James Archer - We will remember them

Area: Outwood, Wakefield
Born: 1884
Died: 27.7.1917
Service number: 200643
Rank: Lance Corporal
Regiment / Service: 1/4th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Husband of Mary Ann Archer of Lewis Place, Outwood

War Service

James Archer enlisted in October 1914 and joined the 4th Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. On mobilisation, the 4th KOYLI, later to become 1/4th KOYLI, assembled with the 1st West Riding Brigade, 1st West Riding Division, on Doncaster racecourse. They later moved to Sandbeck Park and Gainsborough, before moving to York.

On 13 April 1915, James Archer, along with the 1/4th Battalion, KOYLI left York by train and travelled via Folkestone and Boulogne, to join the British Expeditionary Force, in France. On 28 April, the 1/4th KOYLI entered the line near Fleurbaix in the Bois Grenier sector. The following month the 1st West Riding Brigade, was designated 148th Infantry Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division.

On 9 July 1915, the 49th Division, moved into the sector between Ypres and Boesinghe, which was the left flank of the British Army line in Flanders. Here they were engaged in constructing and repairing trenches and strong points, which were constantly shelled by the enemy artillery. After rain the ground became a quagmire and, as winter approached, trench foot became a problem for the troops.  After the gas attack of 19 December 1915, the 1/4th KOYLI, in brigade, was withdrawn from this sector.

On the 1 July 1916, the opening day of the battle of the Somme, the 49th (West Riding) Division was in Reserve. However, the 1/4th and 1/5th KOYLI battalions were placed at the disposal of the 96th Infantry Brigade and were used in a support capacity. On 6 July, the 1/4th KOYLI went into the “A” Line trenches and at 02.00 hrs. the following morning, the enemy opened an intense bombardment on their positions, resulting in numerous casualties. Later that day the battalion was withdrawn to Hedauville.

The 1/4th KOYLI did not return to the trenches until the 21 July, when they rejoined the 148th Brigade, deployed in the Leipzig Salient. On the 23 July, part of the battalion was ordered into attack and suffered heavy casualties crossing “No Mans Land” and were forced to retire. The 1/4th KOYLI remained within the Somme battlefield until 23 September, where they were deployed on working party duties, when not in the front line.

On 19 October 1916, the 1/4th KOYLI moved to the Hebuterne sector, where they remained for the rest of the year, carrying out the every-day duties associated with life in the trenches. At 16.00 hrs. on 22 October, the enemy opened up a heavy bombardment on the front line and support trenches. This bombardment was followed by an enemy raid on the section of line held by ‘X’ Company. Corporal James Archer of ‘W’ Company, on the left flank, alert to the danger, immediately mounted his Lewis gun on the trench parapet and opened fire on the enemy. His withering fire dispersed the enemy and prevented them from entering the trench system. A patrol later found one German officer and 10 enemy dead about 30 to 50 yards from the battalion’s wire. On 21 December 1916, L/Cpl James Archer was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, for his conspicuous gallantry in action against the enemy.

After a period in the trenches opposite Bailleuval, in March 1917, the 1/4th KOYLI, in Brigade, moved to the Neuve Chapelle sector. At this time the enemy was making its strategic withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. On 30 May, the enemy released gas along the sector occupied by the 148th Brigade, which heralded a period of intense fighting, lasting over three weeks.

In July 1917, the 49th Division took over the Nieuport sector on the Belgian coast, with the 1/4th and 1/5th KOYLI battalions going into the front line at Lombartsyde. Just before midnight on 21 July, both battalions suffered a heavy enemy bombardment of shells of all calibres and large quantity of mustard gas. The town of Nieuport was drenched in gas. Both battalions suffered greatly, the 1/4th KOYLI who were in support, incurring 441 casualties, most of whom were gassed. The immediate effect of the gas was irritation of the nose and throat, inflamed and painful eyes, followed by vomiting. The enemy repeated the attack on the evening of the 23 July, resulting in a further 76 casualties. The 1/4th KOYLI was relieved on the 24 July and taken by bus to Ghyvelde.

Lance Corporal James Archer, suffering from gas shell wounds, was transported to the 16th Canadian General Hospital at Treport, a seaside town on the French coast. However, his condition was serious and on 27 July, he succumbed to his injuries. He was buried nearby at Mont Huon Military Cemetery, which now contains 2135 Commonwealth burials from the First World War.

His wife Mary Ann and their three children were living at Lewis Place, Outwood at the time of his death. Unusually the names of James Archer and his brother Joseph Archer have been added to the gravestone of Private John Clarke, in Outwood Cemetery. John Clarke was the husband of Rhoda Heptonstall, the niece of James and Joseph Archer.

Family Life

James Archer was born on 4 November 1884, the twin son of Herod Archer and his wife Agnes, formerly Poskett. The family lived at Lofthouse Gate, his father working as a blacksmith. Both James and his twin brother, Joseph, were baptised on 25 December 1984, at St Mary Magdalene Church, Outwood.

On 17 March 1906, when living at Annie Street, he married Mary Ann Jackson of Holdsworth Place, at St Mary Magdalene Church, Outwood. Some months later, their daughter Edith was born. Shortly afterwards James Archer and his family moved to Ashover, in Derbyshire, where he had obtained work at the coke ovens.  His son Herod was born at Ashover, prior to the family moving back to Outwood. In 1914, James was employed at Lofthouse Colliery, when his son Leonard was born.

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We Will Remember Them Project

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