Private 44500 James Heath

Killed in Action on Friday, 5th April 1918, age 18.
Commemorated on Bay 3 and 4 of Arras Memorial, Pas De Calais, France.

8th Bn., Lincolnshire Regiment. 63rd Brigade of 37th Division.
Formerly 3580 Lincolnshire Regiment.

Son of Mr James and Mrs Eliza Heath, of 130 Dudley Port, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Wolverhampton, Enlisted: Wolverhampton, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/786072/

Genealogical Data

Birth of James William Heath registered March quarter 1900 at Dudley.

1901 Census
27 Tipton Road, Tividale, Rowley Regis, Staffs.
James Heath (46, Coal Miner - Hewer, born Gloucester), his wife Eliza A. (44, born Tipton), and their 7 children: John (22, Stoker of Stationary Engine, born Tipton), Ada (19, Housemaid, born Tipton), Eliza (13, born Tipton), Tom (11, born West Bromwich), Lilly (6, born Tipton), and James (1, born Rowley Regis).

1911 Census
6 Tividale Street, Tipton, Staffs.
James Heath (56, General Labourer, born Gloucester), his wife Eliza (54, born Tipton), and 5 of their 7 surviving children of 10: John (31, General Labourer, born Tipton), Eliza Ann Ellesmore (22, Married, born Tipton), Thomas William (17, born West Bromwich), Lillian (15, born Tipton), and James (11, born Tividale).

Personal Data

Brother of John Heath.

After James's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £4/1/9d (4 pounds, 1 shilling and 9 pence); this was paid to his mother, Eliza, in September 1918. His War Gratuity was £3/10/0d (3 pounds and 10 shillings), this was paid to his father, James, in November 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that James had enlisted in approximately April 1917.

Action resulting in his death

The German Spring Offensive had been launched on 21st March 1918, the objective being a breakthrough of the Allied lines before the American presence was brought to bear. The advance was dramatic, but still the Allied line had not broken just retreated.

On 4th and 5th of April the enemy made a last effort to force a breakthrough in the Somme sector; this phase was known as The Battle of the Ancre. At the northern extreme, near Gommecourt, the German attack was entirely disorganised by a local attack made on Rossignol Wood by 37th Division. On the 8th Lincolns front this meant the capture of Duck, Swan and Owl trenches; Rossignol Wood itself was in the area of the 8th Somersets.

The night of 4th/5th of April was miserable in the extreme, rain fell and the inky darkness made the forming-up operations difficult. Zero hour was 5.30am on 5th April.

At the first objective (Duck Trench), German resistance was considerable. Heavy fighting took place during which about 150 Germans were taken prisoner. This objective was captured by 5.45am.

At the second objective (Swan Trench), the enemy's resistance was not heavy although there was considerable machine-gun fire from both flanks. The line was cleared with the exception of two strong points, and at 7.45am this position was being consolidated.

German reinforcements arrived by midday, and at about 1pm the enemy advanced from the above two strong points. The Lincolns fought a brave rear-guard action, but out-numbered and short of bombs, at 5.30pm they withdrew in good order to the original front line. Very heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy in this action, and no less than 14 German machine-guns were either taken or destroyed.

From that date the German offensive in the Somme sector ceased, and German attention switched northwards to Flanders and the Battle of the Lys.

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