Service number: 6977 |Rank: Private | Regiment: Suffolk Regiment
Killed in action, August 26, 1914, in Flanders.
Remembered at LA FERTE-SOUS-JOUARRE MEMORIAL, Seine-et-Marne, France.
Born in Brandon, enlisted at Bury St Edmunds.
WHAT I KNOW ABOUT JAMES …
James was born into a poor Brandon family. His parents Henry and Eliza Dyer, both had poorly paid jobs working in the local fur factory and it was these jobs that awaited their children as soon as they became eligible to leave school. In 1901 the family were living in a tiny cottage along Stores Lane, just behind London Road, so tiny it only had three rooms, which made for a tight squeeze for Henry and Eliza, and their family. At this time the family included 14-year-old James, who was working as a labourer, and two of his sisters working at the fur factory and two more sisters and a brother who were still at school, and finally a little toddler.
Whether James wanted more living space (his parents were still having children into middle age) or a better wage and prospects, or perhaps he harboured a desire to see the world away from Brandon, we will never know, but when he became old enough he went along to the Gibraltar Barracks in Bury St Edmunds and enlisted in the Army. This started his career as a soldier in the Suffolk Regiment and it would also see him thrust into the fighting in August 1914.
On 2pm, August 15th James disembarked at Le Havre on the north French coast, with his Suffolk Regiment comrades. A week later his battalion were marched toward the frontline and that afternoon they arrived at their billets in a town called Hamin. They were now so close to the enemy that three of James’ comrades were killed when the Germans attacked the Suffolks’ forward positions. The official report of what happened next simply states, “A retirement was ordered”. However this same order is repeated for the next two days thus implying that the Regiment cannot contain the enemy and are now in full retreat. On the evening of the 25th August 1914 the battalion rest up in a barn near Le Cateau and the following morning the order was given to make a stand and hold off the enemy for as long as possible. Amid concerns that the trenches the men are standing in are too shallow James and his comrades immediately set to work digging them deeper. However, within three hours the German guns open up on them and by 7.30am the battalion has suffered heavy casualties. It is most likely that James was one of those casualties and was killed by the artillery. At 4pm, following a sustained enemy artillery bombardment, the battalion was ordered to withdraw. Their withdrawal was so quick that they left their dead comrades behind.
James’ body was never found and he was officially listed as “missing”. As time passed by any hope for his safety faded and there was an air of inevitably when the War Office wrote to his parents stating that due to an absence of information about James then it must be presumed he was dead. Although it did take the War Office sixteen months from when he went missing to notify his parents of this development.