HULL James Arthur 1879 – 1916


24505 Private James Hull, 13th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 23 September 1916, aged 37.  He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France[1] and the Witton Park war memorials.

Family Details

James Arthur Hull was born 1879 [2] at Bishop Auckland, the son of John and Ann Hull.  There were at least 6 children, all born at Bishop Auckland:[3]

  • John W. bc1861
  • Annie E. bc1866
  • Margaret bc1871
  • Mary M. bc1875
  • Amelia M. bc1876
  • James Arthur born 1879

In 1881, John and Ann lived at Gomer Terrace, Newton Cap, Bishop Auckland where 41 years old John worked as a, “colliery engineman”.[4]  By 1891, 12 years old James lived with his brother John junior and his wife Emma and their young family of 3 children, at Hawthorn Cottages, Bishop Auckland.[5] By 1901, 21 years old James lived with his parents at Gladstone Street, Crook.  John senior, now 61, worked as a, “brakesman, colliery engine – stationary” and James worked as a, “stoker, colliery engine –  stationary”.[6]  It is assumed that they worked together at one of the collieries in the Crook area. 

In 1905, James Arthur Hull married  Elizabeth Alice Parker, registered in Bishop Auckland.[7]  In 1911, James and Elizabeth together with 2 children, 5 years old (name undecipherable) and John William (?) lived with Elizabeth’s mother, 61 years old widowed Phoebe Parker at Witton Park.  James was recorded as being a, “Marine Dealer”.[8]  James and Elizabeth had 3 children:[9]

  • Amelia May born 6 March 1905
  • George Christopher born 15 September 1906 died 14 April 1917
  • John William born 12 September 1908

In 1911, 6 years old Amelia May Hull was with Edward and Eliza Ann Cowley, living at Shildon.[10] 

At some time later, Elizabeth Alice Hull lived at 37 King Street, Witton Park.[11]

Military Details

James Arthur Hull enlisted at Barnard Castle into the 13th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry and was given the service number 24505.[12]

The 13th (Service) Battalion was formed in September 1914 as part of K3 Kitchener’s New Army and came under the orders of 68th Brigade 23rd Division.  The 68th Brigade comprised the following units:[13]

  • 10th (Service) Bn., the Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 11th (Service) Bn., the Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 12th (Service) Bn., the Durham Light Infantry
  • 13th (Service) Bn., the Durham Light Infantry
  • 68th Machine Gun Company joined March 1916
  • 68th Trench Mortar Battery formed June 1916

The Division landed in France in August 1915.[14]  Private J.A. Hull landed later, 24 September 1915.[15]  Up until his death in September 1916, the 23rd Division took part in the following engagements during the Battle of the Somme:[16]

  • 1 – 13 July: The Battle of Albert
  • 14 – 17 July: The Battle of Bazentin Ridge
  • 23 July – 3 September: The Battle of Pozieres
  • 15 – 22 September: The Battle of Flers-Courcelette

The Battle of the Somme 1 July – 18 November 1916 [17]

The Battle of the Somme was viewed as a breakthrough battle, as a means of getting through the formidable German trench lines and into a war of movement and decision.  Political considerations and the demands of the French High Command influenced the timing of the battle.  They demanded British diversionary action to occupy the German Army to relieve the hard pressed French troops at Verdun, to the south. 

General Sir Douglas Haig, appointed Commander-in-Chief in December 1915, was responsible for the overall conduct of British Army operations in France and Belgium.  This action was to be the British Army’s first major offensive on the Western Front in 1916 and it was entrusted to General Rawlinson’s Fourth Army to deliver the resounding victory.  The British Army included thousands of citizen volunteers, keen to take part in what was expected to be a great victory.

The main line of assault ran nearly 14 miles from Maricourt in the south to Serre to the north, with a diversionary attack at Gommecourt 2 miles further to the north.  The first objective was to establish a new advanced line on the Montauban to Pozieres Ridge.   

The first day, 1 July, was preceded by a week-long artillery bombardment of the German positions.  Just prior to zero-hour, the storm of British shells increased and merged with huge mine explosions to herald the infantry attack – at 7.30am on a clear midsummer’s morning the British Infantry emerged from their trenches and advanced in extended lines at a slow steady pace over the grassy expanse of a No Man’s Land.  They were met with a hail of machine gun fire and rifle fire from the surviving German defenders.  Accurate German artillery barrages smashed into the infantry in No Man’s Land and the crowded assembly trenches – the British suffered enormous casualties:

  • Officers killed 993
  • Other Ranks killed: 18,247
  • Total Killed: 19,240
  • Total casualties (killed, wounded and missing): 57,470

In popular imagination, the “Battle of the Somme” has become a byword for military disaster.  In the calamitous opening 24 hours the British Army suffered its highest number of casualties in a single day.  The loss of great numbers of men from the same towns and villages had a profound impact on those at home. The first day was an abject failure and the following weeks and months of conflict assumed the nature of wearing-down warfare, a war of attrition, by the end of which both the attackers and defenders were totally exhausted.     

The Battle of the Somme can be broken down into 12 offensive operations:

  • Albert: 1 – 13 July
  • Bazantin Ridge: 14 – 17 July
  • Delville Wood: 15 July – 13 September
  • Pozieres Ridge: 15 July – 3 September
  • Guillemont: 23 July – 3 September
  • Ginchy: 9 September
  • Flers-Courcelette: 15 – 22 September
  • Morval: 25 – 28 September
  • Thiepval: 25 – 28 September
  • Le Transloy: 1 – 18 October
  • Ancre Heights: 1 October – 11 November
  • Ancre: 13 – 18 November

Adverse weather conditions i.e. the autumn rains and early winter sleet and snow turned the battlefield into morass of mud.  Such intolerable physical conditions helped to bring to an end Allied offensive operations after four and a half months of slaughter.  The fighting brought no significant breakthrough.  Territorial gain was a strip of land approximately 20 miles wide by 6 miles deep, at enormous cost. British and Commonwealth forces were calculated to have 419,654 casualties (dead, wounded and missing) of which some 131,000 were dead.  French casualties amounted to 204,253.  German casualties were estimated between 450,000 to 600,000. In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette

The mid-September offensive was expected to extend the front line from roughly Pozieres to Ginchy north eastwards past Flers towards Geudecourt, Lesboufs and Morval.[18]  23 Division was not involved until the night of the 18th September when it began to relieve 15 Division and also took over Starfish Line and Prue Trench, west of Crescent Alley from 150 Brigade, 50 Division.[19] 21 September, patrols found that then enemy had pulled out of Starfish and Prue Trenches.  They were gradually occupied then the next day, 22 September, it was reported that Twenty Sixth Avenue, a communication trench leading to the Le Sars defence appeared to be empty.  On the 23rd, a preliminary bombardment opened up on Morval and Lesboeufs and the next day, 23 Division 68 Brigade attacked Twenty Sixth Avenue, east of the Bapaume Road but was repulsed by machine gun fire.[20]

However, this is not the complete story.  Prior to this, 15 September, 13/DLI was lent to 47 Division, then attacking positions east of High Wood.  The battalion reached trenches near Bazentin-le-Grand and provided working parties, day and night for the 140 and 141 Brigades.  A heavy enemy barrage came down on the night of 17 September, causing many casualties.  On the 19th, it was reported that the Germans had counter-attacked and gained a strategic position – the junction of the Flers line and the communication trench called Drop Alley.  Men of 13/DLI, B Company were called upon to regain this position.  Second Lieutenants A. Hudspeth and Mitchell led parties up Drop Alley and Flers Trench to be met by strong resistance and shelling by British guns.  They were relieved on the morning of the 20th, having sustained 30 casualties,[21] re-joining the battalion at Becourt Wood.

22 September, 13/DLI moved to support positions at Bacon Trench, Cameron Trench, Highland Trench, Lancs Trench, Butterworth Trench and Shetland Alley.  They came under shell fire, sustaining casualties – 1 killed and 5 wounded.  The next day the steady trickle of casualties from enemy shelling continued and Private James Hull was killed and 3 men wounded.  [22]  Later research records that 13/DLI lost 20 Other Ranks, killed in action or died of wounds between 13 and 30 September 1916.[23]

Awards and Medals

Private James Hull was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the Victory and British War medals.[24]



James Hull’s effects and pension were awarded to his widow, Elizabeth A. Hull.[25]


24505 Private James Hull, 13th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France[26] and the Witton Park war memorials.



James Hull was born at Bishop Auckland, worked in the collieries around Crook and married Elizabeth Parker from Witton Park, living there prior to the war.  He enlisted as a volunteer and joined the 13th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry entering France, 24 September 1915.  He was killed almost a year later, 23 September 1916, as German shell fire hit the support trenches during the Battle of the Somme between actions at Flers-Courcelette and Morval.  He has no known grave.  His burial place on the battlefield was lost and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme.  He was 37 years old and left a widow and 3 children. 


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10 p.200 Auckland 1879 Q2

[3] 1881 census

[4] 1881 census

[5] 1891 census

[6] 1901 census

[7] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.270 Auckland 1905 Q1

[8] 1911 census Note: no idea what this is!

[9] Pension Claimant card index

[10] 1911 census Note: why?  Had she been adopted by them?

[11] Pension Claimant card index

[12] Soldiers Died in the Great War



[15] Medal Roll card index


[17] Various sources – “The Somme” 2005 Peter Hart,  www.cwgc/somme, “The Somme: the day by day account” 1993 Chris McCarthy

[18] “The Somme Day by Day Account” Chris McCarthy 1993 p.101

[19] McCarthy p.112

[20] McCarthy p.115

[21] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18” 1920 Wilfred Miles p.88-90

[22] “With Bayonets Fixed: The 12th and 13th Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry in the Great War” 2013 John Sheen p.179

[23] Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War

[24] Medal Roll card index, Rolls dated 23 April 1920 & 17 October 192?

[25] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929 Record No.386234

[26] Commonwealth War Graves Commission