Private James Henry Biddles, 2975

  • Batt - 1/5
  • Unit - Leicestershire Regiment
  • Section - "B" Compamy
  • Date of Birth - 1896
  • Died - 13/10/1915
  • Age - 18

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Source: Michael Doyle Their Name Liveth For Evermore: The Great War Roll of Honour for Leicestershire and Rutland.
He was the son of James Henry Biddles a brick packer, born 1876 in Loughborough, Leicestershire and his wife Sarah Biddles, born 1878 in Nottingham. James Henry was born in 1896 in Loughborough, his siblings were George Thomas, born 1899 and Thomas, born 1901, both siblings were born in Loughborough, in March 1901 the family home was at 5, Market Street, Loughborough. In April 1911 James was employed as a brickworks labourer and was residing in the family home at 32, King Street, Loughborough, together with his father, a brickworks labourer, his mother and siblings, George, a schoolboy, Thomas, a schoolboy, Beatrice Ellen, born 1904, William, born 1906, Edith, born 1908 and Alfred, born 1911, the latter four siblings were all born in Loughborough. He also had another brother, Ernest Emmanuel, born 1913 in Loughborough. His father fell in action on the 20th July 1915.
James enlisted into the Territorial Force, Regular Army on the 26th October 1914 in Loughborough, and was allotted the service number 2975. He gave his age as 18 years.
His medical examination recorded that he was 5 feet 6¾ inches in height, had a chest measurement of between 30 and 33 inches, his physical development was described as good.
He gave his next of kin as his father, James Henry Biddles, 15, King Street, Loughborough.
During his period of military service the following events of note occurred:-
Joined. At Loughborough. 26/10/14.
Posted. To 5th Bn. Leicestershire Regt. Private. 26/10/14.
Embodied Service commenced. 26/10/14.
Embarked. With 1/5th Bn. Leicestershire Regt. 26/2/15.
Landed. Havre. 27/2/15.
Killed in action. In the Field. 13/10/15.
Summary of Service.
Home Service. 26/10/14 - 27/2/15. 125 Days.
France. 28/2/15 - 13/10/15. 228 Days.
Total Service. 353 days.
He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
James’ surviving service record amounts to a total of fifteen pages and these are in fair condition and offer a reasonably accurate overall description of events that took place during his period of his military service.
On the 12th October 1915 the Battalion marched the ten miles from the village of Hesdigneul to the Redoubt in “fighting order”, with great coats rolled and strapped to their backs. They arrived at 10.00pm at Vermelles, and the following eight hours were spent packed solid in communication trenches. Each soldier carried six sandbags and every third a shovel. As you could imagine, none of them slept and the lucky ones had a drink before our artillery opened up at noon on the 13th October. The enemy artillery responded fifteen minutes later, and at 1.00pm we released chlorine gas, and disastrously for us an enemy shell shattered some containers in our frontline. At 2.00pm our troops, many wearing gas helmets went “over the top” and bayonet charged the enemy positions. Terrific machine gun fire tore into them and a shrapnel barrage added to the heavy casualties. Hours passed and furious hand to hand fighting took place and repeated bayonet charges drove the enemy back, who in turn counter-attacked. After darkness fell Lance Corporal Clayson of the 1/5th Battalion saved many lives by dragging wounded back to our trenches, and Captain Barton spent hours in No Man’s land giving morphine and water to the dying. When food and drink was brought up during the night the men had their first meal for twenty four hours, but still no sleep. The morning of the fourteenth was very misty and this became smog as the Germans continued to use shrapnel and gas shells throughout the day. It was at 8.00am on the fifteenth that the relief was completed and buses took most of our troops back to Hesdigneul. The 1/5th Battalion lost four officers, six wounded, two gassed and thirty five men killed, one hundred and thirty two wounded and twenty two gassed.
The War Diary records: 13 Oct-15 - At 6.00am Battalion in place in RESERVE trench. At 12.00 noon bombardment of enemy trench FOSSE 8 commenced. At 1.00pm smoke and gas turned on until 1.50pm. At 2.00pm assault. 5th Battalion LINCOLNSHIRE REGIMENT and 4th Battalion LEICESTERSHIRE REGIMENT advanced in lines of platoon at 50 paces distance against HOHENZOLLERN REDOUBT. 4th Battalion LINCOLNSHIRE REGIMENT attacked from 2nd line followed by the MONMOUTHSHIRE REGIMENT. REDOUBT captured but lines checked and stopped by machine gun fire from MAD POINT, MADAGASCAR, and SOUTH FACE, also heavy rifle fire FOSSE and DUMP TRENCH. First two lines as almost all Company officers became casualties. REDOUBT and half of NORTH FACE was held – LITTLE WILLIE and BIG WILLIE still in enemy hands. At 3.00pm “B” Company sent up to reinforce centre and left of REDOUBT followed by “A” and part of “D” Companies. Machine guns in position along original front line now held by “C” Company and parts of other regiments. Considerable progress made along LITTLE WILLIE by grenade party under Lieutenant C. H. F. WOLLASTON. Ground lost again owing to lack of grenades. At 5.30pm ground now held consisted of front face of REDOUBT and up to LITTLE WILLIE and point 60. Remainder of REDOUBT untenable by either side. 138th Brigade relieved gradually by 139th Brigade. 138th Brigade hold original front line trench. Many of “A” and “B” Companies still remained in the REDOUBT during the whole of next day.
On Saturday 24th July 1915 The Leicester Daily Post published the following article under the heading. “LOCAL CASUALTIES.” – Mrs. Biddles, of 15, King-street, Loughborough, has received a letter from her son, Private Biddles, of the 5th Leicester’s, stating that his father, Pte. JAMES HENRY BIDDLES, of the same battalion, has been killed in action. Private Biddles, senior, was at home on leave as recently as last Saturday, and had to return to France on Sunday night. He leaves a large family.

Leicestershire Project Findings
  • Conflict - World War I
  • Other Memorials - Loughborough Carillon, War Memorial Bell Tower
Research from Michael Doyle's Their Name Liveth For Evermore
  • Unit - Leicestershire Regiment
  • Cause of death - KILLED IN ACTION
  • Burial Commemoration - Loos Mem., France
  • Born - Loughborough, Leicestershire
  • Enlisted - 26/10/1914 in Loughborough, Leicestershire
  • Place of Residence - 6 Queen Street, Loughborough, Leicestershire, England

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