Every Name A Story Content

Brass, J.R., Lieut.,1915

Photo: Chester-Le-Street Chronicle 14/05/1915

N.E. Institute of Mining & Mechanical Engineers

Photo : Dorothy Hall

CWGC Headstone

Medal Index Card

In Potijze Burial Ground Cemetery, Belgium is the Commonwealth War Grave of Lieutenant James Robson Brass serving with the 1/8th Battalion (Territorial) Durham Light Infantry who died 26/04/1915.

In St. Peter's Churchyard is a family headstone for Brass which includes:

Lieut. James Robson Brass
3rd D.L.I. killed in action
26th April 1915
aged 23 years

James Robson Brass was born 4th May 1890 at Charlaw House, Sacriston, the son of Thomas Francis Brass, colliery manager, born 1859, Sherburn Hill, Durham, and his wife Mary Jane Brass, born 1861 at Seaham, they were married in 1889. They had seven children, Hilda Heseltine born 1881, Herbert born 1885, John born 1879, born in Pickering Street, Wingate Colliery, Simon T. born 1888, Thomas Francis born 1889, at Nettlesworth, and Reginald born 1894 at Charlaw House, Sacriston.

Thomas Francis Brass, [James Robson Brass Father], was the son of John Brass, born 1833, Richmond, Yorkshire, who was married to Jane Brass, born 1831. They had eight children, Thomas Francis born 1859, Mary born 1861, James Robson born 1863, John Robert born 1865, Florence born 1874, Emily born 1870, Minnie born, 1872, and Margaret born 1857.

After 1885, the family had moved from Pickering Street, Wingate Colliery to Nettlesworth, prior to residing at Sacriston. James was educated at the Durham Johnston School, from the 10th September 1903. [His brother Reginald also was at the same School]. He trained as an assistant manager over ground at the same Charlaw and Sacriston Colliery as his father.

He enlisted at Sacriston and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant from the 11th June 1913. On the 12th September 1914 he was gazetted a Lieutenant with the 1/8th Battalion, DLI.

James went with the 1st/8th Battalion (Territorial) Durham Light Infantry to France on Monday the 19th April 1915, Folkestone to Boulogne. They embarked on the SS Onward ship number 125122. Arriving at 01.00am on Tuesday 20th April.

SS Mona's Isle (1905). Onward was primarily used on the Folkestone–Boulogne service. Under her original owners, the vessel saw service in World War I. Primarily, she was used as a troop transport ship for the British Expeditionary Force, on her regular route between Folkestone and Boulogne. On 24 September 1918, she caught fire in Folkestone Harbour. The fire took hold, and was only contained by the opening of her seacocks in order to prevent the pier catching fire. This resulted in the scuttling of the vessel; she turned over onto her port side, and was subsequently hauled upright by a team of five steam locomotives in harness

On Sunday the 25th April at about 03.00am, the Battalion reached a position called Boetleer's Farm. The buildings were found to be full of Canadian wounded, which had been their Headquarters. 26th April 1915. The Battalion War Diary page 34, quotes and with the Germans working round both flanks there was no alternative to a retirement. At first there was some confusion, but this was soon checked, the men obeying orders with wonderful steadiness, and at a shallow trench about three hundred yards in rear of the road the line was halted. There Lieutenant J. R. Brass was wounded, [He was hit in the abdomen about 7 a.m. on the 26th] In spite of the heavy fire reorganization was carried out. The trench soon became untenable, being commanded by high ground on both flanks, and a further retirement was ordered by alternate sections to a new position about the line of the Hannebeek, which was held with wide intervals to cover a more extended front.

Total casualties during this action was 19 officers, 574 warrant-officers, non commisioned officers and men, killed, wounded or missing.

This is a list of casualties that day on all fronts. Monday 26th April 1915.

Chester-le-Street Chronicle 14/05/1915, published a letter that had been sent to James’ father describing his wounding and death.

County Councillor Brass, JP, of Charlaw House, Sacriston, has received from an officer of the 8th Durhams a letter giving particulars of the death of his son, Lieut. J.R. Brass. The officer writes:-It may be some consolation to you to know how gallantly your boy behaved under fire. All through the 25th of April, under very trying circumstances, he was as cool and as steady as anything, and showed a very fine example to those near him. He almost seemed to be enjoying himself. On the morning of the 26th, when we had to retire, he was assisting me in organising some men, and his services were of the greatest value. He was so quick to see what one wanted, and so thorough and self-sacrificing in carrying out orders. He was hit in the abdomen about 7 a.m. on the 26th. He was immediately attended to, and a dressing applied. I am afraid he suffered a bit at first, but he rapidly became unconscious. He was carried back, and would soon receive medical attention. Everything possible was done for him.

James’s parents received their son’s medals. When their son died he left a will of £230 18s 9d. to his father Thomas Francis Brass Colliery Cashier.

He was a member of the N.E. Institute of Mining & Mechanical Engineers.

Acknowledgments to: Reg. Hornsby, Eddie Castling, Andrew O'Sullivan

Research: James Pasby

James Robson Brass is remembered in Newcastle on NUT009 in Sacriston on S113.04 and S113.11, at Durham D47.025 in the D.L.I. Book of Remembrance page 98.

Durham at War Story
The CWGC entry for Lieutenant Brass

Battle for Boetleer's Farm

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk