James Thornton Halstead was born in 1891 in Elland, Yorkshire, the only child of Thomas Herbert Halstead, a manager of a laundry business, and his wife Lattice née Thornton. As a boy he attended Rishworth School in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.
He entered St Chad’s Hostel at Hooton Pagnell in the Epiphany term of 1911, being recorded in the Common Room meeting minutes of 12 January 1911 as participating in the traditional (and light-hearted) Freshers’ Examination: “…being recognised as the criminal Peter the Painter, so badly wanted by the police…”. He was awarded a £70 Theological scholarship for the three years of his studies, also receiving some financial help from the fund set up by H. D. Horsfall. He matriculated at Durham University in Michaelmas term 1911, entering the Hostel’s sister institution St Chad’s Hall, where he was a diligent Honours student, attending lectures in Classics and Theology. He passed his first year exams in Easter 1912 with Class III Honours, and graduated in the Easter term 1914 with a Batchelor of Arts (in litteris antiquis), also in Class III. This degree was conferred on 23 June, 1914.
James Thornton was very active on the sports field, in athletics in the long jump and high jump, and he played for the College and the university, and was awarded colours, in cricket, football, rugby and hockey. He also was elected on to the St Chad’s and University committees for the above sports and was captain of the Cricket Club, as well as a representative for the Durham University Choral Society. He underwent military training in the Officers’ Training Corps.
Thornton joined the Army at the outbreak of war and on 14 December 1914 received a commission as a second lieutenant in the 8th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He served in Gallipoli in 1915. Following an attack of dysentery, he was invalided home. He transferred from the reserves to the regular army, still as a temporary (attached) second lieutenant on 28 October 1916, and then transferred again to a service battalion on 3 November that year. Having recovered he was posted to France with a Trench Mortar Battery. While serving there he was killed in action near Ploegsteert on 7 December 1916, aged 25. The details of the action in which he was involved that day are not known. He is buried in the London Rifle Brigade Cemetery at Hainaut in Belgium. His sacrifice is commemorated on a reredos in the chapel of St Chad’s College, and a memorial in the chapel of Rishworth School. His last known address, his parents’ home, was at 30 Brooklyn Road, Dovercourt in Essex.