Commemorated on two war memorials in neighbouring parishes is perhaps a little unusual – but even more so is the use of two different names for the same soldier. This seems to be the case with Private James Arthur Booth. It is under this name that he appears on the St. Lawrence memorials – both inside the church and on the churchyard cross, and on the Biddulph cenotaph. However, any search for Private Booth in military records draws a blank. He cannot be found on the CWGC site and his name doesn’t appear on any medal cards. There is no service history or pension record. So just who was Private James Arthur Booth?
Local knowledge and a newspaper cutting of his memorial service suggested that he may have been adopted. He was a member of the choir and Sunday school at St. John’s church, Knypersley and also of the Knypersley Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Society. A search through the 1911 census provided a link – as a James Arthur Booth was listed on the return as nephew to Henry Booth – the Booth family resided in Gutter Lane and so he could well have attended St. John’s from here. Also in the household was a 71 year old widower by the name of William Bailey, who was described as uncle to the head of the household. We already knew of Private James Arthur Bailey, son of James & Annie Bailey of Endon, who had died on July 23rd 1915 aged 19, and it was decided to research further into this James Bailey.
James Arthur Bailey was born in 1896 and his birth registered at Norton. His parents were James Bailey, a carter and general haulier who had been born at the Hurst, Biddulph, and Annie (nee Willatt) the daughter of a potters’ engraver from Milton. They married in 1894 at St. Bartholomew’s, Norton-in-the-Moors. The 1901 census finds them resident at 27, Hill Street, Smallthorne. James Arthur had an older sister Annie Elizabeth and two younger sisters, Mary Ellen and Clara. There may have been two other siblings as in 1911 James Arthur’s widowed mother entered the detail that she had had six children, all still living, on the census form. Mrs. Annie Bailey, a 34 year old widow was visiting her sister Nellie at Madeley at the time of the census. This led to a determined search for her children.
The death of James Bailey, at sometime between 1901 and 1911 must have been catastrophic for the family as the 1911 census shows that the children had all been placed in separate homes. Annie Elizabeth Bailey was with Arthur and Edna Weston at Pool Fold. Clara Bailey (now Clara Bailey Moss) was with William and Ellen Goodwin at Park Lane, Knypersley, Mary Ellen Bailey was living with her grandmother, Jessy Willatt, at Smallthorne, and James Arthur (now shown as ‘Booth’) was living with Henry and Clara Booth, also at Knypersley. Further research provided a link between the families: Edna Weston, Ellen Goodwin and Clara Booth were sisters – daughters of George Moss and Elizabeth Bailey. James Bailey was their brother.
Did James Arthur enlist with Biddulph pals and workmates from Heath’s New Forge at Black Bull or with friends from his earlier years? We may never know, but it would appear that he enlisted in Hampshire. The 13th Western Division, of which the 7th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment formed a part, were concentrating at Blackdown, Hampshire, in February 1915 and it was here that James enlisted.
In early June orders were received to prepare for war with a move to the Mediterranean. Leaving England on June 13th, the men sailed from Avonmouth to Alexandria in Egypt. Then James and his pals, on July 4th, sailed on to Mudres and prepared to move forward to Gallipoli on the Dardanelles Straits.
By July 16th, the 13th Division was at Cape Helles to relieve another division and here they met inhospitable terrain to face the enemy. Within the next two weeks, at the age of 19, Private James Arthur Booth had lost his life – killed in action. He has no known grave and he is remembered on the Helles Memorial Dardanelles.
The Sentinel printed a report of his memorial service at which Private Booth was described as “of a quiet, retiring disposition, much esteemed and popular amongst his workmates,” and that the service, which was conducted by the Rev. E.L. Stacey, “was a most impressive one, few in the congregation being unaffected by the touching references from the pulpit to deceased’s life, and to a death which the preacher termed ‘a death full of honour and of glory’.”
Presumably, the Booths who had reared James Arthur from his early teens felt that he was a ‘Biddulph boy’ and as such, should be remembered as James Arthur Booth on the Biddulph memorials. His surviving family based in Milton and Endon may also have wished to remember him in their area, but as James Arthur Bailey, which is how he appears on the Endon memorial and the CWGC memorial site.
Mike Turnock & Elaine Heathcote.