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The son of Henry and Ann Maria Colley, James was born in Wolverhampton in 1897. By 1911, they were living at Moseley Village, Willenhall Road, Portobello, along with James’s brother, Joseph.

James enlisted at Bilston as a Driver in the Royal Field Artillery (number 34568, later 77114)/ He then joined the South Wales Borderers (number 2546), before transferring to the “Q” Company, 4th Special Battalion of the Royal Engineers (number 192413), where he attained the rank of Pioneer. He was wounded, and died of these wounds on 14 May 1917 at the 53rd Field Ambulance in France. He is buried at Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery, Arras. He is remembered on the roll of honour at Deans Road as well as the memorial at Heath Park.