Name: James Brown
1878 - 12th March 1915
Place of Birth: Arlesey
Occupation: Straw Cutter
Division: 2nd Battalion
Regiment: Bedfordshire Regiment
Buried: Panel 10 and 11, Le Touret Memorial, Pas De Calais, France
Person(s) placing the cross on behalf of the Arlesey Remembers You Project: Keith & Sue Hirst
James was born in Arlesey in 1877, the oldest son of James and Sophia Brown of Straw Street, Arlesey. James Snr was a Straw Dealer. James had a younger brother, George, who was born in 1882, and a younger sister, Annie, who was born in 1884.
James was attested into the Army on October 23rd 1894 at the age of 17 years and 2 months. At the time he was living in Straw Street, Arlesey and was employed as a labourer. He was 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighed 114 lbs.; he had a fresh complexion with brown eyes and light brown hair. He attended annual training sessions between 1895 and 1899 and enlisted in the militia reserves as a Private on 4th June 1897. He joined the Special Service Section for service abroad with the Bedfordshire regiment on 19th May 1899. He gave his next of kin as his father, James.
James served in the South African War. The 2nd Battalion were at Roberts Heights near Pretoria in South Africa when WW1 started. They were immediately recalled to England, landing at Southampton on 19th September 1914. After refitting for European warfare they left Southampton at 8am on 5th October 1914 on board the SS Winifredian, landing in Zeebrugge at 6.30am on 7th October. They moved almost 40 miles south in order to meet the rest of the Army and on the Ypres-Menin road on October 18th they met the Germany Army for the first time, in a brief skirmish. The Battalion formed part of the “Immortal” 7th division of the British Army. They were engaged in the Battle of Neuve Chappelle in March 1915. The war diary of the 2nd Battalion gives details of this battle:
10 Mar 1915 [The Battle of Neuve Chapelle] - near Neuve-Chapelle 2.30 A.M., Marched off for position of assembly. 5 A.M., reached position of assembly and got into trenches, about Square .21.b.N.E., During the operations the Bn. was in Bde. Reserve on the right and in rear of the 2nd Bn. Rl.Scots Fusiliers. 10.30 A.M., Left the position of assembly and advanced to second position lining road in M.28.d. Companies came under shellfire and there were some casualties. Remained in this position till 4.20 P.M. 4.30 P.M., Advanced through old British & German trenches in support of 2/R.S.F., on right flank. Subjected to shell and rifle fire. The Bn. reached a position about M.36.a.N.W. and M.29.d.S.E. and entrenched during the night. Lieut.H.O.D.WILKINS led a strong patrol to the high trees about road junction near M.36.a.N.W. and was severely wounded. 1 man was killed. It was reported that the enemy were not very strong but this was not confirmed. Line held by 2nd Battn Bedf. R. as handed over to 7th Rgt. Canadian Div: 2 March 1915. Lieut.W.B.Carslake [William Bampfield CARSLAKE] and Lieut.R.S.St.G.Mayne [Robert Sedborough St. George MAYNE], wounded, Other Ranks, 7 killed 41 wounded, 9 missing.
11 Mar 1915 The Battalion remained in this position all day. Some casualties occurred from high explosive shrapnel from S. also rifle fire from E., S. & W. No.9390 Pte A Hearne [Arthur HEARN] did very good work carrying messages back to Bde. H.Q., on several occasions. He was at last wounded near Bn. H.Q. trench, he had to pass through belts of shrapnel fire also heavy rifle fire. The Northamptons attempted to assault the houses to their front but were met with a very heavy rifle & machine gun fire & had to desist. It was this that kept the Bn. held to the ground. Lieut.F.G.C.Ashmead-Bartlett [Francis George Coningsby ASHMEAD-BARTLETT] wounded, 6 O.Ranks killed, 23 wounded, 2 missing.
12 Mar 1915 During the night 11/12, C & D Coys. dug trenches at right angles to the original ones i.e. facing S., D Coy. closed up. The salient opposite the high trees was occupied by a Company of the R.S.F., who had been brought from the right on the line being readjusted. The salient was rushed by the Germans early in the morning of 12th March. The morning till about noon was decidedly misty. 7 A.M. Major W.H.Denne [William Henry DENNE, DSO] prepared to make a counter attack on the captured trench with part of A.Coy. Major Denne [William Henry DENNE, DSO] was severely wounded. Captain C.B.Cumberlege [Cleland Bulstrode CUMBERLEDGE] & Captain J.H.G.Baird [James Hozier Gardiner BAIRD, MC] commenced a counter attack but the whole party was killed or wounded. Captain Baird [James Hozier Gardiner BAIRD, MC] and 4 men reached the trench one man was killed and the other 3 wounded*. Report of this operation was received at Bn. H.Q., at 7.35 A.M. At about the same time it was noticed that the R.S.F., were suffering severely from our own shellfire. The Adjt. was sent to report this to Bde. H.Q. The Brigadier directed that the trench should be re-taken. Captain C.C.Foss D.S.O. [Charles Calverley FOSS, VC, DSO], with 8 men of Bedfordshire Grenade Section advanced along A.Coy. trench, behind the Northampton Trench, followed by a Platoon of H Coy. to make good the trench and attacked the Germans. These, after one or two grenades had been thrown, held up their hands and were captured, 1 Officer & 48 Germans surrendered of whom 14 were wounded. A.Coy. was sent forward to consolidate the position won. Part of a Platoon of B.Coy. escorted the prisoners back. Names of Grenade Section: - No.9078 Pte W.EADE. No.6215 Pte S.Scrivener [wounded, then killed later] No.9822 Sgt W.Peggs No.7270 Pte P.Cogan [Killed later] No.6477 Pte W.Smith No.9878 Pte G.Freshwater No.5803 Pte J.Lovett No.9797 Pte H.Barnett No.16441 Pte F.Brown. Two machine guns were put in position in captured salient after dark. Casualties: - Major W.H.Denne [William Henry DENNE, DSO] wounded Captain C.B.Cumberlege [Cleland Bulstrode CUMBERLEDGE] wounded Captain J.H.G.Baird [James Hozier Gardiner BAIRD, MC] wounded Lieut.C.A.S.Morris [Charles Alan Smith MORRIS] wounded Other ranks: - 15 killed, 66 wounded, 5 missing.
James was killed in the big battle at Neuve Chapelle on 12th March 1915, along with another Arlesey soldier, Pte Tom Richards. He is remembered with honour at Le Touret Memorial in Pas de Calais, France. The Le Touret Memorial commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers who died in this region of the Western Front from October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in September 1915, and who have no grave.