James Taylor Robson was born on 29 April 1879 in Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, the fifth of six children born to William Robson, sailmaker, and his wife Eleanor née Thornton.
He attended Bede College from 1898 to 1900, having served as an apprentice pupil teacher at Stansfield Road Board School. It is recorded in the Bede Annual reports that he passed Parts I and II in the 1st Division. He completed his training in June 1900 and was appointed to the Supply Staff in Sunderland.
James married Margaret Ann Thornton on 10 April 1909 and their only son, James Taylor, was born on 25 September 1913. He continued his career as a schoolmaster in Roker, Sunderland and enlisted on 30 November 1915, joining the local Reserve 21st Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry, which had been formed at Cocken Hall in July 1915. He passed his medical in June 1916, being allotted the number 36342, and was then transferred to the 4th Battalion and then the 10th Battalion D.L.I. He was sent to France in October 1916 joining the British Expeditionary Force, and was again transferred to the 12th Battalion D.L.I. on 10 November 1916. His service papers record that he was promoted to corporal in June 1917. However, it is also recorded that there was a request to revert to Private within a short time.
The 12th Battalion D.L.I., along with the 13th, were part of the 68th Brigade, 23rd Division which, in November 1917, was one of 5 divisions deployed to Italy to strengthen Italian resistance after the recent disaster against a combined Austrian and German force at the Battle of Caporetto. The Brigade arrived in Montebelluna at the beginning of December and started supplying working parties for the units in the line. On 19 December the Prince of Wales visited the Battalion and inspected the billets.
On 20 December 1917 a party of men was sent to the Brigade School where there was an accident on the bombing range: two men from the 13th Battalion were severely injured. John Sheen in his history of the 12th and 13th Battalions of the D.L.I., With Bayonets Fixed (2013), notes that the same day “and possibly in the same incident” Private James Robson received bomb wounds to the head and was evacuated to Number 30 Casualty Clearing Station where he died from his wounds. A Court of Enquiry was held into his death, but its conclusions are not known.
Robson was aged 38 when he died, and his last home address was at 18 Neale Street, Roker. His body was reinterred in 1919 at Giavera British Cemetery, Arcade, Italy. Private Robson’s sacrifice is also remembered on a plaque formerly at Trinity and St James’s Presbyterian Church in Sunderland, and currently located at St George’s United Reformed Church, and also in the Great War Memorial Book, formerly kept at Holy Trinity Church, Sunderland, and since its closure at the Donnison School Heritage and Education Centre in the city.