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  • Christina Drummond

Second Lieutenant James Emerson VC, 9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Second Lieutenant James Emerson V.C., 9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed in France. He enlisted into 3rd Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles, a Reserve Battalion in Dublin, in September of 1914, and sailed for France with the British Expeditionary Force in April, 1915. He served as a machine gunner and was wounded at Hooge; and after convalescence he was posted to the Garrison Battalion, 3 RIR, in Portobello Barracks in Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising. He returned to 9 RIR in time to fight at the Battle of the Somme. Early in 1917 he began officer cadet training and was then posted to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. On the day of his death during the German counter-offensive after the Battle of Cambrai against the Hindenberg Line, he led his company in a local counter-attack north of La Vacquerie and cleared 400 yards of trench, although wounded (an officer later recorded 'He had been hit on the head by a bomb. There was a hole in the top of his tin hat...').

His Victoria Cross citation reads: “For repeated acts of most conspicuous bravery. Though wounded, when the enemy attacked in superior numbers, he sprang out of the trench with eight men and met the attack in the open, killing many and taking six prisoners. For three hours after this, all other Officers having become casualties, he remained with his company, refusing to go to the dressing station, and repeatedly repelled bombing attacks. Later, when the enemy again attacked in superior numbers, he led his men to repel the attack and was mortally wounded. His heroism, when worn out and exhausted from loss of blood, inspired his men to hold out, though almost surrounded, till reinforcements arrived and dislodged the enemy.”

His body was not recovered, and he is remembered on the Memorial to the Missing n the Louverval War Cemetery. The memorial lists the 7,048 missing U.K. and South African soldiers who died at the Battle of Cambrai. James, from Collon in County Louth, was 22 years old.

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