Information about birth

Date of birth:
31/12/1879
Place of birth:
Fulham, Middlesex, England, United Kingdom

General information

Profession:
Labourer

Army information

Country:
England, United Kingdom
Force:
British Expeditionary Force
Rank:
Serjeant
Service number:
G/703
Enlistment place:
Hammersmith, Middlesex, England, United Kingdom
Units:
 —  The Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment), 2nd Bn.  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
31/07/1917
Place of death:
Jaffa Trench, Westhoek, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)
Age:
37

Memorial

Distinctions and medals 4

Points of interest 2

#1 Place of birth
#2 Enlistment place

My story

Serjeant James Connell, a 37-year-old labourer from Fulham, served with the 2nd Battalion Middelsex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s own), which was part of the 23rd Brigade, of the 8th Division.

James’ Battalion was in the assembly trenches at Railway Wood on the 30th of July 1917. On the 31st of July it took part in the opening day of the offensive, which would later be known as the Battle of Passchendaele. The 8th Division attacked with three Brigades at 3.50 a.m., zero hour.

When the first objective on top of the Bellewaerde Ridge had been captured the 2nd Middlesex moved forward to the second objective on the Westhoek Ridge. The 2nd Middlesex advanced without much opposition; even up to Jaffa Trench the men didn’t encounter much resistance. But as soon as James’ Battalion started consolidating the crest of the Westhoek Ridge, the German stopped retreating and opened fire with machine-guns from an enclosure on the railway and from the neighbourhood from Sans Souci. Snipers also crept closer by and opened fire. Because of the renewed German opposition, the Battalions of the 25th Brigade wern’t able to advance to the last objective and the 2nd Middlesex dug in near Jaffa Trench. The Battalion was subjected to heavy shelling and machine-gun fire throughout the night and the following morning.

The 2nd Middlesex held their ground despite heavy shelling. But they paid a heavy price doing so. Of the 28 officers and 830 other ranks who went into battle on the 31st of July, four officers were killed, eight were wounded, of the other ranks 28 were killed, 201 wounded and 38 were missing. We presume that Serjeant Connell James was killed in the attack on the Westhoek Ridge, leaving behind a wife and two children. James has no known grave and is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

Sources 6

Ancestry
http://www.ancestry.co.uk/
Further reference
CWGC
http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1607467/CONNELL,%20JAMES
Sources used
Passchendaele Day-By-Day, McCarthy C.
Sources used
The Die-Hards in the Great War: A History of Cambridge's own (Middlesex Regiment), Volume Two 1916-1919, E. Wyrall
Sources used
The Long, Long Trail
http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/
Sources used
War Diary 2nd Bn. of the Duke of Cambridge’s own (Middlesex regiment)
http://www.nmarchive.com/
Sources used