Service number 35481 Private James William laws of The 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment.
James was born in 1899, his birth was registered in the Pontefract district in the third quarter of that year. His parents were John William Laws a brewers labourer, and Eliza Laws.
In the 1901 census he was just one year of age and living at 30, Gray Street in Goole with his parents and brothers George and Harold. By 1911 he was 12 and living at Rising Sun Cottages at Hill Top in Knottingley with his parents, 3 brothers and 2 sisters. Their father John was now a ballastman on the railway.
By 1917 James was 18 years old and employed by Messrs. R. Clough and Co. of Botany Mills on Dalton Lane in Keighley.
He enlisted in the Army in August. His initial service number was 5/108013 with the 8th Training Reserve Battalion, Prince of Wales' Own West Yorkshire Regiment and later he was allocated the number 62367, still with the Prince of Wales' Own West Yorkshire Regiment.
James entered France in early April of 1918 with a new service number 35481, having been transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. James wrote a letter home on the 16th April and was sadly killed in action on April 29th, with his death being reported in the Keighley News of 18th May 1918.
Mr and Mrs J. Laws, of 6, Buxton Street, Dalton lane, have received official news of the death in action on April 29 of their second son, Private James William Laws, of the Yorkshire Regiment. He joined the Army in August last, and had only been in France about three weeks. In civil life he was employed by Messrs. R. Clough and co. Botany Mills, Dalton Lane.
James has no known final resting place. He is remembered on the Yorkshire Regiment panel number 53 of the Tyne Cot Cemetery's Memorial wall.
He is remembered in the Keighley WW1 illuminated Roll of Honour book, which is on display in Keighley Library.
He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service and his parents would have received a memorial plaque and scroll in honour of his sacrifice.
His photograph, letter, medals and memorial plaque have been given to the Men of Worth Project to be archived:
James wrote a letter from the front to his parents, which we have transcribed here:
April 16th 1918
Dear Mother & Father,
I am sorry that I haven't written before but I have had no writing paper and I have borrowed this.
I hope you are in the best of health as it leaves me in the pink. It is rough out here but we have got to stick it.
Gillard has got in another company so I don't see him now. It is rather cold out here we had a lot of snow one day.
We are not allowed to write our address on top but put it in the middle. It is Pte J W Laws (35481) C. Coy. 10 Platoon 2nd Yorks Regt. B.E.F. France. Put this down on a piece of paper and there you will have it. Remember me to all at Keighley and tell them I will write later.
From your affectionate son Jim.
Cheer up, the war will soon be over.
For James the war would indeed 'soon be over,' as he was killed just two weeks later. It is possible that this letter was his final contact with his parents.
The reference to his friend ‘Gillard’ is most likely to be Private William Gillard of 126, Parkwood Street in Keighley, who was a prisoner of war some time after James was killed. He returned home safely in late 1918.
War diary for 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (page 78 and 79):
Sections in italic text are the names of the men who died during this period and where they are commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).
(Some terms used are Btt'n or Bn. for Battalion and Coy for Company, HQ or Hdqrs for Headquarters)
Received orders in early morning to occupy Battle Positions on account of suggested withdrawal to the Steenbeek Line. Usual wiring parties found.
Orders received to remain in Battle Positions, and working parties as usual.
Usual working parties. Orders to withdraw received owing to position of flanks.
Withdrawal to Steenbeek Line complete by 6 a.m. This left C & B Companies in Front Line.
Morning was very quiet, but about 3 p.m. Enemy commenced to shell very heavy and was seen to move forward and occupy the ground vacated by us.
Heavy shelling of back areas and also new line. Relieved about 11 p.m. by the 10th Inf. Regt. Belgians, and moved back to White Mill arriving in camp about 1 a.m. 18th.
The following officers joined for duty:- Lieut J. C. Storey; Lieut G. F. Mitchinson; Lieut W. H. Porter; Lieut S. A. Bowler, Lieut A. E. Malins; Lieut T. H. T. Dale; Lieut H. H. Fraser; 2nd Lieut F. C. Ainley; Lieut V. W. W. S. Purcell, Lieut H. R. B. Bailey; 2nd Lieut W. Jackson; 2nd Lieut R. S. Beaumont; 2nd Lieut A. Dockray; 2nd Lieut H. R. R. Bicknell; 2nd Lieut C. H. Marsden; 2nd Lieut B. Wahl.
WHITE MILL CAMP
Moved from WHITE MILL CAMP to BUSSEBOOM Area.
Moved up to the line in front of HILL 60., relieving 6th Bn. K.O.S.B. (27th Bde 9th Div) Bn HQ in LARCH WOOD.
Fairly quiet. About 11 p.m. the S.O.S. was sent up on our right, but enemy attack repulsed. At same time enemy raided a Post on our immediate left held by the 6th Leicester Regt. 2nd Lt W. O. Hall (O.C. A. Coy took over a small party to recapture Post but on arrival found it unoccupied.
CWGC: 36030 Private W V ROBERTS - HAUTMONT COMMUNAL CEMETERY, I. A. 23. France
Quiet. Nothing of importance to report.
Quiet. Nothing of importance to report. 2nd Lieut. F. C. Ainley accidentally wounded.
Quiet. Nothing of importance to report. Lieuts. J. C. Storey; W.W.W.S. Purcell; G. F. Mitchinson reposted to 1/4th Battalion & 2nd Lt. W. Jackson to 1/5 Bn. 2nd Lt. W. P. Burkett killed.
CWGC: Second Lieutenant WILLIAM PETER BURKETT aged 29 - EBBLINGHEM MILITARY CEMETERY, I. B. 25. France
Quiet. C Company moved to the right relieving a Coy of 6th Leicesters. Lieut. T. H. T. Bale killed.
2nd Lieut. C. Catterson rejoined from Hospital and 2nd Lieut. A. E. I. belcher rejoined from tour of duty at home.
CWGC: 45343 Private NORMAN BRUNSKILL aged 23 - LA CAPELLE-EN-THIERACHE COMMUNAL CEMETERY France
Fairly quiet. A Post held by B Coy was surprised by the enemy from behind, who after throwing several bombs made off. Casualties today were 2 killed, 1 died of wounds & 6 wounded.
CWGC: Lieutenant THOMAS HENRY THRISCUTT BALE aged 33 - LIJSSENTHOEK MILITARY CEMETERY, XXVIII. A. 3. Belgium
35441 Private JOHN HARRY GIBSON aged 19 - TYNE COT MEMORIAL, Panel 52 to 54. Belgium
41903 Private WILLIAM LANCASTER aged 22 - TYNE COT MEMORIAL, Panel 52 to 54. Belgium
35513 Private JOHN PILLING aged 18 - TYNE COT MEMORIAL, Panel 52 to 54. Belgium
19072 Serjeant DANIEL THOMAS WHETTON aged 22 - TYNE COT MEMORIAL, Panel 52 to 54. Belgium
About 11 a.m. news was received that the 16th Manchesters on our Right was surrounded, and we were informed by telephone that the enemy was bombing the entrances of their Bn. Hd. Qrs. at SPOIL BANK. The order "Man Battle Stations" was immediately sent out and a defensive line was formed on our Right Flank by D Coy assisted by Machine Guns. A Bn. of the Essex Regt. was also brought up to help. About 11 p. m. it was found that the 7th Leicesters on our left had withdrawn, but as no orders had been received the Battalion held on.
At 1.30 a. m. 27th orders to withdraw to MONTREAL CAMP, OUDERDOM AREA were received and the withdrawal was carried out fairly smoothly except for heavy shelling. The Bn. was settled in Camp about 3 a. m., and Camp was shelled at intervals throughout the day. Lieut. A. E. Malins was gassed and Lt. T. C. W. Sandland was wounded on 26th. Lieut. H. R. B. Bailey to 1/4th Bn., and Lt. W. H. Porter to 1/5th Batt'n on the 26th. 2nd Lieut. A. L. Shaw wounded 26th.
CWGC: 19213 Private J A WHEELER - SHEFFIELD (BURNGREAVE) CEMETERY, Screen Wall. T2. "C." 30. United Kingdom
MONTREAL CAMP, then TRENCHES
About 3 a. m. the Battalion received orders to move forward again to a position of readiness. Enemy shelled all round very heavy. The following officers left Battalion reposted as follows:- Lieut. H. H. Fraser to 1/5th Ban., 2nd Lieut. A. Dockray, B. Wahl, R. S. Beaumont, G. A. Bowler, H. R. Bicknell and C. H. Marsden to 13th Battalion.
CWGC: 39382 Serjeant H BROWN - SHEFFIELD (BURNGREAVE) CEMETERY, Screen Wall. T2. "C." 30. United Kingdom
35500 Private JOHN NOLAN aged 18 - ESQUELBECQ MILITARY CEMETERY, I. B. 10. France
Moved forward to a Reserve G.H.Q. Line. Enemy shelling again heavy.
CWGC: 241260 Private J H WORTON - PERTH CEMETERY (CHINA WALL), III. L. 2. Belgium
35481 Private JAMES WILLIAM LAWS aged 18 - TYNE COT MEMORIAL, Panel 52 to 54. Belgium
45355 Private R LANGSTAFF - KLEIN-VIERSTRAAT BRITISH CEMETERY, V. B. 5. Belgium
42470 Private A E SEABORN - ESQUELBECQ MILITARY CEMETERY, I. B. 16. France
Moved forward again. Companies being in support to the King's Liverpool Regiment, near DICKEBUSH LAKE. Nothing of importance to report. 2nd Lieut. J. S. G. Branscome wounded.
Diary page signed Edw. Pickard Capt, & 2nd in command for Lieut. Colonel Commanding 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment.
England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915
Yorkshire Baptisms for Howden, Yorkshire (East Riding), England
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
UK, World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
UK, Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
UK, World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923
West Yorkshire, England, Electoral Registers, 1840-1962
WO 95 2329-2-2 War diary for 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment