2nd Lieutenant James Fraser Glass

Date of Birth 2 April 1892
Age at Death 23
Date of Death 26 April 1915
Service Number
Military Service 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders
Merton Address The Canons, Madeira Road, Mitcham
Local Memorial Mitcham War Memorial

Additional Information

James Fraser Glass was born in Ealing, London on 2 April 1892. He was the son of Highlander, James Glass, originally from the Isle of Skye and his Indian-born wife, Eliza, daughter of Major General Bulstrode Cumberlege. The couple married in India and their two older children, Mary and Donald were born and baptised in Jabalpur, Bengal. They also had a younger daughter, Noel, born in Ealing.

James Glass senior had a long and successful career as a civil engineer in the Public Works department of the Indian Government, before returning to England during the late Victorian period. By 1901 the family was living a 156, Tamworth Road, Mitcham, together with two household servants. Donald was now studying at Oxford and eight year old James was boarding at a private school in Belgrave Road, Seaford in Sussex. Prior to the death of his father in 1911, the family also leased The Canons in Madeira road, Mitcham. This was one of the finest properties in the area and suggests a high level of wealth and social status.

Having left school, James became a cadet at Wellington College, Berkshire. Founded in 1853, this originally supported the sons of deceased army officers. It is not clear if James qualified through his father, or maternal grandfather. On 23 August 1911, he was appointed as a probationary 2nd Lieutenant with the 3rd Battalion of the Queens’ Own Cameron Highlanders, later joining the 2nd Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders.

Mobilised for war as part of the British Expeditionary Force, the 2nd battalion landed in France in late August 1914. They fought in many of the early battles on the Western Front, including those of Le Cateau, the Marne, Aisne and Messines.

On 20 October 1914, James saw action on the banks of the River Lys, where his battalion was attempting to take a German trench under heavy fire. At about 11am, he and Captain D C Methuen led the 2nd Seaforths in an attempt to take the trench which was situated on a high slippery bank. They succeeded in capturing the section and also took 20 prisoners. Medical records show that James was wounded, sustaining “Bullet wound – armpit, Bullet wounds – superficial 3rd finger, right hand, and Bullet wounds – superficial calf of left leg.”

Sent back to England on the ship, Carisbrooke Castle, he arrived on 2 November and was sent to the Hall-Walker Hospital for Officers in Regents’ Park. Opened in 1914 at Sussex Lodge, the residence of Colonel and Mrs William Hall-Walker, this medical facility was affiliated to Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital in Millbank. The King and Queen visited the Hospital in November and by December 1914 all 16 beds were occupied.

On 10 November James was declared “unfit “ and “granted extended leave at home until the 27th December.“ This entry was subsequently changed from six weeks, to one months’ leave. However this was cut short on 4 December 1914 and James was ordered to join the 3rd Seaforth Highlanders with immediate effect. For much of December he was based with the 3rd Reserves at Cromerty in Scotland but later rejoined the 2nd battalion at the front.

In April 1915, James and his unit fought in the Second Battle of Ypres, which saw the first major use of poison gas in the conflict. On 24 April, the Germans released a gas cloud and word was passed to the troops to urinate on their handkerchiefs and place them over their nose and mouth in an attempt to neutralize the chlorine. These gas attacks took many lives.

Between 22 April and 4 May 1915, James was part of the assault on the little village on St. Julien. This commenced at 4am and drew heavy fire almost immediately. British forces made limited progress against severe machine gun fire and losses were heavy, with 337 killed, wounded or missing. James was shot in the head on 26 April 1915 and it was not until dusk that his comrades were able to rescue him. He died the following day, aged just 22 years old. He was mentioned in dispatches and a notice of his death appeared in the Times the following month. The report of James’ death is said to have been sent to his brother Donald, who was recuperating at Rye after being wounded in the head whilst serving with the Coldstream Guards.

James is buried in Poperinghe Military Cemetery in Belgium and is commemorated locally on the Mitcham War Memorial. The Glass family is also linked to St.Mark’s Church, Mitcham, where James’ surviving sister, Noel, was a prominent worker before her departure for India, following her marriage to civil servant, George Boughey. The church also contains a large stained glass window in memory of James Glass senior.


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