Rank: Private
Service Number: 39287.
Regiment: 5th Bn. South Wales Borderers
Formerly: 4185, Monmouthshire Regiment
Killed In Action Sunday 6th May 1917 Age 34County Memorial Poynton
Grave\Panel Ref: V11.A.15

Pioneer Battalion for 19th Division 

Buried Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery Grave Number V11.A.15

Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery was started by French troops in 1914 and was taken over by Commonwealth forces in April 1915. It was used by fighting units and field ambulances until June 1917, when the land adjoining the cemetery was claimed for a military railway preventing further extension. The cemetery is remarkable for the care with which men of the same unit were buried side by side if they died at about the same time.

Son of Joseph and Mary Booth of 231 Newtown, Poynton, Cheshire,

James had 5 brothers Enoch, John, Albert, Ernest, and Henry and 4 sisters Ellen, Annie, Nancy, and Edith.


 ‘’Information has been received by Mrs Booth that her son Private James Booth of the Monmouthshire Regiment has been killed in action on Sunday morning May 6th . He was formerly employed on the pit bank at Poynton colliery, and had earned the respect of his workmates and of all who knew him .

 In his last letter to his mother on April 22nd He wrote gratefully in acknowledgement of a parcel from home . To his pleasant quarters at that time, He remarked “ I can see the birds in the trees and as I lay snugly in bed,In the early morning I can hear them twitter and sing it sounds beautiful. The Captain of his company wrote as follows to his mother on the 9th May.  As officer of his company in which your son was serving, I regret very much to have to tell you that he was killed in action at about 10.30am Sunday May 6th . I offer you the greatest sympathy over your loss. He always did his duty however hard and dangerous it might be , and is a great loss to the company and is missed by all his individual comrades. He could have had no pain as he was killed instantaneously by a shell He was buried in a military cemetery near here’’

On 16th July 1915, the battalion landed in France as part of the 38th Brigade  19th Division. It soon became the Divisional Pioneer Battalion, and as such combined the duties of trench digging and mining with bombing and hard fighting.

After receiving its baptism of fire at Loos in September 1915, the battalion was kept busy in that area throughout the winter repairing roads, constructing tramways, improving trenches, and in mining within close proximity to the enemy. For this type of work the men of South Wales were unequalled.

                                 YPRES MAY 1917 

Throughout the war the 5th Battalion South Wales Borderers were the Pioneer Battalion for the 19th Division . Each division had 3 brigades and in the 19th Division these were the 56th 57th and 58th Brigades . In turn in each brigade there were usually 4 battalions of various regiments. These battalions were used to do the majority of manning of front line trenches and the actual fighting where it was required.

Each division had a battalion specifically for the use as a Pioneer Battalion. Their job was to carry out working parties, such as keeping trenches serviceable and as clean as conditions would allow and bringing up rations etc . to the front line positions. The pioneer’s job was mainly done with pick and shovel, but they also manned the front line trenches when needed  

During early May 1917, the 19th Division were in the the infamous Ypres Salient and their Pioneer Battalion were kept busy in the remnants of the city repairing roads and tramways  

On the 6th May, it was reported that “A” and “B” companies were working on improving and strengthening Calvary billets and Infantry Barracks opposite Hill 60 on the Ypres Salient  They were spotted by the Germans who concentrated their fire on them, with disastrous results. The 3 foot thick walls of the Infantry Barracks offered enough resistance to enable the men to be evacuated in time to avoid serious losses, but “B” company who were working in the less solid Cavalry Barracks suffered heavily as a salvo of heavy shells burst right inside the barrack rooms. 2nd Lt Raymond and 19 men were killed ,2nd Lt Heppel and 20 men wounded. James was one of the men killed.

The inscription on Jame,s headstone reads “Gone but not forgotten”.

Cheshire County Memorial Project would like to thank Phil Underwood for compiling this page on James
© Cheshire County Memorial Project