Cairns, 14416962 Lance Corporal John James, 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, died aged 18 on the 8 October 1944 and he is buried in Santerno Valley War Cemetery. He was the son of William and Mary Cairns, of 37 Castle Street, Ballymena, Co. Antrim.
The couple, tailor William, aged 25 years and from Castle Street, Ballymena and his bride Mary Wallace (23) of 2, Queen Street, Ballymena, had married in St Patrick’s Parish Church, Ballyclug, Ballymena on the 12th June 1919. Their son John’s death is recorded on the family headstone in Ballymena New Cemetery, Cushendall Road, Ballymena.
His death is also recorded in the Battalion’s War Diary.
0130: Line of Communications established to ‘D’ Company.
0245: Lost mules returned from ‘D’ Company
0550: ‘A’ Company patrol to Macerato 022204 - encountered no enemy.
1400: Line to ‘D’ Company out. Considerable shelling on battalion area. Throughout the day, an artillery plan laid on by the CO and Major lan Lawrie. Applied “suppressive treatment” to 382, ranging one gun at a time, one round every five minutes, each round a direct hot, 3” and 4.2” mortars employed on likely targets.
1750 Rum issue authorised. ‘A’ Company reports SP (Self-propelled) gun firing on them from ‘D’ Company area. ‘D’ Company substantiates.
1900: Line to ‘D’ Company OK again. Laying duplicate and sending out spare wireless.
2000: Artillery and Vickers open. Two lines to ‘D’ Company but no phone connection. Line party out. Wireless messages being relayed by ‘A’, Company.
2003: 3” mortar concentration.
2020: (Relayed by ‘A’ Company) minor casualties.
2032: ‘A’ still in contact. NTR (Nothing to Report).
2038: 2 SBs (Stretcher Bearers) to report to ‘D’ Company.
2121: Line established to ‘D’ again. Eight casualties - 1 fatal (Lance Corporal Cairns). (sic)
2322: No contact except with ‘D’ Company base.
2400: On objective, No opposition except mortar and shelling. Two prisoners.
It would seem likely that the self-propelled artillery piece was responsible for the casualties sustained and that Lance Corporal Cairns was killed by it.