Serjeant 18994 James Handley, MM

Died of Wounds on Monday, 19th August 1918, age 21.
Buried in Grave V. D. 64. at Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France.

1st Bn., King's Own Scottish Borderers. 87th Brigade of 29th Division.
Formerly 2101 Highland Light Infantry.

Son of Mrs E. Handley, of 4, Albion Place, Eagle Lane, New Rd., Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Darlaston, Enlisted: Darlaston, Resident: Darlaston.

First landed Balkans, 25th May 1915.
Medal entitlement: Military Medal, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the St. Luke's Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/20354/

Genealogical Data

Birth of James Handley registered March quarter 1897 in Wolverhampton.

1901 Census
4 Eldon Street, Darlaston, Staffs.
John Handley (40, Corporation Scavenger, born Darlaston), his wife Emma (39, born Darlaston), and their 4 children: Susannah (16, born Darlaston), Rosehannah (9, born Darlaston), William (6, born Darlaston), and James (4, born Darlaston).

1911 Census
79 Darlington Street, King's Hill, Wednesbury, Staffs.
John Handley (52, Scavenger, born Darlaston), his wife Emma (51, Bolt Screwer, born Darlaston), and their 4 children: Rose (19, Nut Screwer, born Darlaston), John W. (16, Heater for Blacksmith, born Darlaston), James H. (15, Heater for Blacksmith, born Darlaston), Thomas (9, born Darlaston), and Joseph (7, born Darlaston).

Personal Data

There is no real trace of any Tipton connection for James Handley, other than his mother living there at time CWGC recording their additional data in about 1919.

Tipton Council minutes.
At the Tipton Council meeting of 29th July 1919, the Military Medal was presented in Council to Mrs E. Handley, mother of the late Sgt. James Handley.

After James's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £10/7/2d (10 pounds, 7 shillings and 2 pence); this was paid to his mother and sole legatee, Emma, in October 1918. His War Gratuity was £20/0/0d (20 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his mother in January 1920. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that James had enlisted in approximately January 1915.

Action resulting in his death

After the initial advances in August 1918, the Outtersteene Ridge was the last remaining piece of high ground still held by the Germans in the area of Northern France to the west of Armentieres (8 miles west). The ridge overlooked the Flanders Plain, and needed to be taken to assist further Allied progress. On 18 August, 9th (Scottish) Division attacked Hoogenacker Spur (of the Outtersteene Ridge), with 87th Brigade (29th Division) co-operating on their right; this included the 1st King’s Own Scottish Borderers (1/KOSB).

Despite some enemy resistance, the attack was a success. In many cases, troops advanced beyond the line of their objectives. Consolidation began during the early afternoon, with units reported to be entering Outtersteene at 12.48 p.m. The 1/KOSB attacked at 11 a.m. and were upon the enemy before they were aware, their objectives were easily achieved, but they did suffer from heavy German artillery fire in the afternoon and evening. Counter-attacks were anticipated, but did not materialise, being dispersed by our artillery fire.

On 19th August, the village of Meteren was captured by the 9th (Scottish) Division. The 1/KOSB held their newly-captured positions, but were under German artillery fire during the afternoon and the evening. The new positions remained secure.

1/KOSB had 24 men killed in action on 18th August (per CWGC), and the War Diary shows over 100 wounded. On the 19th August, 1/KOSB had 5 Other Ranks killed in action and a further 2 men died of wounds. As James Handley died of wounds on 19th August at St. Omer, it is more likely that he was wounded on the 18th August.

It is also a possibility that James was wounded before the attack on 18th August. On the 16th August, the 1/KOSB carried out a trench raid which resulted in casualties, and were also under German artillery fire in the early morning. The War Diary reported that 4 men were killed and 5 wounded on that day.

For anyone requiring further detail of the 18th and 19th August for the 1/KOSB, their War Diary entry follows.

1st King’s Own Scottish Borderers War Diary, 18th August 1918
Battalion participated in an attack on the HOEGENACKER RIDGE, the Ridge on the Battalion front being the objective with the capture of the village of OUTTERSTEENE as an alternative and possible objective. Jumping off point was the positions the Battalion were already located in except in the case of ‘A’ Company who moved at 1 a.m. to AFRICAN TRENCH in rear of 6th K.O.S.B. (9th Division) and in support to them. Battalion attacked in conjunction with 6th K.O.S.B. on the LEFT and 2/South Wales Borderers on the RIGHT. There was no artillery preparation.
Promptly at 11 a.m. the barrage fell and the Battalion went over the top as one man. We were on the enemy before they realised that an attack was taking place and their surprise and resulting confusion rendered progress easy. The attack was never even momentarily held up, the isolated Machine Gun posts which might put up resistance being shelled and effectively dealt with.
By 11.40 a.m the RIDGE was in our hands and the attack on OUTTERSTEENE progressing satisfactorily. At 1.30 p.m. the village of OUTTERSTEENE had been captured and completely cleared of the enemy. Consolidation was commenced forthwith on a line several hundred yards in front of the village. Very little resistance was experienced during the whole progress of the attack.
About 3 p.m. our new positions were heavily shelled. Enemy appeared to be massing for a counter-attack and we sent up the S.O.S. The counter-attack did not develop, the enemy troops being dispersed by our artillery fire. Enemy continued to bombard our line heavily, and at 9 p.m. the S.O.S. was again sent up but no counter-attack was made.
Prisoners and material captured by this Battalion:-
Prisoners (including several officers: 300
Machine Guns: 60
Trench Mortars: 2
Battalions Casualties: 2 Officers and 15 Other Ranks killed, 3 Officers and 105 Other Ranks wounded. 6 Other Ranks Missing.

1st King’s Own Scottish Borderers War Diary, 19th August 1918
Village, Ridge and Supports heavily shelled the early morning. About 11 a.m. enemy were again seen massing for a counter-attack which did not materialise on account of a very effective barrage put down by our artillery.
About 5 p.m. the 86th Brigade attacked on our right. Enemy replied by putting down a heavy barrage all along the Ridge. Shelling slackened considerably about 6 p.m. Situation much quieter towards night.
Battalion relieved by 1st Border Regiment and went into Reserve in the old front line.
4 Other Ranks killed, 5 Other Ranks wounded.

Newspaper Cuttings

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Military Medal to the undermentioned Non-Commissioned Officers and Men: -
18994 Cpl. J. Handley, K.O.S.B. (Wednesbury).

Birmingham Daily Post 20th September 1918
King's Own Scottish Borderers, Handley, 18994, Sergt., M.M., J., (Tipton).