Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

James Pearcey

James Pearcey :

James Pearcey : (L to R) British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

James was born in Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire. We don't know anything about his early life or family. By 1914 he had moved to nearby Dukinfield, which was then in Cheshire.

The First World War broke out on the 4th August that year, and within two weeks James had joined the Manchester Regiment. He was given the service number 3438 and assigned to the 11th Battalion. This was a new unit being formed by men who had enlisted 'for the duration of the war'.

The 11th Battalion trained at the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ashton, and then moved to Belton Park near Grantham in Lincolnshire. By April 1915 they had moved to an area of Surrey near the villages of Witley and Frensham. After a final inspection they set sail for Gallipoli on the 30th June.

James and the 11th Battalion took part in the landing at Suvla Bay which began on the 6th August. This was intended to support the British forces already fighting at Cape Helles in Gallipoli by diverting Turkish soldiers to deal with this new threat.

The landings did not go well. Inexperienced soldiers were coming ashore in darkness and under Turkish fire. This was made worse by poor leadership, meaning that the British suffered many casualties. After several days they were still unable to capture the high ground from the Turks.

James endured up to 4 months of stifling heat, lack of water and poor health. The British were not able to advance; instead they held their trenches under heavy shell and rifle fire. The campaign had been a failure and the 11th Battalion was evacuated to Egypt in mid December. They were sent to the Western Front in France during July 1916.

At some point James was posted to the 17th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. We don't know when this took place. The 17th Battalion arrived in France in November 1915 and had been involved in the Somme Offensive since it began on the 1st July 1916. The 11th Battalion first fought in this offensive in mid September.

We also don't know why James was transferred. It could have been because he was wounded, then sent to the 17th Battalion after he recovered. He could also have been transferred in order to replace casualties in the 17th Battalion.

In 1917 the 17th Battalion served in the Arras area until the end of May and then moved north to Poperinghe in Belgium.

The 17th Battalion took part in the first day of the Passchendaele Offensive on the 31st July. The battalion attacked towards Polygon Wood that morning. After this they served turns in the trenches and in the rear for the rest of the Offensive, which ended in early November. They stayed in Belgium until the 5th January 1918.

Back in France, the 17th Battalion served near Harbonnieres, Moyencourt and Aurigny Rouy before a final tour near St Quentin during March. The Germans launched a massive attack, called the Spring Offensive, on the 21st March. This was aimed at winning the war before too many American troops could arrive to fight them. The 17th Battalion was in the rear near Savy on this day; they were quickly mobilised and moved to the front near Etreillers.

The Germans attacked during the afternoon of the 22nd and soon overwhelmed the battalion. The survivors were forced to withdraw to Esmery Hallon. They continued to retreat until the 27th, when they had reached Folies. They were withdrawn from the front line after this.

This fighting had cost the battalion around 45 killed, over 100 wounded and 310 missing, who were mostly either dead or captured. This was well over half the battalion. One of the men who died was James. He had been killed in action on the 22nd March. We don't know how old he was.

After the war James' grave could not be found so his name is one of the 14,656 listed on the Pozieres Memorial in France. James is on Panel 64 to 67.

James' medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in April 1988. As well as his British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal, James was also awarded the 1914-15 Star for his Army service.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf

Telephone: 0161 342 5480
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Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Army Museums Ogilby Trust logo
Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council