James Birtles, Private 10489, 8th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 9th April 1916 in Mesopotamia (Iraq), aged 46
James Birtles was born in March 1870 at Congleton, the son of Martha Birtles, a silk piecer. In 1871, eleven-month-old James was living at 66 West Street, Congleton, with his widowed grandmother Ellen Birtles, his mother and several other relatives. By 1881 the family had moved to 28 John Street, Congleton.
James was educated at Wragg Street School, Congleton, and was connected with the Chapel.
James joined the Cheshire Regiment at Chester on a short service agreement on 22nd August 1890, actively serving for 7 years followed by 5 years in the reserves. He was allocated service number 3045. In his records, he stated that he was employed as a silk spinner and was already serving in the 4th (Militia) Cheshire Regiment. He was described as 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighing 125 pounds with a 33 inch chest, fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He also had a brown mark on his right elbow.
On census night of 5th April 1891, James was stationed at Salford Barracks, Regent Road with his regiment. He served with the 1st Cheshire Regiment at Madras, Pallavaram and Secunderabad in India from 11th December 1891 until 21st January 1898, and was transferred to the Army reserve on 23rd June 1898.
The following year, on 2nd April 1899, James married Mary Ann Dale at Christ Church, Wharton, Cheshire. In 1901, James and Mary were living at 4 King Street, Buglawton; James was employed as a silk spinner and his wife was a cotton velvet cutter. By 1911 the couple had moved to 6 Droylsden Road, Newton Heath, and James had found employment as a labourer for a railway company.
Prior to the outbreak of the war James and Mary moved to Macclesfield, where James was employed by Mr Thomas Hewitt, Waterside, Macclesfield as a fustian cutter.
James re-enlisted in Macclesfield on 18th August 1914, joining the 8th Cheshire Regiment, and was drafted to the Dardanelles with his battalion on 26th June 1915. Having survived the Dardanelles, from here he was posted with his battalion to Egypt. The 8th Cheshire Regiment were part of the 13th Division and on the 9th April made an attack on Sannaiyat. In this attack, on reaching the Turkish trenches they met fierce opposition and casualties were high – seven men killed, fifty wounded and sixty-four missing. James was one of those missing men and was assumed to have died during that attack.
His death was reported in the Macclesfield Times of 30th November 1917:
PRESUMED DEAD – FIGHTING AT FORTY-EIGHT
Mrs Birtles, 61 Waterside, has been notified that the War Office have now presumed the death of her husband, Pte James Birtles, Ches. Regt., who was reported missing on April 9th 1916. Pte Birtles was born in Congleton forty-eight years ago… He came to reside in Macclesfield just prior to the outbreak of war… Pte Birtles was reported missing whilst with the force which went to Kut to relieve General Townshend.
Private James Birtles has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel Ref. 14 and 62 of the Basra Memorial, Iraq. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private James Birtles, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.