James Widdows, Private 14705, 17th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
Killed in action 13th June 1916 in France & Flanders, aged 34
James Widdows was born on 16 May 1882 in Sutton, Macclesfield, the son of Alice and James Widdows, a silk weaver.
James had an older brother, Herbert (born 1876), a younger sister Mary Ann (born 1884) and younger brothers Joseph (born 1888) and Harold (born 1891).
James enrolled at London Road School on 19th March 1889, when the family was living at 7 Union Street.
At the time of the 1891 census, young James was visiting Elizabeth and Albert Turner, a butcher, at 938 Stockport Road, Rusholme, Lancashire, while the rest of his family was still at 7 Union Street, Macclesfield.
In 1901 James was living with his widowed father and siblings at 10 Lowe Street, and on 17th August, 1902 at the age of 20, James married 19 year old Ann Stubbs at St. Peter’s Church, Macclesfield. Both James and Ann were silk weavers living at 10 Richmond Hill.
By 1911 James and Ann had 3 children, Alice born in 1904, James born in 1907 and Mary born in 1909. The family had moved to a four roomed house at 21 Snow Hill, and James was still employed as a silk weaver. Another child, Annie, was born in 1913 and Eliza followed in 1915.
James enlisted at Macclesfield and after his initial basic training was drafted to France with the British Expeditionary Force. James was killed in action on 13th June 1916, at the age of 34 years.
The death of Private Widdows was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 23 June 1916:
MACCLESFIELD MAN KILLED – FIVE YOUNG CHILDREN FATHERLESS
Mrs James Widdows, of 46 Copper St, Macclesfield, received an official notification on Wednesday afternoon… that her husband, Private James Widdows, 17th Lancashire Fusiliers, was killed in action in France on the 13th inst… five young children are left fatherless, and the greatest sympathy is felt for Mrs Widdows…
The deceased soldier was a native of Macclesfield, being the son of the late Mr James Widdows of Lowe St. His parents have been dead some time. He was educated at St George’s School… and was 34 years of age. After leaving school he worked as a handloom weaver with his father, and for five years prior to the outbreak of war had been employed in a similar capacity at the mill of the Macclesfield Silk Manufacturing Society, London Road.
Private Widdows, who had had no previous military experience, joined the Lancashire Fusiliers in January 1915, and remained in training in England for twelve months. He was drafted to France from Salisbury Plain last January and since then had spent most of his time in the trenches. The deceased had written some cheery letters to his wife, who received the last communication from him a few days before the news of his death arrived. Mr and Mrs Widdows were attendants at the City Mission in Mill Street.
Three of his four brothers are serving in the Army, one being now in France.
James’ widow later moved to 17 Knight Street, Macclesfield.
Private James Widdows is buried in Grave Ref III. L. 8. at St Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L’Avoue, Pas de Calais, France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private James Widdows, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
Brother of Joseph Widdows, who served as Private 291446 with the Cheshire Regt; and Harold James Widdows, who served as Private 240967 with the Bedfordshire Regiment (formerly Private 1860 with the 7th Cheshire Regiment), was treated at Maudsley Hospital, Camberwell, London, and was invalided out of the Army in August 1918. Both survived the war.
Thanks to Sue, wife of the great grandson of James Widdows, for her assistance in compiling this information.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
National School Admission Registers & Log-Books 1870-1914: London Road School, Macclesfield
Census (England & Wales): 1891, 1901, 1911
Cheshire Parish Marriage Registers: St Peter’s Church, Macclesfield
WWI British Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects
WWI British Army Medal Rolls Index Cards
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
Macclesfield Times: 23 June 1916