James was Arthur Bell’s cousin. His father, John Andrew Bell was Arthur’s father’s elder brother. James’ mother, Sarah Ellen had been born in Glasgow.
Prior to hostilities, James had been a stock broker’s clerk for Mr A. W. Walton and lived at 39 Mawson Street, Chorlton on Medlock, just south of Manchester city centre. He had been born in Summer of 1892.
James enlisted on 3rd September 1914 (SWB Roll) and is recorded in the Book of Honour for the 16th Battalion – the 1st City Battalion – of the Manchester Regiment as XIII Platoon, D Company. His training was very similar to Arthur’s and he also entered France on 8th November 1915. As part of 90th Brigade, the 16th Battalion followed similar exploits and actions in the Somme – notably alongside Arthur Bell in Montauban Alley on the 1st-2nd July 1916. See The Big Push – Montauban
The 16th Battalion generally swapped duties in the Maricourt trenches and billets in Suzanne during the first half of 1916. Lieutenant Nash commanded XVI Platoon of 16th Battalion. He kept a detailed diary of events that was edited and published by his son in 1991 as The Diary of an Unprofessional Soldier: T. A. M. Nash . This is an excellent resource, illustrating the daily routine of trench life. One section deals with the transit of rations from the cookhouse to the front. It appears to identify Frederick, who may have transferred to XVI Platoon – still D Company at some stage:-
“We were able to send up hot food…carried up to the trenches in dixies by the platoon ration carriers…whose sole duty was to get hot food up to their mates in the trenches…These ration carriers were the bravest men in the Battalion…consistently shelled but never failed to feed their platoons. Wallace and Bell carried rations for my platoon.”
James was wounded in the back and legs during the Montauban assault, quite possibly from enfilade fire from the machine gun post at The Warren. He presumably returned home to hospital. Records identify the family home as 178 Hyde Road, Ardwick.
At some stage after his recuperation the SWB roll show that James joined the 69th Training Reserve Battalion with a second Regiment Service Number – 25763. The 69th had originally been denoted as the 25th (Reserve) Battalion. Formed in September 1915 – as the depot companies of the 16th, 17th & 18th Battalions (90th Brigade) – the 25th was based in Altcar, near Southport, in May 1916. It was redesignated as the 69th Training Reserve Battalion of 16th Reserve Brigade on 1st September 1916.*
James was discharged unfit for duty, due to his wounds, on 25th April 1917. The same as his cousin Arthur Bell, James received a Silver War Badge and the three service medals, Pip, Squeak and Wilfred About – The Steel Helmet.
James married Maggie McLean at St. Thomas, Ardwick on 26th June 1918 when he was living at 42 Brunswick Street. Maggie’s father is noted as named James Bell McLean. They lived at 14 Fairhurst Street. James’ brother, Leonard Richard, witnessed the vows.
I only just discovered this relative and hope to find out more. Thanks to Mack of The Manchester Regiment Group Forum for helping with some key information and watch this post, but I’ve made a mental note not to follow this path too far….