- Name: James KIRK
- D.O.B: 27th Jan, 1897
- D.O.A: 4th Nov, 1918
- D.O.D: 4th Nov, 1918
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Second Lieutenant, 10th Battalion The Manchester Regiment (TF), attached 2nd Battalion, 96th Brigade, 32nd Division
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 2
Battle of the Sambre, France 4 November 1918
4 November 1918
The First World War 1918
By the beginning of November 1918, Germany was on the verge of military and political collapse. On 4 November the Allies launched their last major offensive of the war. First, Third and Fourth Armies were ordered to push eastwards towards Mons, Mauberge and Avesnes. To maintain its advance, Fourth Army had to cross the Canal de la Sambre, a formidable obstacle, as the Canal was from 35 to 50 feet across, though the locks at Landrecies, Ors and Catillon were only 17 feet wide. However to aid the crossing, the sappers had prepared a large number of rafts on petrol-tin and cork floats. 75th Brigade, 25th Division, of which 1/8th Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment formed a part, attacked Landrecies on the Canal from a position south of the Faubourg Soyères, north-west of the town. Lance Corporal W Amey distinguished himself by his gallantry in the fighting here. Though the main bridge was blown up by the Germans, the Battalion succeeded in taking the lock and crossing the canal. To the south-west, 96th Brigade attacked the canal north of Ors with the support of 218 Field Company, Royal Engineers. Acting Major A H S Waters, RE, and Sapper A Archibald helped construct a floating bridge for 2nd Battalion The Manchester Regiment. Second Lieutenant J Kirk managed to cross the canal on a raft to afford covering fire with a Lewis gun until he was killed. This bridge was soon destroyed by German artillery fire. Acting Lieutenant Colonel J N Marshall, 16th Battalion The Lancashire Fusiliers, superintended the repair of another bridge north of Ors, and was killed attempting to lead his men across it. It was during the battle for the canal at Ors that the poet Wilfred Owen was also killed. Further south, around Catillon, three crossings were planned. That over Lock No 1, east of Rejet-de-Beaulieu, nearly two miles south of Catillon, was allocated to 2nd Brigade. There was stiff German resistance but Major G de C E Findlay, 409 (Lowland) Field Company, RE, succeeded in bridging the dykes and lock and Acting Lieutenant Colonel D G Johnson, assisted the engineers and then led his men of 2nd Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment, across the canal. The Germans had not only failed to prevent the British from crossing the Sambre, but by the end of the day the Fourth Army had forced them back about three miles along a fifteen-mile front.
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty North of Ors on 4th November, 1918, whilst attempting to bridge the Oise Canal. To cover the bridging of the canal he took a Lewis gun, and, under intense machine-gun fire, paddled across the canal on a raft, and at a range of ten yards expended all his ammunition. Further ammunition was paddled across to him and he continuously maintained covering fire for the bridging party from a most exposed position till killed at his gun. The supreme contempt of danger and magnificent self-sacrifice displayed by this gallant officer prevented many casualties and enabled two platoons to cross the bridge before it was destroyed.