James was the second of thirteen children born to John and Rose Ann Wells. His birth was registered at Uralla in 1886. When James enlisted at Inverell in January 1916 he was a twenty nine year old labourer at Ashford. He was one of a group of nineteen men who left Inverell together on 1 February 1916 to go into camp at Narrabri.
James became a member of B Company Depot Battalion and transferred to the 36th Battalion 1st Reinforcements a few weeks before departing Australia on HMAT A72 Beltana in May 1916. After training in England he was sent to France in November and then attached to the 9th Light Trench Mortar Battery.
After having time in hospital due to scabies, he returned to his unit and was wounded twice in 1917. The second occurrence was a gunshot wound to his thigh which required him to be sent to London Military Hospital in England for treatment. Six months later he was back at the Front only to be gassed and sent back to England for treatment at Norfolk War Hospital, Norwich. In August he was again returned to France.
After returning to Australia in May 1919, James was discharged the following month. During the 1920s he lived at Killarney, Queensland. He died in Brisbane in 1947.
During the War, two brothers also served. Oswald served with the 1st Battalion and after receiving a gunshot wound to his shoulder was returned to Australia and discharged in 1917. Leslie, a Driver with the 12 Field Artillery, served in Egypt and on the Western Front. He returned home in 1919.
Private James Wells has his name inscribed on the Inverell Honor Roll.