Priestley J.

JAMES PRIESTLEY (1887-1917)

12312 Gunner James Priestley, 2nd Brigade, Australian Field Artillery was killed in action 7 February 1917 and is buried at Martinpuich British Cemetery, France.[1]   He was 30 years old and is commemorated on Butterknowle War Memorial, the Memorial Plaque in St. John the Envangelist Church, Lynesack; the Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra; the Corps of Artillery Roll of Honour, the Perth War Memorial, Western Australia and the Bayswater War Memorial, Western Australia.

Family Details

James Priestley was bc.1887[2] in the Parish of Lynesack and Softley, the son of Alfred and Elizabeth Priestley.  There were at least 9 children, all born within the Parish: [3]

  • Jane bc.1885
  • James bc.1887
  • Thomas bc.1888
  • Maud bc.1890
  • Alfred bc.1892
  • Ernest bc.1893
  • Sidney bc.1895
  • Gerty bc.1897
  • Gladys bc.1900

In 1891, the family lived at Grewburn Lane.  His father, 31 year old Alfred worked as a coal miner.[4]  By 1901 they lived at Diamond Terrace, Butterknowle and Alfred worked as a “colliery deputy overman” and 14 year old James worked as “driver in coal mine”.[5]  Alfred died in 1904.[6]  By 1911, the family lived at Diamond Hill.  24 year old James and 23 year old Tom were coal miners (hewers), 19 year old Alfred and 17 year old Ernest were coal miners (putters) and 15 year old Sydney worked as a “driver in the coal mine”.  Others at home were 21 year old Maud and 11 year old Gladys. [7]

In 1914, James migrated to Australia and lived with his sister Maud, now married as Mrs. Robson at May Street, Bayswater a suburb of Perth, Western Australia.  He worked as a labourer.

Service Details

5 November 1915: James Priestley, aged 28 years and 3 months, enlisted at Perth into the Australian Imperial Force, 2nd Field Artillery Brigade.[8]

He was 5ft 8½” tall, weighed 140lbs., fresh complexion, grey eyes, and brown hair and under distinctive marks, it is recorded that he had the Australian Coat of Arms on his right forearm.[9]

  • 29 February 1916: the Brigade left Australia for Cairo, Egypt as the 14th Taken on strength 21st Howitzer Brigade and posted to 102nd Battery.
  • 25 March 1916: left Egypt to join the BEF.
  • 1 April 1916: disembarked at Marseilles, France.
  • 15 May 1916: he was taken on strength and posted to the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade.

The Australian Imperial Force was re-organised in January 1916 and the new brigades were filled by new drafts which arrived in France from 13 March 1916.  It remained in France and Flanders for the rest of the war and took part in the Battle of Pozieres 23 July t0 3 September 1916 which was a phase of the Battle of the Somme. [10]

  • 23 November 1916 – 1 January: Gunner J. Priestley was admitted to hospital (5th Australian Field Ambulance then 36th Casualty Clearing Station then 7th Ambulance Train then 2nd General Hospital at Havre) with “nervous exhaustion.”
  • 1 January 1917: re-joined 2nd Field Artillery Brigade.
  • 7 February 1917: killed in action. [11]
  • 31 January 1917: The 102nd Battery moved into position and the War Diary contains the following entry:

“In the field: 9.2.17:

Casualties 3-2-17 to 9-2-17: 2 O.Ranks killed 2 wounded” [12]

12312 Gunner J. Priestley was killed in action 7 February 1917 and it is presumed that he is one of the two recorded in the war diary.

After a trying time on the Somme between May and November during the whole of the Battle of the Somme, Gunner Priestley was admitted to hospital suffering from “nervous exhaustion.”  He was treated for about 6 weeks between 23 November 1916 and 1 January 1917 then returned to the front line.  Within 5 weeks he was killed in action.

Gunner J. Priestley was awarded the British War and Victory medals.

Burial

12312 Gunner J. Priestley, 2nd Brigade, Australian Field Artillery was killed in action 7 February 1917 and he is buried at grave reference B.16 Martinpuich British Cemetery.  There are 115 burials in this cemetery.  One of whom is at B.17 another who served with 102nd Battery, 22 year old Gunner L.J.C. Baker from Middle Brighton, Victoria, Australia.

 Commemorations

Gunner J. Priestley is commemorated in England and Australia as follows:

  • The Butterknowle War Memorial
  • John the Envangelist Church, Lynesack: the Memorial Plaque
  • The Australian War Memorial, Canberra: the Roll of Honour
  • The Perth War Memorial, Western Australia: the Corps of Artillery Roll of Honour
  • The Bayswater War Memorial, Western Australia.

References:

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.250 Auckland 1889 Q2 and baptised 27 January 1889 but census records, Australian Military Forces Attestation Paper and CWGC indicate 1887

[3] 1891, 1901 & 1911 census records

[4] 1891 census

[5] 1901 census

[6] England & Wales Death Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.161 Auckland 1904 Q4

[7] 1911 census

[8] AMF attestation paper

[9] Medical Examination

[10] http://www.1914-1918.net/1ausdiv.htm

[11] Army Form B.103

[12] Item No.13/30/27 War Diary HQ 2nd Australian Field Artillery Brigade February 1917

Photographs:

PRIESTLEY J.  Headstone

PRIESTLEY J.
Headstone

AUSTRALIAN  WAR MEMORIAL

AUSTRALIAN
WAR MEMORIAL

PRIESTLEY J.  Inscription Australian  War Memorial Canberra

PRIESTLEY J.
Inscription
Australian
War Memorial
Canberra

PRIESTLEY J  Perth War Memorial

PRIESTLEY J
Perth War Memorial

PRIESTLEY J  Inscription Perth War Memorial

PRIESTLEY J
Inscription
Perth War Memorial

PRIESTLEY J Bayswater War Memorial Perth WA

PRIESTLEY J
Bayswater War Memorial
Perth WA

PRIESTLEY J  Inscription Bayswater War Memorial

PRIESTLEY J
Inscription
Bayswater War Memorial

One thought on “Priestley J.

  1. Pingback: BUTTERKNOWLE | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

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