- Name: Manley Angell JAMES
- D.O.B: 12th Jul, 1896
- D.O.A: 23rd Mar, 1918
- D.O.D: 23rd Sep, 1975
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Temporary Captain, 8th Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment, 57th Brigade, 19th Division
East of Bapaume, France 21-23 March 1918
21-23 March 1918
The First World War 1918
On 21 March 1918 the Germans launched their Spring offensive against the section of Front manned by British Third and Fifth Armies running from Roeux on the River Scarpe east of Arras in the north to the River Oise west of La Fère in the south, as the crow flies a distance of about 50 miles, but over double that on the ground. 6th Corps held the British Line south of Arras. From the previous evening, German troops had begun probing British positions at this point. 13th Battalion Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment) were in the line from St-Léger, just east of the road south from Arras to Bapaume, along the road south to Mory. It was here on the morning of 21 March 1918 that Temporary Second Lieutenant E F Beal gallantly repelled a German incursion, helping to stabilize the situation until he was killed. However, German pressure was relentless and the British were pushed back. As the enemy advanced steadily towards Bapaume, 1st Battalion The Wiltshire Regiment was moved to the north of Frémicourt, a village east of Bapaume and just south of the Cambrai road. 4th Corps was trying to hold a line between Vaulx and Morchies to the north of the road. It was for his gallantry in the fighting which followed that Acting Captain R F J Hayward was awarded the VC. The surviving Wiltshires, three officers and 54 NCOs and men, were gathered at Bihucourt, north-west of Bapaume, on 24 March. Hayward had been evacuated with the other wounded the night before. When the German offensive had opened on the 21st, 8th Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment mounted an unsuccessful counter-attack at Doignies to try and contain the enemy advance south of the Bapaume-Cambrai road. They were then withdrawn west to Vélu Wood. By the 23rd, the German advance had reached this point and the Glosters, together with 10th Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment (see Temporary Captain J R Gribble VC below), was ordered to cover the further withdrawal of British forces. It was in these actions that Temporary Captain M A James distinguished himself. Bapaume itself was abandoned to the Germans.
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in attack. Capt. James led his company forward with magnificent determination and courage, inflicting severe losses on the enemy and capturing twenty-seven prisoners and two machine guns. He was wounded, but refused to leave his company, and repulsed three hostile onslaughts the next day. Two days later, although the enemy had broken through on his right flank, he refused to withdraw and made a most determined stand, inflicting very heavy losses on the enemy and gaining valuable time for the withdrawal of guns. He was ordered by the senior officer on the spot to hold on “to the last” in order to enable the brigade to be extricated. He then led his company forward in a local counter-attack on his own initiative, and was again wounded. He was last seen working a machine gun single-handed, after having been wounded a third time. No praise can be too high for the gallant stand made by this company, and Capt. James, by his dauntless courage and magnificent example, undoubtedly enabled the battalion to be withdrawn before being completely cut off.