People on board
James Birch was born in 1900 in Stockport, Cheshire to Samuel Birch and Elizabeth Stephens, the sixth of their seven children, one of whom died young. Samuel was a ‘Cotton Mill Stripper and Grinder’ according to the 1891 census while Elizabeth worked as a ‘Reeler’, winding thread on to the bobbins. By 1901 Samuel had changed to being a Gardener and Elizabeth was a ‘Cotton Waste Sorter’ and their eldest son, William was ‘Bobbin Cotton Mill’.
In 1911 Elizabeth was working as a Charwoman and the three eldest at home were working in the cotton factories. James and his younger brother Edward were at school. Samuel was not in the household and was found in Adlington Square in Stockport with about forty other men and woman, all workers. This appears to have been a Common Lodging House or doss-house.
James’s older brother Thomas enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment in 1914, and though discharged some months later appears to have remained in the army. James enlisted in the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry, probably in 1918. He was with the 2/1st Brigade which had moved to Ireland in May 1918.
A postcard that he sent to his mother, unfortunately undated, showing St John’s Church Tralee, gave his details: “2 Platoon, B Company, Ballymullen Barracks, Tralee”, home of the Royal Munster Fusiliers. James, signing himself ‘Jim’, was hoping that “Tom was alright” and wished his mother ”Good Night and God Bless”.
Apparently returning home on his first leave James Birch travelled on RMS Leinster on the 10th of October. He did not survive the sinking but his body was recovered and he was buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin. An entry in the Stockport Express Roll of Honour dated the 24th of October says that this was the third son that Mrs Birch had lost, but this should probably read that James was her third son. Family members mentioned were his brothers Edward and Tom (in France), his brother-in-law Walter and his sister Martha Stansfield and three children. No mention was made of his father Samuel or eldest brother William.