James Henry Bailiff

Area: Brotherton
Born: 1891
Died: 1965
Service number: 3806 / 236850
Regiment / Service: West Yorkshire Regiment Labour Corps
Family information: Son of John and Ellen Bailiff

War Service

James Henry was enlisted in the West Yorkshire Regiment Labour Corps referred to the 22nd (Labour) Battalion. This was formed April 1916 at Millington, near Pocklington, East Yorkshire. They moved to France in May 1916 and were attached to the Fifth Army as Army Troops. Became 18th and 19th Labour Companies, Labour Corps in May 1917. James had 2 service numbers – 3806 and then after the reassignment of numbers in 1917 236850.

Although the army in France and Flanders was able to use some railways, steam engines and tracked vehicles for haulage, the immense effort of building and maintaining the huge network of roads, railways, canals, buildings, camps, stores, dumps, telegraph and telephone systems, etc, and also for moving stores, relied on horse, mule and human.

In August 1914 there was no formed body of troops specifically designed for these tasks. In the infantry, manual work near the front lines was carried out by the Pioneer Battalions which were added to each Division. Some infantry regiments formed labour companies and works battalions for work on the lines of communication and at home, but the organisation of manpower was haphazard until the formation of the Labour Corps.

The labour units expanded hugely and became increasingly well-organised. However, despite adding large numbers of men from India, Egypt, China and elsewhere, there was never enough manpower to do all the labouring work required. The total number of men engaged on work in France and Flanders alone approximated 700,000 at the end of the war, and this was in the labour units alone. In many cases the men of the infantry, artillery and other arms were forced to give up time to hard effort when perhaps training or rest might have been a more effective option.

Labour Corps units were often deployed for work within range of the enemy guns, sometimes for lengthy periods. It was often difficult, dangerous work and has gone largely unrecognised compared to the efforts of the ‘fighting’ regiments.

The research of members of the Labour Corp is difficult because as they were supposedly not directly involved in the engagements and battles there is relatively little mention of them in official accounts.

After the War James returned to his home area after finally being discharged and in early 1921 married Elsie Brown in Pontefract. They had one son - John Henry born about August 1923 in Pontefract.

James died in 1965, the occasion being registered in Wakefield and his wife died in 1984, Pontefract.

Family Life

By any standards, the Bailiffs made an extraordinary contribution to their country’s cause during World War One. No fewer than 5 brothers enlisted in the army and one, Richard Moody Bailiff, made the ultimate sacrifice in 1916 aged 20 (see his story elsewhere on this website).

The Bailiffs were not a long standing Brotherton family and had their origins in Scotland. John Bailiff was born in Gatehouse. There are several places of this name in Scotland including one in Dumfries and Galloway. This is the favoured place as John’s wife (nee Ellen Higgins) was born in Glenluce which is also in Dumfries and Galloway. The family lived within the Brotherton parish but more specifically in Poole, a very small hamlet adjoining Burton Salmon. John was a ‘forester/woodman’ who worked on the Byram Estate owned by Sir John Ramsden Bart.

John and Ellen (or Helen) had 9 children in total. These were - John Kelly (b. 1889 in Scotland), James Henry (20 Jan 1891), Thomas Alexander (29 April 1893), Richard Moody (13 Feb 1895), Robert Victor ( 1897), Charlotte Ellen (1899), Samuel Roy (1901), Henry Norman ( 1903), Donald Wilson (1904), Caroline Taylor (1906).

By 1911 both James (aged 20) and Richard (16) were working with their father as under foresters. Also living in the house with the Bailiff’s was Charlotte Clerk, John’s sister-in-law and a Lilly Swann from Stanley who was a domestic servant - probably for the estate. In 1913 John Kelly married Mary Ann Long of Monk Fryston.

At some stage after the war, probably prior to 1924, most of the family appear to have moved to Buckinghamshire. This may have correlated with a change in fortune for the Ramsdens who eventually left Byram. In some respects it was not a happy move as Donald Wilson died in Eton in 1924 aged just 20, Robert Victor died in Eton later in 1924 aged 27 and Henry Norman also died in Eton aged 23. Samuel Roy died in Amersham in 1953.

John Bailiff had a rather longer life dying in Amersham in 1944 aged 86 and his wife Ellen in Eton 1951 aged 85.

Their daughter Caroline Taylor also settled in Eton, marrying a man called George Seymour and having 2 daughters and a son. She died in Amersham in 1937 aged 30, her children being just 9, 6 and 3 years old.

Charlotte Ellen married a Cornish man called Richard Fell Nicholas but remained in the Pontefract area where she had 2 children and died in 1960.

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