GASKELL, James Sgt. 15162

James Gaskell

James Gaskell

James Gaskell was born in Chorley in 1895 to parents James and Sarah Anne, being the youngest boy in the family. They lived at 8 Charnock Street in 1901, at 241 Eaves Lane in 1911 and he stated that he lived at Oban House on Eaves Lane upon enlisting in the Pals on the 15th September 1914, giving his age as 19 years 8 months and occupation as Weaver.

In June 1915 his Commanding Officer, Lt. Colonel Rickman, recommended him to the Royal Humane Society for attempting to save the life of Francis Crook, who he rescued from the Leeds-Liverpool Canal on Tuesday, 25th May that year. The Chorley Guardian of the 29th May 1915 reported on the inquest held at St. James’ Institute in the town, earlier that week. It said that James Gaskell was walking along the canal close to Millfields Bridge, Crosse Hall at 4.25 p.m. when he heard shouts for help. He ran 100 yards, took off his clothing and dived into the canal (some six foot deep at that point). After three minutes of searching in the water he felt the boy with his left foot, whereupon he brought him to the surface and gave artificial respiration on the canal bank. Despite his best efforts, the boy died. The Jury Foreman at the inquest stated that James Gaskell “Deserves all the credit for what he did”.

James was not with the Pals on the 1st July 1916, having been admitted sick in the field on the 30th May. He was eventually moved through the medical chain from the Somme battlefield to hospital in Rouen and then back to Beaufort War Hospital at Fishponds, Bristol on the 22nd June; he was suffering from Cellulitis of the legs – a skin infection (described as “Ulcers” on his medical record). After treatment, he embarked from Folkestone on the 14th November, landing in Boulogne the following day; he was posted to the 7th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment (possibly with a new service number of 35460) but returned to the Chorley Pals a month later. He was appointed Lance Corporal (unpaid) on the 17th January 1917. Between the 5th and 12th February he attended a Lewis Gun course run by the 94th Infantry Brigade, trained to operate the Lewis machine gun.

He was promoted further to Acting Corporal on the 23rd May, attending the 31st Divisional Musketry course between the 3rd and 12th June. During July 1917 he was admitted to 30 CCS (Casualty Clearing Station), and then admitted to the 26th General Hospital at Etaples on the French coast with a groin injury (possible hernia); he was discharged on the 26th September, rejoining his unit “in the field” the following day.

His promotion to Corporal with the Pals was confirmed on the 3rd November 1917. Ten days later, on the 13th November, he was gassed when a shell hit the Battalion headquarters at Fresnoy, some 1½ miles east of Arleux, near Arras. It killed two men and wounded or gassed 47 others, including the Battalion Commanding Officer, Lt. Colonel Rickman. James Gaskell was admitted to number 42 CCS at Aubigny, improved sufficiently by the 16th to be moved to the 18th General Hospital behind the lines. He was shipped back to England on the 11th December, being eventually admitted to the 4th Northern General Hospital in Lincoln. He stayed there until being discharged on the 12th March 1918. He was transferred to the 3rd (Base) Battalion of the East Lancs. and promoted to Sergeant on the 24th April.

He married Clara Harter at St. James’s Church in Chorley on the 20th May, setting up home at 14 Bedford Road in the North Shore area of Blackpool. His Service Record shows he was under close arrest on the 29th May, awaiting court martial for being absent without leave; he was eventually punished by losing three days pay. A few days later, on the 6th June, he was shipped back to France with the 2nd Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment, serving in the 11th Platoon of ‘C’ Company. On the 23rd December he was in the town of Enghien near Brussels in Belgium, being shipped back to England on the 31st December 1918. He left the Army on the 27th January 1919, returning to his wife in Blackpool.

Their son Bertram was born in the resort during 1927 and they were living at 39 Ormond Road in the North Shore area. He had, belatedly, applied for his war medals in April 1927. A year later (and now working as a Taxi driver), his Victory medal was found by the Police in Blackpool and duly returned to him.