James Leslie Crossley, the Great-uncle of our present day parishioner, Maria Duckworth, was born in Rawtenstall in 1998. James was the only son in a family of 5 children, all of whom attended St James the Less church school.

The 1901 census shows the family at 7 Double Street, with James’ mother, Mary Ann who was by then widowed, and his sisters all working in the textile industry. Double Street was in the Longholme area of Rawtenstall, long since demolished but in the vicinity of where the Tesco store now stands. In fact the family lived in at least two other houses in Longholme; 2, Double Street and no 1 Garden Street, which was built back-to back with no 2 (Double Street) and where they were recorded as being in the 1911 census.

After leaving St James the Less school James worked as a baker for the Rawtenstall Industrial Co-Operative Society at the Bury Road shop, no doubt a busy and demanding job, with the Co-op growing its member numbers relentlessly at that time.

In 1916, at the age of 18 years, James enlisted with the Manchester Regiment and for the 18 months or so of his service, was deployed to the Western Front in Belgium with the Regiment’s 18th Battalion.

In December 1917 the battalion was engaged in the Battle of Passchendaele. On the morning of 14th, in what had long since become appalling conditions, they came under sustained artillery bombardment from the enemy, resulting in very heavy losses. James was one of the soldiers killed and his body, like thousands of others lost in the mud and craters of Flanders fields, was never recovered.

James was recorded as missing in action until November 1918, when his death was confirmed to his family. A tribute to him was placed in the Rossendale Free Press newspaper on 23rd November 1918. His only remaining effects – £6.1s.1d owed in pay – was handed to his mother in March 1919, followed by a war gratuity payment of £3, in November.

James is commemorated on the Tynecot Memorial, Belguim, along with 35,000 other soldiers, killed in action in Flanders and whose graves are unknown.


D7 Rossendale Free Press - James Leslie Crossley