James went to France with the 1st Battalion on August 13th, 1914 and was in the Retreat from Mons. By November 1914 he was back in
Brecon recovering from wounds received during two months’ hard service with the Borderers.
He married Bertha Atkin Smith in October 1915 at Priory Church in Brecon. They then caught the midday train to London. Bertha had previously lived in Glasbury, before moving to 31, The Watton, Brecon, by 1911, with her parents. Bertha was a teacher at Pendre School.
In October 1915 he went to the Gallipoli Peninsula, being amongst the last to leave there in 1916. He returned to France where he served until his death.
A contemporary report from an officer of the battalion described the night of September 26th, 1914 as:
'The most ghastly day of my life and yet one of the proudest because my Regiment did its job and held on against heavy odds. At 4.15am Germans attacked. Main attack apparently against my regiment, which is the left of our line ... About 3pm, things began to quieten down. Total casualties, 3 Officers and 86 men killed, with another 3 officers and 95 men wounded, and 12 men missing. In spite of casualties the rest of the Regiment stuck to it and fought as Englishmen and 24th men could fight'.
(The Long Long Trail)
Harry's brother William also served in the Borderers. Having joined up in 1900, he served in South Africa until 1904, remaining in the army he served in World War One in the Balkans and Salonika before coming out in 1919. Having married Brecon girl Grace Eldred in 1905, they lived in The Watton.
Company Sergeant Major James Irons
South Wales Borderers 2nd Battalion service no. 8719
Killed in Action 20th November 1917, aged 32
Commemorated at Villers-Plouich Communal Cemetery
James was born about 1885 in Fulham Middlesex son of Henry and Bridget Irons. In 1901 James, 16, worked as a builder’s labourer. His father was also a labourer and his mother a laundress.
By 1911 James enlisted in the army as corporal in the South Wales Borderers in Brecon Barracks. He became a sergeant and an instructor at the depot before the war and was a prominent footballer for the depot side in the Mid Wales League.