James was born at 80 King William Street, Coventry in 1895 and christened at St Peter Coventry on 1 September. His father John Bartlett Spencer was an iron moulder, and married his mother Mary Elizabeth Green in Coventry in 1894.
In 1901 James was aged 5, living with his parents and younger brother William John (born 1897) at 43 Station Street East in Coventry. The family had moved to Rugby by 1907 where their youngest son Harold was born. In 1911 they were living at 104 Wood Street, but by the time James enlisted on 15 November 1915 they were a few doors away at No 92 as his army record shows.
James was initially conscripted into the Royal Field Artillery with number 5757, when he was aged 20 years 6 months, and 5ft 5ins tall. He was transferred to the 7th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment with number 267322 on 6 June 1916, and sailed from Southampton on 16 March 1917, arriving in Rouen on 17 May. On 25 May he was posted to the 11th Battalion in the 37th Division, and joined them in the field on 3 June. According to the Regiment’s War Diary the next few weeks were spent marching to the front and taking part in battle training.
On 11 July the Battalion relieved the 10th Yorks & Lancs Regiment in the Kemmel area of the line, and was formed into three working parties of 300 men all told for salvage and construction work. On 20 July enemy aircraft became very active, and the following day there was considerable enemy artillery activity both day and night together with low flying aircraft, and again on 22 July. During the night 22/23 a direct hit on the Battalion transport killed Col Sgt Taylor of C Company and the Company Clerk of A Company, and wounded three others. There was also a direct hit on C Company’s dugout in the support line, and this is probably when James was killed. This was the start of the 3rd Battle of Ypres.
During the Battalion’s tour in the trenches which lasted until they were relieved on 25 July, 16 men were killed or died of wounds, and 28 were wounded.
James is buried in Derry House Cemetery No 2, about 8km south of Ypres, he was aged 22. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission citation names his parents who were by then living at 94 Wood Street in Rugby. His few effects including a ring were forwarded to his mother together with his back pay of £1.16s.8d and a war gratuity of £3. He was awarded the Victory and British War Medals.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM