Sapper James Rowley was born in 1880, the son of James & Mary Rowley who lived in a house on the ‘curve’ of Chapel Street, Heath Hayes. The house was built by James Rowley Senior and still stands today.
In 1907 James married local girl Florence Foster and the couple initially lived in a property in Newlands Lane, Heath Hayes. They later moved to a small white cottage on Cannock Road, which due to its size was known locally as the Dolls House! (The property was demolished c.1960).
James was employed as a miner at the Coppice Colliery (known locally as the ‘Fair Lady’ pit). When war broke out he enlisted with the 175th Tunnelling Company of the Royal Engineers and was sent to France on 9th November 1915.
By the beginning of March 1916 he was stationed at Hill 60 in Messines Ridge. It was around this time that James was hit by shrapnel on his hip. He was taken to the No. 8 Red Cross Hospital in Paris. He died there on 8th March 1916.
James left a widow and five children, the youngest being only six weeks old at the time. One of his daughters Florence, took part in the opening ceremony of Heath Hayes War Memorial in 1927, when she presented Mrs Pickerill of Heathy Hays Farm with a bouquet of flowers. [Read about the War Memorial on the 'About Heath Hayes' tab].
*After reading the tunnelling company’s war diary and consulting a WW1 expert, family members have recently discovered that James was actually one of five men injured at Sanctuary Wood on 2nd March 1916.
James was buried at Le Touquet-Paris Plage Cemetery in France and commemorated on the Heath Hayes War Memorial.