James Pownall was baptised on 20 February 1877 at St Paul's Church, Macclesfield, the oldest son of Emma and Thomas Pownall, a glass blower of 14 Eastgate Street, Macclesfield.
In 1881, four year old James was living with his parents at the same address. Ten years later the family had moved to 12 Eastgate Street and also included a daughter, Elizabeth Ann, aged 3. James was employed as a silk winder.
On January 4th 1897 James married Mary Emma Mottram of 21 Fence Street at Sunderland Street Wesleyan Chapel, and in 1901 the couple were living at 42 Fountain Street. Ten years later James was living with his parents at 12 Eastgate Street again and employed as a bricklayer's labourer; it is not known what became of his wife.
James attested at Macclesfield on 17th August 1914. He lied about his age, stating that he was 29 years 6 months old. His army medical records show that he was a man of 5 feet 10¼ inches tall, weighing 155lbs with a 37 inch chest measurement, grey eyes and brown hair. He had several tattoos, including the initials JM and JD, 1895, a cross and PM on his left arm, and an anchor on his right arm. He also had a deep scar on the front of his left forearm. James named his father as his next of kin and his wife is not mentioned in his service records.
James went with his battalion for his military training, and within two months of joining the forces James was in trouble with the military authorities - he overstayed his leave in October 1914 and was apprehended on Southampton Railway Station, creating a disturbance in a state of drunkenness; his punishment for this misdemeanour was 10 days confined to barracks. His army records show he was not an easy man to control, with further incidents in February April and May 1915, all resulting in various periods of punishment.
The 8th Battalion moved first to Tidworth and then to Chisledon near Swindon before finally moving to Pirbright in Feburary 1915. As part of the 13th Division, the Battalion embarked from Avonmouth on HMT Ivernia on 26 June 1915 for the Dardanelles via Malta and Alexandria in Egypt, arriving at Mudros on Lemnos Island on 10th July 1915. On 16th July the Battalion left Mudros Harbour on HMT Whitby Abbey and three trawlers, landing at River Clyde Pier on the Gallipoli peninsula the same day.
On 1st September the Battalion marched from its position east of Arpa Oran Kuyu to dugouts on the cliffs south of Suvla Bay, remaining there for several days as reserves.
James received a gunshot wound in his back at Anzac Cove on 2nd September 1915, and was evacuated to the 21st General Hospital at Alexandria. He died in the hospital at 3pm on the 13th September 1915, aged 38 years, and his death was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 29 October 1915:
THE ONLY SON: PTE POWNALL SUCCUMBS TO WOUNDS - Mr and Mrs Thomas Pownall, 12 Eastgate, off Buxton Rd, Macclesfield, have been informed that their only son, Private James Pownall, 8th Cheshires, has died in Alexandria from wounds sustained in the Dardanelles. He was shot in the back and passed away three days afterwards. Private Pownall was educated at St Paul's School. He was a glass-blower with his father and also performed other work outside. He enlisted in the 8th Cheshires on August 17th, 1914, and sailed for the Dardanelles at the latter end of June. Private Pownall was present at the burial of Sergeant Sydney Clowes, another Macclesfield man who was killed in action.
Private James Pownall is buried in grave ref. D. 205. in Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private James Pownall, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, Private James Pownall is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall and St Michael's Church war memorials.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
Cheshire Parish Baptism Registers (Find My Past): St Paul’s Church, Macclesfield
Census (England & Wales): 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911
WWI British Army Service Records 1914-1920
Lives of the First World War website
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Macclesfield Times: 29 October 1915
Research by Rosie Rowley, Macclesfield.