Rank: Private G/48138
Royal Fusiliers 4th Bn, 9th Brigade, 3rd Division
Date of death 28 March 1918 Age 27
James was the son of James Thomson, of Butler's Farm. This farm straddled the Parish Boundary between Peldon and Abberton and James is included on the War Memorial tablet on the wall of the Church at Peldon.
The Thomsons originally came from Scotland and left after the War, when the farm was ultimately flooded when Abberton reservoir was created. James younger brother, David married Hilda Hayhoe, a Langenhoe girl, in Saint Andrew's, Abberton 10th November 1937. At the time, he had taken over the farm as their father had died. David ultimately died from Wiel's disease.
The 4th battalion were at Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight in August 1914 just before war broke out. They were part of 9th Brigade, 3rd Division. James enlisted at Warley near Brentwood. His medal entitlement does not show the date of entry into France but it can be inferred that it was probably 1916 at the earliest.
James death coincides with the 1st Battle of Arras on the 28th March, when during the Kaiserschlact the 9th
brigade including the 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers were used to try and block the German advance.
The following are extracts from the Battalion's War Diary for this period :-
"1918 25th March Small bombing attack on one of our front line posts was driven off by "W" Company. One
enemy killed and one captured (severely wounded)
26th Our front and support lines were shelled intermittently :- 2/Lieutenant W. H. Penrose killed.
27th Relieved by the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers - Relief complete by midnight - "Y" and "Z" Companies moved back into Green Line. "Y" Company on the right; "W" in support to Green Line 500 yards behind it and
"X" Company moved back to Northumberland Lines with Head Quarters. 2/Lieutenant G. T. Nicholes wounded.
28th About 3 a.m. the Battalion was shelled out of Billets, about 8.30 a.m. "X" Company ordered up in support to Green Line - About 9 a. m. Head Quarters was ordered up to support of Green Line and Head Quarters was established in trench near Arras - Bapaume Road. About 9.00 a. m. "Z" Company under command of Captain A. J. Lord M. C. moved forward from Green Line to support of 1st system and came under command of 1st N. Fusiliers. At 9.40 "X" Company was ordered forward into Green Line to occupy position vacated by "Z" Company. By the time "Z" Company reached the support line of 1st system, the enemy was attacking it heavily , the Brigades on both flanks of the 9th Brigade had given way - Captain A. J. Lord M. C. formed a left defensive flank for the 9th Brigade - the remainder of 1st N. Fusiliers, 13th Kings and our "Z" Company held this line until about 5 p. m. When the line was no longer tenable they successfully withdrew through the Green Line and reorganized. The Green Line and NEUVILLE VITASSE SWITCH now became the front line. Before withdrawl through the Green Line one platoon of "W" had been ordered up on the right flank of Battalion and a second platoon on the left of Battalion. About 7 p. m. the enemy began to enter NEUVILLE VITASSE - 76th Brigade had apparently withdrawn on our left flank leaving it unprotected. The remaining two platoons of "W" Company were then ordered up on the left flank to try and fill the gap between our Battalion and 76th Brigade These two platoons were too late, because the enemy had already entered the village - "Z" Company although having already had a hard fight with 1st N. Fusiliers and 13th King's and having covered the withdrawl of the remaining positions of these two Battalions, was ordered to form a defensive flank west of NEUVILLE VITASSE between our Battalion and 76th Infantry Brigade - this Company formed the flank in a line of shell holes and closed the gap made on our left by the withdrawal to the Green Line of the 76th Brigade.
2/Lieutenant L. W. LAMBERT missing believed killed, Lieutenant J. E. FRENCH M. C. wounded Lieutenant A.
S. STEPHENS, 2/Lieutenants W. ECKLEY, N. O. SIDDELEY and H. W. BAKER wounded."
The other ranks casualties are not mentioned but must have been heavy. One of those lost was James, whose body was never found.
He earned the 1914-1920 War Medal and the 1914-1919 Victory Medal
James is commemorated on the Memorial in Peldon Church and on Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France
CWGC - Arras Memorial
The excerpts from the War Diaries have kindly been provided by the Royal Fusiliers Museum & Archives at H. M. Tower of London.
February 2021 adapted for Museum website from Ted Sparrow's If You Shed a Tear Part 3 and his Memorial Profile. The original Memorial Profile is THOMSON James.pdf