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Born: c1892, Eccleshill
Died: 26 June 1916
Buried: Ville-sur-Ancre Communal Cemetery
Address: 86 Victoria Road, Eccleshill
Parents: James and Mary Hannah, nee Jowett
Siblings: William, Scalina (dec)
Occupation: Bootmaker (1911)
Organisations/clubs: East Bradford Cycle Club; Eccleshill Congregational Sunday School
Rank: Sapper
Rolls of Honour: Eccleshill, Park & St Luke’s
Regiment: Royal Engineers
James Wood
James Wood was born in Eccleshill c1892, the son of James and Mary Hannah Wood. His father was chapel keeper at Eccleshill Congregational Chapel and the family lived at 2 Westgate for a while before moving to 86 Victoria Road. James had a brother William who was six years older, and a younger sister Scalina who died between 1901 and 1911. According to the 1911 census, James was a bootmaker. And from his obituary we learn he was a sporty young man: “Before joining the army he was very fond of athletics and won the club championship at the Eccleshill Congregational Gymnasium for the years 1911 and 1914 and the Yorkshire championships at Leeds for the high jump in the year 1912. “Since donning khaki he has taken part in the sports of the regiment and carried off three money prizes in the jumping contests, clearing the bar at 5ft 1½in. “Sapper Wood was also a member of the Congregational Swimming Club and was included in the list of prize winners. He was a member of the East Bradford Cycling Club.” James enlisted in the Royal Engineers in December 1914 and was in a training camp at Wendover. Writing to a friend from there in July 1915 he revealed that
“quite a number of men in my regiment have had their names put down as munition workers but no further steps have yet been taken. They realise that the war is going to be won as much in the workshop as in the field.” It would seem James was not one of them because in November of 1915 he wrote about the death of a fellow Sunday School member and it is clear that James had already seen action in the Battle of Loos. “It seems marvellous,” he wrote, “how anybody could live through a time like that for it could hardly be called warfare but simply murder.” And he expanded on his experiences in another letter the following month. He had seen a group of German prisoners and wrote: “There were all sort and conditions for some were old and others were very young, and while some did not seem to mind being captured others felt their position acutely. “They all looked as if they had been through the mill. But there were worse
sights for us to see when we got into some trenches we have captured. “The dead and dying were lying about, some with their legs blown off and others with terrible injuries that were too awful to describe. There were heaps of souvenirs lying about but there was no time to bother with them. “While we were altering the captured trenches, we were shelled and sniped but came out of the ordeal very well. “My impressions of being in the first line trenches is that the men are safer there than they are in the trenches behind for the support trenches are far more heavily shelled than those at the front. “It is also a very risky business going to and leaving the trenches for the Germans make it very ‘hot’. So far, however, we have been very lucky with all our work. “The trenches are now much better than formerly. Whereas we got wet through before we can now come out dry shod.”
James wrote again in January to thank the Congregational Sunday School for sending him a parcel and described his Christmas: “We had a fine time on Christmas Day for our dinner consisted of goose and plum pudding which was supplied by the company out of the funds we had left over in England. “We had the whole day off but there was no truce where we were. On one occasion we were engaged in the construction of earthworks when we got vigorously shelled. “I and my comrade were working quite near to where one of the shells dropped, the nearest that so far had come to me while working under cover. “There were six shells in all, each one coming nearer, until the last one. We had such a narrow escape and one naturally asks, in view of the fact that they must have been able to see us, why did they alter the direction? “It was fortunate for us that they did. If they had not done so you can guess what would have happened.” James’s luck finally ran out on 26 June 1916 in the preparations for the ‘Big Push’ on the Somme. We do not know the exact circumstances of his death, aged 24, which the Shipley Times & Express noted “is greatly regretted.”
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