681469 GNR. J. K. SKELTHORNE. R.F.A.
James Kenyon Skelthorne was born on 1 March 1887 in Liverpool and baptised at Liverpool St Mary Magdalene on 30 October that year. His father was John Skelthorne (b. 1848 in Liverpool), a porter. His mother was Alice Cave (b. 1850 in Liverpool). John and Alice were married in Everton in 1873 and they had at least 10 children. Two died young, including another James Kenyon (1879-1884). The other survivors were: John (b. 1875), George (b. 1877), Mary Alice (b. 1880), Elizabeth (b. 1883), Ellen (b. 1885), then James, then Harriet (b. 1889) and finally William (b. 1892). John Skelthorne died in 1894 and his wife Alice died in 1910. In 1911, James was living with five of his adult siblings, and another adult who seems to be an adopted sibling, at 11 Exe Street, Liverpool. James was working as clerk in a chemical manufacturer’s. The Census return is filled in and signed by James although Ellen is nominated as the head of the household. Ellen is also named in later army documents as next of kin to James and his brother George (who served in the King’s (Liverpool Regiment)).
James enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery in 1915. He was assigned service number 681469 and posted to “D” Battery of 286 Brigade. D Bty was a howitzer battery. 286 Brigade landed in France in February 1917 and spent the spring and early summer in the defence of Armentières.
In June 1917, 286 Brigade were defending Armentières and the War Diary reports regular enemy bombardment of the town and the artillery batteries. 286Bde were engaged in wire-cutting and general harassment of the enemy, but suffered retaliation. On 11 June, the Diary records: “1 Other Rank D/286 wounded. A/286 Bde position heavily shelled with 5.9s. C/286 Bde 2 O/R killed in action, 14 O/R wounded. Wire-cutting. S.O.S. – Enemy succeeded in entering our front-line trench but did not get out again”. The following day, 12 June, there was a premature burst of a howitzer shell which caused an explosion and 4 men from “D” Battery were wounded. James may have been wounded in this accident or possibly in earlier action, on 8 or 11 June. He died of wounds at 54th Casualty Clearing Station on 12 June. He was 30 years old.
Service No: 681469
Date of Death: 13/06/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “D” Bty, 286 Bde.
Cemetery/memorial reference: IV. B. 6.
Cemetery/Memorial: ESTAIRES COMMUNAL CEMETERY AND EXTENSION