Gunner James William JOPLING

Honourable Artillery Company
"D" Company, 2nd Battalion (Infantry)
Service Number:
Date of Death:
11 October 1917 - Died of wounds
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
II. M. 12.

Personal History:

According to his Service papers James was born in Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa, in September 1885, although other records suggest 1884. He was the son of William Nicholson and Sarah Jopling and he attended Elmfield School, in '1892'. The School was  originally founded educate the sons of 'Primitive Methodist' ministers. The 1901 Census (RG 13/4245) shows James employed as a "Draper's Assistant", living at a lodging house in Headingly-cum-Burley, Yorkshire.
On the 6th October 1908 James married Anne Marie Gwendoline Davidson, at Fulham. They had one daughter, Kathleen, born on 1st January 1911. He was running a "Ladies and Children's Outfitters" at 57 Spring Gardens, Buxton, in 1910 (Phone Number: Bx. 159 - "British Phone Books"). A year later (1911 Census RG 14/21240) he was still living with his family at 57 Spring Gardens, Buxton, employed as a 'Draper'. The business appeared to be doing well as he was employing three 'Assistants' and two 'Servants'.

When he enlisted in December 1915 they were at the same address. At that time he was 5 ft. 4¾ ins (1.65 m) tall. After the War Gwendoline moved to 20 Wormholt Road, London, W.12. She was awarded a pension of 18s. 9d. (94p) for herself and one child, on 22nd April 1918. She later moved to 235 Uxbridge Road, London.

Military History:
James enlisted at Derby on the 2nd December 1915, aged 30 years 2 months. Initially James was posted to the Army Reserve, but was mobilized on 30th January 1917 and posted to the Honourable Artillery Company on the 7th February, before being posted to France on 24th April 1917. He joined "D" Company "in the field" on the 18th May.

Originally all Battalions of Honourable Artillery Company were part of the Territorial Force. The 2nd Battalion had landed at Le Havre on the 3rd October 1916 and placed under command of 22nd Brigade in 7th Division. At the time James joined the Division, in May 1917, they were preparing for The Battle of Messines, (7th - 14th June 1917) leading into The Third Battle of Ypres, (31st July - 10th November)

James' Service papers confirm that he was wounded on the 9th October and died 2 days later of wounds received. This would have been during The Battle of Poelcappelle, a phase in Third Ypres. On that day 97 Officers and men of the 2nd Battalion were killed in action, all but 10 have no known grave and are commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Five more, including James, died in the next few days.


The purpose of this attack was to straighten out the sharp salient in which the right of the Division had been left owing to the 21st Division not having secured their final objectives on October 4th; in addition it was desired to capture Judge Cottage, Judge Copse and the village of Reutel, whence valuable observation could be obtained by the enemy over the valley of Reutel Beek. The task allotted to the 2nd H.AC. was to capture the village of Reutel and gain touch with the 5th Division about Juniper Cottage, while that of the 2nd Warwicks, on the left of the H.AC., was to capture Judge Copse and Judge Cottage and ground as far as the eastern limits of Reutel. The whole area was a vast sea of mud, which made the assembly unusually difficult. Dispositions for the attack were as under:

     "C" Company on the right under Capt. D. Brunton.
     "D" Company on the left under Lieut. C. W. Sanders.
     "A" Company in support under Capt. F. A Garrett.
     "B" Company in reserve under Capt. D. M. Bluett.

Between 6 and 9 p.m. on the 8th the forming-up tape was laid
out by Lieut. S. E. Sandle, M.C., D.C.M., and by 4.00 a.m. the
forming-up was complete. Heavy casualties were sustained,
however, in the process of assembly, so Lieut.-Col. O'Connor
attached two platoons of "A" Company to "C" and "D"
Companies respectively for the assault.

On the 8th, and before the hour of attack on the 9th, the casualties had included 2nd Lieuts.
S. C. East and H. B. Belder and about 40 other ranks. At 5.30a.m. the assault began.

2/Lt. Sydney Clark EAST is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. 2/Lt. H. B. Belder
was wounded and survived.

The War Diary for the 9th gives details of how the following day's battle developed:

" 4.00 a.m. Forming up complete. "B" Coy withdrew to reserve in JOLTING SUPPORT
4.30 a.m. 1 Platoon from Support Coy moved up to reinforce each of the attacking coys
to replace casualties.
5.00 a.m. In touch with R. WARWICKSHIRE REGT.
Casualties during 8th and forming up 2 Lieuts. H. B. BELDER and S. C. EAST and about
40 O. Ranks including 3 Sgts from "D" Coy
5,20 a.m. Zero. Assault commenced,
5.25 a.m. Enemy counter barrage came down on line JOLTING & JUDGE TRENCHES
from direction of BECELAERE
5.25 a.m. 2 Lieut. H. J. SHELBOURNE wounded [2 Lieut] R. G. GODDARD KILLED
5.30 a.m. CAPT GARRETT cmdg. Support Coy was wounded whilst going forward to reconnoitre.
5.50 a.m. Objective reached by isolated parties of men but owing to heavy losses especially of Officers and N.C.O.s little news was sent back and situation was obscure.
6.10 a.m. to 7.30 a.m. During this period enemy barrage slackened but M. G. fire from direction of Judge Copse was practically continuous. GREEN LIGHTS (Signal that objective had been gained) observed from JUDGE COTT and CEMETERY and JUNIPER COT. Some of these were later proved to be enemy signals
7.30 a.m. 2Lt R. MELDRUM reported badly wounded R.W.F. took up position as before the attack.
10.0 a.m. CAPT D. BRUNTON cmdg "D" Coy badly wounded in head and died shortly afterwards
12.25 p.m. R.W.F. patrols reported as follows
        (a) Our troops seen near JUNIPER COTTAGE
        (b) One wounded offr. and two men in gun pit near CEMETERY About 40 o. ranks along old trench thro REUTEL some were sent to GUN PIT
        (c) Several men about PILL BOX near J 11d25.60
11.55 a.m. CAPTAIN MURRAY (Adjutant) left adv. Battn report centre to investigate above reports and was shortly afterwards shot through the head. Situation now as per map marked B in appendix
about 5.00 p.m. RELIEF orders marked "C" in appendix received at Adv. Bn. Report centre
11.15 p.m. 2Lt. R. ADAMS proceeded to REUTEL with 37 o. ranks "B" Coy with orders to effect a relief. "

2/Lt. Ralph Garnett GODDARD, 2/Lt Ronald MELDRUM, Capt. Douglas BRUNTON, and A/Capt. Ernest Francis Hume MURRAY are all commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, as is 2/Lt Percy Cecil BLISSETT, also killed in action on the 9th October.


· Another Buxton man, Pt. 10570 Arthur Gwilliam BROWN, of the same Battalion, was killed in action on the 9th October 1917

· "The Honourable Artillery Company in the Great War 1914-1919" by Major G. Goold Walker DSO (ISBN: 9781843427599)
· TNA Trench Map Atlas DVD from Naval and Military Press
· I am grateful to Gerd De Boeck for the information from the War Diary and Battalion History, especially for permission to use his History as a 
  downloadable file.

Commemorated on:
Commemorated in The King’s Book, York Casualty Roll of Honour

Link to CWGC Record
Gnr Jopling's grave
Map of the Attack
Map of the Attack - IWM M5_239
Battalion Movements on 9 October
Battalion Movements on 9 October
.... download a .pdf file with a full account of the Battalion's actions in October 1917 (This may take a while to download)
about The Battle of Poelcappelle.