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WW1 Casualty: Private 241960 James Earnest Cofield -

Private 241960 James Earnest Cofield

Unit/Regiment 2nd/5th Bn., South Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death 01/01/1918 Age at Death 21
& Reference
Harlebeke New British Cemetery
XII B 13
CWGC Family Details (if shown) Son of the late William and Ellen Cofield.
Census Details 1901 Census -

The Cofield family lived at 28 Warrington Road, Prescot and comprised father William a 45 year old Railway Signal man, mother Ellen (44), and children Joseph (22), John (19), George (14), Elizabeth (8), William (7) and James (5)

1911 Census -

The Cofield family lived at 76, Eccleston Street, Prescot. William (57) and Ellen (58) were joined by daughters Lizzie, Grace and Ellen, and sons William and James (15), who worked as a painter at the Wire Works.
Birth/Marriage/Death Registrations Birth Registered Q3/1896, Prescot, 8b, 700
SDGW – Where Born Prescot, Lancs
Enlisted Prescot
How Died Died of Wounds Theatre of War France & Flanders
Research Ref. No. P054

Service Details

James was the younger brother of John Edward Cofield and George Frederick Cofield

The 2nd/5th battalion of the South Lancashire regiment was officially constituted at Liverpool on September 23rd, 1914, principally as a 'second line' unit for the 1st/5th battalion. It proceeded to Blackpool on 11th November to commence its training, although it was severely handicapped in the early days by a lack of uniforms and equipment.

Early in 1915, the battalion was moved to Tunbridge Wells in Kent, forming part of the Central Force for Home Defence, although training was still hampered by the lack of equipment. The battalion consisted of 37 officers and 1,203 other ranks, although a significant proportion of these were for Home Service only. In addition, a high turnover of personnel came about due to the large number of discharges on medical grounds.

In May of 1915, the first draft to replace casualties at the front was called for and 10 officers left immediately for France. A steady drain of men continued until November, when the 3rd/5th battalion was formed to act as a Depot for men who had been evacuated due to wounds or sickness, also supplying drafts to the first line battalion. The second line battalion was now able to form itself into a shape fit for the purpose of fighting.

As 1916 progressed, the battalion remained on Home Service, mainly constructing field fortifications for the protection of London, south of the Thames. In June, however, the battalion was moved to Ashdown in Kent to complete training in preparation for moving overseas. Orders were not received until Christmas 1916, however. Eventually, the battalion entrained at Farnborough on 16th February 1917 for Folkstone. Their departure for France was delayed by fog until the 20th, when they sailed on the s.s. 'Princess Henriette' with a full complement of officers and men.

James Cofield's service number of 241906 is shown on his Medal Index Card (below). This number was issued in February 1917 and so in all likelihood, he was one of the men who landed on France on 20th February.

Their early days in France were mobile, moving from Boulogne to Bailleul, then Oultersteene and finally to Armentieres. Here on 4th March, they moved into the front line trenches for the first time, relieving the men of the 2nd/4th battalion. At this time, Armentieres was a 'quiet' sector and so the battalion passed the month of March suffering few casualties.

The battalion moved constantly around the front line areas throughout the remaining months of the year, ultimately moving into front line trenches in the Houthulst Forest sector on Christmas Day under constant German harassing fire. On 27thn of December, 'B' and 'C' companies were relived in preparation for a raid on Turenne Crossing, north of Poelcapelle. They went back to Baboon Camp for training for the assault, planned for the night of 30th/31st December. The operation had been carefully rehearsed and was scheduled to start at 8 p.m., supported by artillery, machine guns and mortars. Snow was lying thickly and the raiders were instructed to wear white shirts over their uniform.

The companies advanced at zero hour under a creeping barrage. The artillery was effective and little resistance was encountered, with all the objectives being taken and the line being advanced by 200 yards. However casualties were suffered with 2 officers and 17 other ranks killed and 13 wounded.

Private James Cofield was one of the wounded. He succumbed to his wounds on New Years Day 1918. Though full details aren't clear, it would seen that Pte Cofield was buried by the Germans.

CWGC records report his original burial as being at Hooglede West German Military Cemetery, and he was one of 16 men who were exhumed from there and reburied in 1919 at New British Cemetery. His next of kin was listed as Mr G F Cofield of 1, Beech Road, Huyton

James Cofield's Medal Index Card

The Parish Magazine of 29th May 1918 added 10 names to the existing 106 who had already fallen, including 'Pte. James Ernest Cofield, 21, 5th South Lancs. Now reported by the War Office to have fallen on 1st January 1918. He was brother in law to Private William Henry Prescott and lived with his parents at 76, Eccleston Street'.

His service is commemorated on the EFD Roll of Honour

James Cofield's CWGC headstone at Harlebeke New British Cemetery

The Register of Soldier's Effects, shown below, listed James' mother Ellen and brother George as legatees

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