT-LE-HAUT arriving there about 7.00pm. In the meantime the enemy’s advance was arrested by the SAULCOURT DEFENCES and the BROWN LINE west of SAULCOURT. At 4.30pm after a short but very intense shelling preparation the enemy made an attack in force on the BROWN LINE, and succeeded in capturing SAULCOURT, after this rapid progress was made by the enemy resulting in the loss of GUYENCOURT, LONGAVESNES and LIBRAMONT. During the evening the Corps received orders to withdraw to the GREEN LINE east of TEMPLEUX LA FOSSE to conform with the movements of the next Corps to the south." James died on 22nd March 1918 and is buried in Guyencourt-Saulcourt, Somme, France in plot D 10 of the churchyard extension.

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