Service Number: 1224
Enlisted: 11 March 1915, An original of D Company
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: Royal Flying Corps
Born: Ballarat East, Victoria, Australia, 7 May 1894
Home Town: Ballarat, Central Highlands, Victoria
Schooling: Urquhart Street State School, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Salesman
Died: Killed in aircraft accident, France, 29 June 1918, aged 24 years
Cemetery: Vignacourt British Cemetery
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World War 1 Service

11 Mar 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 1224, 23rd Infantry Battalion, An original of D Company
10 May 1915: Involvement Private, SN 1224, 23rd Infantry Battalion
10 May 1915: Embarked Private, SN 1224, 23rd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Euripides, Melbourne
3 Apr 1917: Discharged AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 1224, 55th Infantry Battalion
4 Apr 1917: Involvement Other Commonwealth Forces, Royal Flying Corps

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Biography contributed by Stephen Brooks

James was working as a builder and architect’s draughtsman when World War One broke out. (although on his enlistment papers he gave his occupation as salesman). After enlisting at Ballarat on 11 March 1915, James was assigned to D Company of the original 23rd Battalion. By October 1916 James had risen to the rank of sergeant, at which time he was accepted into the Royal Flying Corps, along with his older brother, Tom Gitsham. He attended Exeter College, Oxford and trained until he reached the rank of Flying Officer in March 1918.

James was posted to the 35th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. On 28 June 1918, Lieutenant James Gitsham and his observer, Leonard Wadsworth, were returning from a dawn patrol when the aeroplane struck a wireless aerial during a forced landing at Hergnies, near Mons. The following day the pair took off again in an Armstrong Whitworth FK8. James was flying near Flesselles when the aircraft stalled during a turn; it nosedived into the ground and the explosion of the bombs they were carrying set fire to the aircraft. Both James Gitsham and Leonard Wadsworth were killed. They were buried at Vignacourt British Cemetery on the Somme. James's headstone, is surmounted by the RFC crest and motto – “Per ardua ad astra” – from adversity to the stars.

His younger brother 6028 Pte. Charles Frederick Gitsham 39th Battalion AIF, had been killed in action 8 June 1917, aged 19.