Corporal James Slater was born in c.1896, the son of William and Mary Slater of Stafford Street, Heath Hayes. Before the war James worked as pit pony driver and miner at a local colliery.
He went on the enlist with the Royal Engineers and at the end of the conflict he was awarded the M.M [Military Medal] – the Cannock Advertiser reported on his prestigious award:
‘Corporal James Slater, Field Co. of the R.E., son of Mr and Mrs W. Slater, Stafford Street, Heath Hayes, has been awarded the Military Medal.
Corpl. Slater went to France with the North Midland Field Co. of the R.E. in 1915. The honour mentioned has been conferred upon him for deeds set out in the official records as follows:
For conspicuous courage and devotion to duty on two separate occasions. For the excellent work in re-building Gorre Bridge on 9th July 1918, under heavy shell fire, setting a magnificent example to all ranks. On the same night, this N.C.O., under shell fire, stopped a runaway artillery team, which was making straight for the broken bridge. By this action, he undoubtedly saved the lives of the drivers and horses as the risk of his own. On Aug. 5th 1918, when erecting the new barrel pier bridge in lieu of Midland Bridge at Gorre, the enemy shelled the bridge and dispersed the working party. This N.C.O. attended a wounded man, who was left behind, under heavy shelling, and carried him to a place of safety. Then reorganising the party, finished the work on the bridge.”"
Corporal Slater was presented with a gold watch in 1918 by the Cannock and District War Distinctions Fund at a ceremony in his home village of Heath Hayes’.
*Many thanks to Mr P Slater for sharing this article