James Riley had been employed by Bolton Co-operative Society as a room keeper for the educational department from 1903. He was a member of the St John Ambulance Brigade, having joined the corps at the outbreak of the Boer War.
In October 1914 he was accepted for ambulance work and drafted to Haslar Hospital in Gosport, Hampshire until Christmas of that year when he was transferred to work on the auxillary cruiser HMS Bayano and worked his way up to chief sick berth steward. On the 11 March 1915 the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in the Firth of Clyde off the coast of Scotland. Only twenty six out of over two hundred men survived, but Riley’s wife received a message from the Navy saying that her husband was not amongst these survivors. The Bolton Co-operative Society also sent a letter of condolence to Mrs Riley.
Co-operative News, 27 March 1915, page 413.
WWI co-operative voices
This post is part of ‘WWI co-operative voices’ which shares the stories of co-operative workers and members during the conflict. In order to mark the centenary of the WWI, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum is staging an exhibition entitled ‘From shop floor to front line’ and the accounts of these soldiers, shop workers and conscientious objectors will run alongside it. They are tales of death, duty and of those who chose not to fight.
Through ‘WWI co-operative voices’ we will be releasing new posts about these individuals throughout the duration of the exhibition (due to open mid-May 2015 and run until May 2016). Read about the co-operative movement’s involvement in a war that shook the world by selecting a name from the column on the left. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates.
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We wish to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting the ‘From shop floor to front line’ exhibition and project.