James Allan Ross Armitage, Captain 15th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, released to work for Ministry of Munitions

James Allan Ross was born in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, on 12th December 1888.  He was the son of Dr James Auriol Armitage (1857-1923) and Margaret Williamson Beveridge Ross (1859-1931).  In 1901 they were living at 28 Waterloo Road, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.  His siblings were Frank Rhodes (1883-1917) (Note 1), Mary (1885-), Charles Auriol (1887-1913), Margaret Helena (1890-1893), Douglas William (1893-1915) (Note 2), Laura Elizabeth (1895-1959) and Christine Noel (1898-1978).  Some of the children attended the Reverend Arthur Johnson’s School before moving to Wolverhampton Grammar School.  Both Frank and Douglas gained scholarships in Northamptonshire and went up to Cambridge University.  At the age of 19 James joined the railway as an apprentice (1905-08).  The family later moved to Netherwood, St Helens Park, Hastings, Sussex.

He commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Leeds Pals on 28th October 1914 and trained with the Battalion at Colsterdale, Ripon and Fovant before deploying to Egypt in December 1915 to guard the Suez Canal.  On 13th February 1916, shortly before they were due to leave Egypt, James was sent back to England and transferred to the General List, at the request of the Ministry of Munitions.  He was loaned to a civilian company for two years and was paid by them.  James was added to the Civil Engineer List on 26th July 1916 and at the time was working at the Farnley Iron Co Ltd, Leeds.  In March 1916 the Battalion had moved to the Western Front in France to prepare for the forthcoming Battle of the Somme.

He married Ruth Johnson Mclaren in mid-1918 and his residence at the time was Sherburn House, York Place, Harrogate.  In April 1918 he was diagnosed with diabetes and his condition was considered ‘stationary’.  However, on examination later that year, it was noted that his weight had dropped from 12st 10lbs in 1916 to 9st 7lbs in 1918.  The medical board considered he was not fit enough to continue any form of military service (he was still on loan to the Ministry of Munitions) and recommended he that he should relinquish his commission.  In September 1918, having spent the previous four months on sick leave, he was given a passport and granted permission by the War Office to proceed ‘urgently’ to Paris to undergo special medical treatment for diabetes.  He travelled to France on 30th September and was granted an extension of leave until 21st November and was therefore in Paris when the war ended on the 11th November 1918.  He sent a letter of thanks to the War Office that day from 43 Rue le Peletier, Paris where he was being treated by a Docteur G Guelpa.  His address at the time was his parent’s home at Netherwood, St Helen’s Park, Hastings.

James relinquished his commission on 6th January 1919 and despite his treatment in Paris he died on 19th July 1919 aged 30 while living at 73 Marina, St Leonard’s-on-Sea and was buried in Hastings Cemetery.  James was awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Note 1:  The Armitage family suffered badly during the war, losing three of its sons.  James’s brother, Frank Rhodes Armitage, followed his father and was a qualified doctor.  He joined the RAMC in 1914 and went to France in March 1915 where he was attached to the 232nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (RFA).  As a Captain he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in the New Year Honours list of 1917 and was also Mentioned in Despatches.  Sadly, I have been unable to find citations for his awards but found an article in the Wolverhampton  Express & Star dated 9th August 1917 that described him as ‘one of the bravest and best’ and that he had ‘been in the firing line for two years and had many miraculous escapes from death’.  He had also ‘saved the life of a fellow officer’ and ‘had been inches away from a shell crashing into a dug-out, but escaped without injury’.  Eventually his luck ran out and in mid-1917, while in a dugout, he sustained shell wounds from which he died on 30th July aged 34.  He was buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery close to another medical officer Captain Noel Chavasse VC and Bar, MC one of only three people to have won two VCs.  Brandhoek was where many field ambulances were based as it was considered ‘safe from enemy artillery fire’

Note 2:  Another brother, Douglas William Armitage, served in the Officer Training Corps (OTC) and enlisted in the Public School’s Brigade (Middlesex Regiment) as a Private but was soon commissioned into the Royal Sussex Regiment.  He joined the 9th Battalion which landed at Boulogne in France on 31st August 1915.  Within a few weeks the Battalion was engaged in Battle of Loos and suffered heavy losses, including Douglas.  He was last seen ‘fighting with his fists, and since then no more has been heard of him’.  He was reported missing in action and subsequently killed in action on or between the 25th and 27th September 1915.  His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. 


The National Archives – Service Record

Ancestry – Domestic Records, Medal Records

The [London] Gazette – Promotions, Awards and Appointments

Commonwealth War Grave Commission – Burial and Memorial Registers

Oundle School – Roll of Honour

Researcher: David J Owen

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