For King and Country

Person Details

WEST, James Alfred

Memorials

Name: Cookham School Lane, Cookham
NIWM Ref: 7925
RBWM Ref: WM151

Person Details

Date of birth: 07/04/1895
Place of birth: Maidenhead
Gender: Male
Date of death: 28/09/1915
Place of death: Vermelles, Loos
Manner of death: Killed in action
Age at death: 20
CWGC Ref: 736989
TWGPP Ref: 2517493
Address: 7 Hamfield Cottages Lower Road Cookham Rise
Address: 2 Furze Road Furze Platt Maidenhead

Military details

Military Organisation: Army
Military Unit/Group: 1st Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment
Rank: Private
Service Number: 9795

Relatives

Father Jonathan Alfred WEST
Mother Elizabeth Mercy WEST
Sister Amelia May Ida WEST
Sister Dorothy Edith WEST
Sister Gertrude May WEST
Sister Linda Dora Grace WEST
Brother Cecil Norman WEST
Brother Sydney Frank WEST

Additional information

James Alfred West was born on 7th April 1895. In 1911 at the age 16, he was living in Hamfield Cottages, probably no. 7 where his parents were living in 1915. When at school at Cookham Rise Secondary School, his address was at 2, Furze Road, Furze Platt. His father was Cookham born Jonathan Alfred West and his mother was Elizabeth Mercy who was from Hampshire. There were seven siblings, born between 1890 and 1908 with James the eldest boy. He went to North Town, Maidenhead Primary School and at Cookham Rise Secondary School, leaving there on 29th March 1908, probably at the end of the Spring term before his fourteenth birthday. He then followed his father as a domestic gardener, presumably to one of the large houses in Cookham.
James enlisted as a private in the 1st Battalion, the Royal Berkshire Regiment and probably one of the early volunteer recruits. The Battalion landed at Rouen in France on 14h August 1914, less than two weeks after the outbreak of hostilities. By early September the battalion was near Bethune, close to the Front line, just inside the French border. On 27th September their Commanding Officer was warned of an impending attack which the battalion would need to support, not in the attack itself but to take advantage of opportunities which might arise. That evening there was dinner in the Officers Mess with the Divisional band playing in the garden after dinner. Maybe there was a change of orders because by 2.30 am the battalion was ordered to prepare for an attack at Vermelles, despite the second in command telling divisional HQ that the men were scattered in different places and not ready. The assault that followed was very tough, resulting in 288 casualties. The second in command, Col. Radford DSO was among those killed and it is assumed that James West was among the 17 other ranks killed that day. There were 143 other ranks missing and 115 wounded. 14 Officers, in addition to Col. Radford, were killed, wounded or missing. James's body was not found and he is commemorated at the Loos Memorial in France, Panel 93 - 95.

Resources

Summary: Regimental Battle Report on day of death - too big to cut and paste in its entirety.
Location: Vermelles. 12.30 am. Battalion collected from fatigues and working parties in order to attack FOSSE No 8 at 2.30am. Capt Radford DSO went to the Brigade HQ at the VII Divisional Dugouts to explain that the battalion were scattered on fatigues and that the position to be attacked and the approaches were strange to the officers. Personal message from General Gough (1st Corps) explained that owing to the situation the attack was imperative. Coys moved in file to the rendezvous A. B. C. D. HQ MGs. Here the battalion formed up in Company Column and advanced towards the objective 800 yards away. During the advance two lines of captured German trenches and two lines of barbed wire had to be crossed - these were manned by British troops. Owing to the bright moonlight the enemy saw us advancing when we were 400 yards from our objective (FOSSE 8): they put up "very" lights and kept up a continuous rifle fire on us from our right front - this grew heavier as we got nearer. The Battalion advanced steadily A, B and part of C Coy going straight for the FOSSE. They were unable owing to the heavy fire from the enemy who by this time were manning the top of the FOSSE to gain the slag heap, being checked about 70 yards from it. D and part of C Coy meanwhile advanced and manned the front British trench. During this time 2nd Lieut A B Turner single handed bombed down a German communication trench driving the enemy before him a distance of over 150 yards. During the whole of this period the Germans were throwing bombs at 2/Lt Turner. While performing this very gallant act he was mortally wounded. By this time it was known that the CO Major Bird was wounded and Capt Radford DSO 2nd in command was killed. In consequence the command devolved on Capt C W Frizzell who was in command of the rear company D: also by this time Colonel Carter the Brigadier was up in the first trench. Seeing that the first two companies were checked Colonel Carter gave Captain Frizzell the order to charg
Summary: Loos Memorial

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