James Colley MM

james colley

Photograph of Jim Colley used with kind permission of Jane Newstead

Private, 240449 (formerly 2354), 1/5th (Territorial) Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, killed in action, 2nd November 1917, aged 31

Born at Keadby in 1886, James (known as Jim) was the second son and one of the eight children of Joseph and Eliza Colley (nee Oliver) of Derrythorpe. His father was a farm labourer from West Butterwick and his mother was from Hatfield.

Jim was working as a boilersmith’s labourer on the Grand Central Railway when he enlisted in the Lincolnshire Regiment at Scunthorpe in 1914. He was posted to the 5th, later the 1/5th Battalion and arrived in France with them on 1st March 1915.

Initially stationed in the Ypres area the 1/5th Lincoln’s saw action at Hooge in July 1915, which saw the first use of German liquid fire flamethrowers, and then took heavy casualties during the attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt in October. In December they were transferred to Egypt but by March 1916 were back in France.

During the Battle of the Somme they participated at Gommecourt and they were still in this area during the actions of Spring 1917. In June 1917 they moved to Lens and on 1st July 1917 were involved in an attempt to capture the town, an action in which Jim was awarded the Military Medal. The exact circumstances are not recorded but as he was attached to the Scout Section at the time he could have been delivering messages under fire?

After a short period out of the line they moved back to the trenches in the St Elie Right Sub-Sector in mid-August. They were here on 1st November when the German’s launched a heavy German artillery bombardment followed by an attack on their trenches that the 1/5th Lincoln’s fought off. In retaliation the British guns fired a number of salvos at the German lines. Unfortunately some of the shells fell short and landed onto the Lincoln’s trench. Jim Colley was one of unfortunate victims. He died on 2nd November the day the battalion were due to move from that area.

In delivering the news to Jim’s parents his Commanding Officer wrote:

‘I have known him since the early part of 1916 when he was in my platoon and I always found him a thoroughly good fellow, in fact I had such a high opinion of him that I sent him to the Scout section. There he fully justified my opinion and this year he has won the Military Medal for great gallantry and good work. He will be much missed by the all the men who knew him and appreciated his splendid qualities. You have every reason to be very proud of him and I hope that the knowledge that he did his duty so well and for so long will be a measure of comfort to you in what I know will be an irreparable loss.’

Jim is buried in Philosphe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe.

Jim is commemorated on both Althorpe War Memorials.