|Six years after joining up, when William was just twenty three, the world became engaged in what was
known, optimistically at the time, as the 'War to end all Wars'. Private James was sent to play his part and,
some years later, wrote this brief account.
“My Short Experience of Fighting in France.” William Alfred James
'Left Southampton Dock with the 7th Division on Oct 5th (1914) on the transport Turcoman. Landed at
Zeebrugge on Oct 8th after being at sea for 3 days... Heavy fighting just on the borders of Ghent. The
Germans drove us out of Ghent the same night we had a long night march to Somerghem... Brought down
enemy aeroplane on the 13th. Marched on to Ypres on the 15th. I mounted enemy scout outpost during night
& bagged 2 more scouts.
Rested in trenches on 16th... Expected attack from Von Gluck's army but he retired about 3 miles. On 17th
and 18th attacked all round at night on outpost duty at Menin. On 19th morning we moved off a few fields
forward & entrenched again for the night of 19th. Terrible fighting & bombardment by Germans night & day.
A maxim gun only 50 yards off waiting for us to put our heads up but we finally charged and captured the
gun. Only 22 men and 2 officers were left. My next pal was shot in the head by shrapnel. The shell dropped in
the trench and knocked all the roof off and buried us. While helping to carry my pal (Stevens) back, the
Germans attacked and bullets fell like nails but I got through without a scratch... On the 23rd we help the
South Wales Borderers. Germans broke through & our guns were in danger. We were caught under enemy's
shell fire. Heaps of wounded, terrible slaughters. On the 24th, fell back to rest in trenches until about 3.30 in
the afternoon when we were called out to reinforce our troops.
About 2000 Germans had broken through and our company, no. 4, had to drive them back. Out of 225, only
120 were left. We also lost 5 officers out of 6. It was estimated by General Paul of the French Army that we
drove 2000 Germans back. We was mentioned in dispatches for it and praised by General French. On 26th we
was in our dugouts but was shelled all day. Out all night on the 27th, poured with rain all night. The Germans
broke through but we captured them by scores. We were all fed up and had to retire. Lost about 200 men
doing so.... The roll of company was called and only 82 men was left. On the 29th was attacked and we were
drove back by about 4000 Germans but we finally charged and lost 3 parts of the Battalion but we got them
back again. I had my bayonet blow off my rifle in the charge. We went in billets but on the morning of the
30th we again advanced in reserve. This is where I got my wound while in those trenches & was took to
hospital at Boulogne.'
|"I say nothing of my war service except that, with many others from this Borough, I did my little bit. I was
fortunate, however that, unlike some of my old comrades from Godmanchester, I was able to come back. It is
because I have fought and suffered for my country that I feel a personal pride in this town of my birth, and
am willing to give to it whatever personal service I can offer."
W A JAMES
|Pte W. James
Gren Gds No 4 Coy
|In Flanders fields
the poppies blow
Between the crosses,
row on row,
That mark our place;
and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing,
amid the guns below.
|This website tells the story of
my Grandfather, William Alfred
James, of Godmanchester,
1891 - 1966
|William Alfred James - A Godmanchester Man