James was born in Quorn but enlisted in Adelaide where his parents were living. James described himself as a driver although at discharge he claimed he was a baker. At enlistment he was 19 years old when he was one of the first enlistees enrolling in August 1914 and getting serial number 25. At enrollment James was 86kg (189lb) and 171cm (five feet, seven half inches) and his medical examination noted that he already had a scar on his chest. Within a month of enlisting James was promoted from private to lance corporal in the 10th Battalion and by November he was aboard HMAT Ascanius on his way from Adelaide.
In January of 1915 he was admitted to the 2nd General Hospital AIF suffering from flu which he overcame and was released a fortnight later.
James was one of the original Diggers at Gallipoli. He was promoted to Corporal in the field on 28th April, only three days after the landing. Exactly one month later on 28th May, James was wounded while near Gaba Tepe. A Turkish shell exploded nearby causing terrible wounds to his upper legs and pelvis with some damage to his face too. The wound was so bad his leg was amputated on the beach at ANZAC cove.
He was shipped out to the 1st General Base Hospital in Heliopolis (Cairo) which he reached ten days later on the 7th June.
He was examined in Heliopolis in July 1915 where his wounds were noted as almost healed. However he was assessed as totally incapable of earning a living and declared unfit for further active service.
At the end of July, on the 27th, James was released from the hospital at Heliopolis and the next day was aboard the HS Hororata, leaving the middle east. James passed through Western Australia on is return and was finally discharged on 20 march, 1916 from the 7th Australian General Hospital in Keswick.
On discharge James received a pension. Initially it was 3 pounds, 8 shillings per fortnight but this was reduced to 2 pounds, 11 shillings from September 1916.
James was eligible for all three service medals but by the time they became available he had already succumbed to his ill health. His mother, Emily, collected the medals in June and July 1921