James Edwin Townsley
Date of birth: 1878
Date of death: 1969
Regiment: British Army Service Corp
Family information: Husband of Henrietta.
Service number: 3224
James enlisted in the army on the 10th August 1914 in the very early stages of the war. On his ‘Short Service Attestation Form it states that he had previously been in the Royal Regiment of Artillery but had been ‘discharged by purchase in 1907’. No details of this service are available including the length of time he spent in the regiment. At the time of enlisting James was living at 20 Trafalgar Road, Bishopthorpe, York and this is where he enlisted. Given the service number 3224 he joined the British Army Service Corp. (ASC).
He was probably enlisted in the ASC because of his ‘motor’ driving ability. At the time very few ‘working class’ men would have been experienced drivers.
These were the unsung heroes of the British army in the Great War - the ASC, Ally Sloper’s Cavalry. An army cannot fight without food, equipment and ammunition. In the Great War, the vast majority of this tonnage, supplying a vast army on many fronts, was supplied from Britain using horsed and motor vehicles, railways and waterways. The ASC performed prodigious feats of logistics and were one of the great strengths of organisation by which the war was won. Every age has it’s own favourite comic or cartoon strip and Ally Sloper’s Harl Holiday was the name of a weekly comic strip which first appeared on 3 May 1884 unti’ the 1920’s.
James record shows that after just eleven days he was appointed Acting Sergeant with pay and on the same day 21/8/14 embarked from Avonmouth to Rouen in France. This unusual promotion may have had something to do with his earlier military service but no reasons are given.
On arriving in France he was deployed to Base mechanical transport Depot. This was most probably the one in Rouen as base depots were mainly established at the Channel Ports in France and at other places on the lines of communication. Goods would arrive in bulk by ship and were broken down into wagon-loads and sent on by rail to the Regulating Stations. General Base Depots were the centres for collecting, sorting and dispatching reinforcements. The places selected for Base Depots became centres of very considerable industry, with hospitals, workshops, stores, etc. Most of the facilities of the Base Depots were manned and operated by the ASC. The base at Rouen was used mainly for supplies, reinforcements and remounts (horses), ordnance, mechanical transport, sick and wounded (hospitals).
18/11/1915 - granted leave till 24/11/1915 - was still in France and this leave would have been taken there.
Dec 1915 - in the first week of December James reverted back to Private on ‘transfer’. However he was immediately appointed Acting Company Sergeant Major in the 3rd Mechanical Ambulance Convoy.
21/12/1915 - transferred to 24th Ammunition Sub Park. This was a ‘dump’ which kept the division column supplied with ammunition.
21/1/1916 - posted to 9th Ammunition Sub Park and then to 9th Division Signals. It also seems that about this time James was disciplined for losing a ‘government rug’ from a car that was left unattended between 7 -00 and 7-30 p.m. He was charged with neglect of duty and fined £1-13s - 1 1/2d
3/3/1916 - on leave until 7/4/1916 - no indication where this leave was spent.
7/8/1917 - on leave until 18/8/1917
12/6/1918 - Transferred to 3rd Heavy Repair Shop
15/6/1918 - transferred to 1st Base Motor Transport Depot
18/6/1918 - transferred to 5th Auxiliary Petrol Company
20/7/1918 - transferred to 43rd Auxiliary Petrol Company
18/10/1918 - on leave until 1/11/1918
2/3/1919 transferred to UK for release - Long Service
20/4/1919 - discharged and placed on ‘Z List’ from Woolwich Dockyards.
From the Medal Index Card it can be clearly seen that James had a great variety of experiences and it would seem that he was in France for almost the whole duration of the war.
It is also obvious given his promotions that he was seen as a man of ability and ‘presence’.
On his medal index card it shows that he was a private but there is no indication in his record that he ever reverted back from the rank of Acting CSM.
His MIC does show that he was entitled to the British, defence and 1914 Star. The latter was awarded with ‘Clasp’ to be worn on the ribbon and indicated the recipient had served ‘under fire’. The Rose was a small addition that could be added when just the ribbon was being worn.
The Internet web-site www.brotherton.org contains a comprehensive Townsley family tree and shows the presence of Townsley’s in the village in the early part of the 1700’s.
However, there is no mention of James Edwin or of the previous generation of his family even though the connections with Brotherton can be clearly demonstrated via a number of sources. In order to clearly show the ancestral connections, however, it is necessary in this instance to ‘dodge’ about chronologically.
The Brotherton Parish Register of Baptisms shows that James Edwin was baptised on 27th October 1878 and that his parents were William (a ‘Limeburner’ by occupation) and Henrietta.
William and Henrietta can be found in the 1881 Census and were resident in Low Street at the time. William was described as a ‘Quarryman- stone’ and his estimated year of birth was about 1850. Henrietta is given as being 10 years older than William (born about 1840) although this varies in other Census data. With the family was Jas E Townsley (James) aged 3 and also Geo W. Cardwell who was described as ‘son’. In fact it seems that he was the son of Henrietta and Cardwell was either her maiden name or she had been previously married. In fact the latter is the case as in 1871, although born in Kellington, she was living in Brotherton with son George (2) and daughter Henrietta aged 5. She was married to a ‘Seaman’.
William and Henrietta were married in the final quarter of 1877 – registered in Pontefract.
In 1891 the family were still in Low Street with the addition of son Albert aged 5 (born about 1886).
By 1901 the situation seems to have changed somewhat. The only Henrietta Townsley in Yorkshire, and the correct one given details of age and birth, is living in Milners Arms Cottage, Ferry Fryston with son Albert aged 15 - a ‘Clammer - underground’ . Meanwhile, William is still in Brotherton but living at Bunkers Hill with his brothers Thomas and Harry (Henry). All three are ‘Quarrymen - limestone’) and
whilst the two brothers are single, William is described as married as is Henrietta.
There is no indication as the reasons for the separation but it appears to have been permanent insofar as ten years later in 1911 the same situation exists with Henrietta in Ferry Fryston ( 14 Oxford St.) with 25 year old Albert and William still with his brothers in Brotherton.
The identities of the two brothers - Thomas (about 4 years older) and Henry (3 years younger) enables a positive match to be made at the earlier census in 1871. William aged 20 was living with his parents William (1) born about 1821 and Ellen (1822) at Bunkers Hill. Others in the family included Thomas aged 24, Sarah Ann (22), Henry (15), John (13) and Eliza (8). William (1) was a ‘Limeburner’ as were all the sons.
Henrietta Townsley died in 1912 aged 72. At the time she was at 29 Stamford Street, York but was buried in Brotherton. William passed away on 12th July 1928 at the age of 77 whilst living at 7 Wheldon Road, Fryston and was buried locally.
On turning attention back to James it seems that the 1901 census can reveal no details. However he married Henrietta (2) Williams Thorpe of Denwell Terrace, Pontefract on the 23rd May 1903 at All Saints Church Pontefract.
In 1911 James and Henrietta (2) were living at 50 Stamford Street off Leeman Road (near the railway station), York. This is the address at which James’s mother died later - see above. James was employed as a ‘Chauffeur’ and had two sons – James (2) aged 7 and Alfred aged 3. James William (2) was actually baptised at St. Andrew’s Church Ferrybridge on 10th April 1904 and James (1) was described as a ‘Miner’.
Alfred was baptised at All Saint’s, Pontefract on 7th June 1908 and James (1) was still ‘Mining’.
After the War James would have returned to his home which was probably 20 Trafalgar Road, Bishopthorpe, York - the same address as when he enlisted. However, subsequent documents e.g. the acknowledgement of receipt of medals issued in 1921 show he was living at 11 Station Road, Darlington.
At present no other details are available except that James Edwin Townsley died in the last quarter of 1969 aged 91years. Henrietta preceded him, passing away in the first quarter of 1956 aged 79. Both deaths were registered in York.