James was born about 1890 at Netherseal, Derbyshire, England where his father, George was a Coal Miner. James became an apprentice Wheelright and in 1911 was living with his parents at Netherseal.
His arrival in Australia is not known, however at the time of his enlistment at Inverell in 1916 he was a Farm Labourer living in the district. James joined the First Contingent of The Kurrajongs who left Inverell together on 12 January 1916 for the Narrabri and Armidale camps.
He became a member of the 33rd Battalion, C Company which trained at Armidale and Rutherford before sailing from Australia in May 1916. After nine weeks at sea the Battalion arrived in England where further training was undertaken at Salisbury Plain. James was transferred to the 2nd Battalion and sent to France in September. The following year he was wounded in action in October and admitted to 17 Casualty Clearing Station with a gunshot wound to his head. He eventually rejoined his Battalion in January 1918.
After the War he was granted three months leave without pay from April 1919 to visit his family before returning to Australia. He was medically discharged in November 1919.
Private James Smith has his name inscribed on the Inverell Honor Roll.