A young Bolton soldier who once played for Bolton Wanderers Football Club has finally been laid to rest almost 110 years after his death.

Second Lieutenant James Arthur Greenhalgh, of 1st Battalion The Cheshire Regiment, was buried with full military honours in a service at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Guards Cemetery in Windy Corner near Neuve-Chapelle, France, on Wednesday.

Greenhalgh family members travelled from Bolton to pay their respects.

The Bolton News: 2Lt Greenhalgh

Great-niece, Joanna Potts, could not attend the ceremony, but she ensured a personal inscription was placed on his headstone.

The Bolton News: Family of 2Lt Greenhalgh at the gravesideFamily of 2Lt Greenhalgh at the graveside

She said: “Hearing my Great Uncle had finally been found after all this time has been an unexpected and surprisingly emotional time. We are so grateful that he will now be laid to rest and commemorated for the sacrifice he gave for us all.”

James was born in Bolton on May 5, 1889, one of five children born to Joseph Greenhalgh and his wife Hannah.

A keen amateur footballer, he played for Bolton Wanderers, representing his town on the field before answering the call to serve his country.

The Bolton News: Colonel Paul BedfordColonel Paul Bedford

Commissioned into the 1st Battalion The Cheshire Regiment on August 6, 1914, he joined his battalion in France shortly after and participated in significant battles, including the Battle of the Aisne and the fighting around Festubert.

James was killed in action on October 22, 1914, in the village of Violaines.

At 5:30 hours the enemy attacked their positions on the outskirts of the village.

The alarm was raised by a patrol from D Company, but their trenches were rushed before they could resist and bayonet fighting ensued. The entire battalion was forced to retire with six Officers and 209 other ranks missing, many of whom were taken prisoner.

James was reported later to have been in the trenches and to have been shot in the head. He was 25 years old.

His men were unable to recover him and, after the enemy had captured the village, a Serjeant of The Norfolk Regiment was taken by a German Officer to the location where James had fallen and allowed to bury his body.

After the war no trace of his grave was found, and as he was listed as missing, he was commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.

In 2020, the remains of three soldiers were found on the outskirts of Violaines during the construction of a new housing estate.

Although two of the soldiers had no artefacts on them which would lead to their identification, one was believed to have been an Officer of The Cheshire Regiment. After DNA testing, this casualty was identified as James.

Rosie Barron, of the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, who played a pivotal role in organizing the burial, said: “It has been an honour to have worked with The Mercian Regiment, which today recruits from Cheshire, to organise the burial of 2ndLt Greenhalgh and these two unknown soldiers, and to have played a part in the identification of 2ndLt Greenhalgh.

"Although two of these men were sadly not identifiable, the Greenhalgh family now have answers as to what happened to their relative and he now rests in Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner alongside his comrades.”

Diligent research has provided an insight in James’ life before the outbreak of war.

He began studying at Manchester University in 1907, going on to achieve a BA in 1910, a Teachers Certificate Class II in 1910, and an MA in Philology (the study of language in oral and written historic sources) in 1912. During his time at university, he had been a member of the Officer Training Corps.

James was appointed as a Classics Master at Thame Grammar School before moving on to the grammar school in Ashton-in-Makerfield. Just before the outbreak of the First World War he was appointed as the Secretary of the International Textile Institute.

Yesterday's poignant service saw James’ coffin carried by soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

The Bolton News: 2Lt Greenhalgh's coffin being carried2Lt Greenhalgh's coffin being carried

Officiating was the Reverend Gary Birch CF, Chaplain to 19 Regiment Royal Artillery, who said: “I have officiated at a number of WW1 burials of both known and unknown service personnel, and each one is special and important in their own right.

"Being able to honour them and finally show them the proper dignity and respect they deserve reminds us of the fragility of life and gives us an opportunity to pause, reflect and learn the lessons of past conflict.”

The CWGC will now care for his grave in perpetuity, ensuring that his sacrifice, along with that of his fellow soldiers, is remembered.

Xavier Puppinck, Director for the France Area at the CWGC, said: “We are honoured to have played our part in helping to lay these exceptionally brave men to rest, more than 110 years after they put their lives on the line in Violaines.”