Private 53487 James William Summers

Summers James 96 418x600 Summers James 96 439x600
Grave photograph courtesy Twitter 'WW1 Family Inscriptions', Darkhouse Lane Cemtery, Coseley.

Killed in Action on Thursday, 3rd May 1917, age 29.
Commemorated on Bay 8 of Arras Memorial, Pas De Calais, France.

'A' Company of 15th Bn., Durham Light Infantry. 64th Brigade of 21st Division.
Formerly 24796 South Staffordshire Regiment.

Son of Mrs Hannah Summers and the late Mr William Summers and of Red Lion, Red Lion Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Lichfield, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 19th December 1916.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library, and St. John's memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1671605/

Genealogical Data

Birth of James William Summers registered June quarter 1888 in Dudley.

1901 Census
32 Brown Lion Street, Tipton, Staffs.
William Summers (53, Brewer and Publican, born Tipton), his wife Hannah (54, born Sedgley), and their 4 children: Edward (32, Maltster, born Tipton), Florence (20, Teacher at Elementary School, born Tipton), Mary (18, Teacher at Elementary School, born Tipton), and William J. (13, born Tipton).

1911 Census
Brown Lion Inn, 32 Brown Lion Street, Tipton, Staffs.
William Summers (63, Widower, Inn Keeper, born Tipton), and his 2 children: William (23, Brewer, born Tipton) and Florence Sirrell (30, born Tipton) plus Florence's husband and 2 children.

Personal Data

James attested at Tipton on 10th December 1915 under the Derby Scheme. This meant that he was not called up instantly but by rota according to age, he was called up 1st May 1916. He was 5 feet 5½ inches tall, 36-inch chest, weighed 133 pounds, and had a 'good' physical development but did have a hammer toe on his right foot. He was unmarried and his sister Florence Sirrell was his next-of-kin. He stated his religion as Wesleyan.

James initially trained with the 10th South Staffs at Rugeley Camp, and was appointed Acting Lance Corporal on 17th June 1916. He transferred to the 9th Training Reserve Battalion before being posted to the 15th Durham Light Infantry on arrival at Etaples on 20th December 1916 reverting to the rank of Private.

He was missing after action on 3rd May 1917, and some time later 'regarded for official purposes as having died on 3rd May 1917.' His sister Florence wrote numerous letters attempting to find news of her brother, a letter via the Red Cross led to a statement from Sgt Gowdy (who survived the war) that he had seen Summers "wounded about the left eye". Sir Richard Cooper MP for Walsall 1910-1922, presumably at the behest of the family, enquired of the Records Office at York if there was any news of the whereabouts of James William Summers. The response was "No further information."

Despite the family endeavours, no further information ever came to light, and James is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. His medals were initially returned marked 'undelivered', and were not requested until 28th August 1923.

Action resulting in his death

The Battle of Arras began on Easter Monday, 9th April 1917, when the British Army attacked the German Hindenburg Line. That afternoon, the 15th Durham Light Infantry advanced across 1000 yards of open ground, through two belts of wire and into the German front line trench. The second line was strongly held with uncut wire and machine guns, and the battalion failed to advance any further, but was able to hold the old German front-line trench. In 2 days, 15/DLI had 78 men killed before the battalion was taken out of the line to rest.

15/DLI returned to the battle on 3rd May when the battalion was ordered to attack down the Hindenburg Line near Fontaine les Croisilles. Here both British and German troops held the same trench line and only barricades kept the two forces apart. At 4.00am, after a fierce bombardment of the German barricades, bombers of the 15/DLI stormed the German positions but were held up by thick belts of barbed wire and machine guns. A British tank arrived about 8am and began to fire down the German-held trench, but it was soon put out of action by mortar fire. For the rest of the morning, fierce fighting raged around the barricades. In this unsuccessful action, the battalion had 17 men killed including James Summers. In the afternoon, 15/DLI was relieved and moved back to rest.

James has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald December 22nd 1917
Mrs Sirrell of 32 Brown Lion Street, Tipton, writes as follows:- "Could you help us find out what has become of Private Jim Summers, "A" Company, 15th Durham Light Infantry, B.E.F., France. He was officially reported missing on 3rd of May this year, although we have heard unofficially that he was wounded before Fontaine at 6am on the above date (May 3rd), and that he was seen carried out of the trenches, but nothing has been heard of him since, either officially or unofficially, and I have thought that the 'Tipton Herald' which is often sent to soldiers in France, might help to find out something about him. I am enclosing his photograph, his description being: Height 5ft 8in, dark hair and fair skin."
Private J.W. Summers is the owner of premises and business of the Brown Lion Inn, Bloomfield. He is single, was called up on May 1st 1916, went to France December 21st 1916, and was reported missing on May 3rd this year. He was enlisted under Lord Derby's scheme in December 1915.

This is from Mrs Sirrell who is his sister Florence.