James Lees
11 November 1890 - 20 September 1917

Researched and written by June Magill


James LEES was born on the 11th November 1890 in Chase Terrace, Staffordshire. He was the 11th child of Jonas LEES and his wife Lucy.

Jonas LEES was born at Walsall Wood, Staffordshire on the 29th July 1855 the son of William LEES and his wife Susanna. Lucy THOMPSON was born at Burntwood, Staffordshire on the 24th June 1855 the daughter of James THOMPSON and his wife Sarah. Jonas and Lucy had a family of 17 children and lived for a time at Prince Street, Chase Terrace before moving to The Green Burntwood.

As a young boy, James attended Burntwood No 1 Board School, in Church Road Burntwood.

Burntwood Number 1 Board School

Burntwood Number 1 Board School

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After leaving school, James worked as a miner at Fair Lady Colliery at Heath Hayes, Staffordshire

"Fair Lady" Coppice Colliery

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"Fair Lady" Coppice Colliery, Heath Hayes, taken from the Cannock Road

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"Fair Lady" Coppice Colliery, Heath Hayes

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{Coppice Colliery began its 71 year life in 1893. It took two years to sink the two shafts to the 12 coal seams 292m below the surface, the spoil being dumped on the heathland and grassland surrounding the pit head. Lady Hanbury was an important figure in the history of Coppice Colliery. It was she that cut the first turf in 1893 and was the nominated "Coalmaster". Lady Hanbury's progressive attitude towards the welfare of the 500 miners led to the pit becoming known locally as 'The Fair Lady' or 'Lady Pit'. During the general strike of 1926 Lady Hanbury frequently visited the pit bringing soup and sandwiches. She also allowed men and women to pick coal from the spoil mound. In 1954, a modernised Coppice Colliery achieved a National record of 4 tons of coal per manshift, the national average at the time was just 1.3 tons. The slopes of the former colliery have become heath-like in nature with a wetland area on the top of the old pit mound. The area now supports a wealth of wildlife.}

James Lees on holiday in Blackpool 27 June 1914

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Of the 17 children of Jonas and Lucy LEES, three of their sons, Albert, James and Jonas fought in the First World War. When war was declared, James’ elder brother Jonas LEES was in Australia and joined the Australian Army with regimental number 626 in the Mining Corps. Jonas was badly gassed and lost his power of speech but survived the war.

Front page of Jonas Lees’ Australian Imperial Force attestation papers

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Jonas Lees, known as Dickie

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On the 12th February 1915, James enlisted at Lichfield. He joined first the 5th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment and then the 10th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment as Private No 40076 where he was promoted to Lance Corporal.

James and Albert Lees

James and Albert Lees

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On the 20th September 1917 aged 26, Lance Corporal James Lees died fighting in the third battle of Ypres. His body was never recovered and he has no known grave.

His name is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen Belgium.

The Tyne Cot Memorial

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Plan of the Tyne Cot Memorial

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The Tyne Cot Memorial is located 9 kilometres north east of Ieper town centre, on the Tynecotstraat, a road leading from the Zonnebeekseweg (N332). The names of those from United Kingdom units are inscribed on Panels arranged by Regiment under their respective Ranks. His name can be found on Panel 75 to 77.

On the 5th October 1917, a tribute to James appeared in the Lichfield Mercury. It read:-

Mr and Mrs Jonas Lees of Burntwood received official news their son Lance-Corporal James Lees of the Worcestershire Regiment had been killed in action by shell fire, he enlisted February 1915 and had not been home on leave since.

James is commemorated on the Roll of Honour in Lichfield Cathedral.

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James' younger  brother Albert died on 27th July 1917, less than 2 months earlier.

Commemorative certificate for James Lees

Commemorative certificate for James Lees

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Item, Source and Credit

1.   Photograph of Burntwood Number 1 Board School © Alan Betts (Burntwood Family History Group)

2.   Postcard of "Fair Lady" Coppice Colliery © Brownhills Bob website (https://brownhillsbob.com/2013/06/26/my-fair-lady/)

3.   Photograph of "Fair Lady" Coppice Colliery © Cannock Chase  Mining Historical Society  (http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/cannockcoalfield/photogallery/photo26003/Fairlady%202.jpg)

4.   Photograph of "Fair Lady" Coppice Colliery © Brownhills Bob website (https://brownhillsbob.com/2013/06/26/my-fair-lady/)

5.   Photograph of James Lees © June Magill

6.   First page of Jonas Lees’ Australian Imperial Force attestation papers © National Archives of Australia {https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=8193378}

7. Photograph of Jonas Lees © June Magill

8.   Photograph of James and Albert Lees © June Magill

9.   Photograph of the Tyne Cot Memorial © Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://www.cwgc.org/)

10.  Plan of the Tyne Cot Memorial © Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://www.cwgc.org/)

11.  Photograph ofSouth Staffordshire Regiment Memorial Stone  © Alan Betts (Burntwood Family History Group)

12.   Photograph of South Staffordshire Regiment Roll of Honour © Alan Betts (Burntwood Family History Group)

13.  Commemorative certificate in memory of James Lees  © Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://www.cwgc.org/)