Date of birth: 1884
Date of death: 27.3.1918
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Husband of Lily France nee Neal
Service number: 240793
In the absence of his service record, it is not known whether Jim France volunteered, or was conscripted into the army. However there is evidence to suggest that he was drafted to the 2/5th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
The 5th (Reserve) Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was formed at Doncaster in October 1914, to act as a reserve battalion and provided replacements for the first line Territorial battalion. Later the battalion became the 2/5th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and was brigaded with similar Territorial units, in 187th Brigade, 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division.
The 2/5th KOYLI landed at Le Havre on 16th January 1917 and went into the front line at Mailly-Maillet four weeks later. In May 1917 the 2/5th KOYLI were involved in assaults at Bullecourt, during the battle of Arras. At the Battle of Cambrai, in November 1917, the 2/5th KOYLI were included in attacks against the enemy lines at Bourlon village and the nearby wood.
As part of the re-organisation of the British Army, due to heavy losses in 1917, all infantry brigades were reduced from four to three battalions. On 2nd February 1918, the 1/5th and 2/5th KOYLI amalgamated to become the 5th KOYLI, part of 187th Brigade, 62nd Division.
On 21st March 1918, the German Army launched a major offensive, on a fifty mile front, from Croisielles to St Quentin. The Allied Army was pushed back over twelve miles in two days. The 62nd Division was ordered to the Puiseux-Bucquoy area, the 187th Brigade moving into support positions at Bucquoy early on the 26th March. The German attack against Bucquoy came at noon and though they gained some ground, they were driven back by a counter-attack. At 22.00 hours on 27th March, with the enemy attacking through the old trench systems, the 5th KOYLI were ordered to counter-attack and drive the enemy from Rossignol Wood. The counter-attack was successful and the battalion returned to their original positions. The next day 187th Brigade was ordered to attack and regain the original British line. The 5th KOYLI attacked at 05.30 hours, with “A”, “B”, and “C” Companies pushing forward towards the Hebuterne-Bucquoy road, through the old German trench systems. During the afternoon the Germans counter-attacked once again and the three KOYLI companies were overwhelmed. The remnants of the KOYLI battalions held the line from Rossignol Wood to Biez Wood, until relieved. The 5th KOYLI incurred 392 casualties between 27th and 31st March, 278 of whom were recorded as missing.
Private James France of the 5th KOYLI was killed in action on 27th March 1918. His body was not recovered from the battlefield, but his name is remembered on the Arras Memorial to the missing, which forms the entrance to the Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery. The memorial commemorates 35,000 servicemen who lost their lives between the spring of 1916 and August 1918 and who have no known grave. James France is not remembered on either of the Outwood War Memorials, though his parents continued to live in the village.
Born in the summer of 1884, Jim France was the sixth child of Azariah France and his wife Eliza, formerly Watson. His father was a coal miner and the family lived at Lingwell Gate, Outwood. On the census of 1891 the family was living at Town End, Lofthouse and Jim France was attending school. At the turn of the century the family had moved to Park Terrace, at Outwood. At this time Jim France, aged 16 years, was employed as a coal miner. The family continued to live in Outwood, moving to Garden Terrace, Newton Lane. However, by 1911, Jim France was living in Pontefract. In the census of that year he is shown as a boarder at the home of his married sister Selina and her husband Alfred Chester, at Tanshelf, Pontefract. Working as a coal miner, Jim France continued to live in Pontefract and in 1915 married Lily Neal. Two years later their first child, Kate France, was born.