James and Harry were two of ten children born to Thomas and Catherine Duffield of Macclesfield, Cheshire, England. James was baptised in 1884; Harry in 1888 at St Peter’s Church, Macclesfield. They were educated at St Paul’s School, Macclesfield. At the age of twelve Harry worked as a Silk Piecer and later served a three year apprenticeship with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company. It is believed both men had arrived in Australia by 1911.
Harry enlisted at Inverell NSW in August 1915, stating he was twenty four years old. He joined the 2nd Battalion, 14th Reinforcement and sailed from Australia on RMS Osterley in January 1916. After arriving in Egypt he was sent to France in April. Shortly afterwards he was admitted to hospital with influenza and three weeks later invalided to England suffering from Malaria. He returned to France at the end of July. The following year he was appointed Lance Corporal in April and awarded the Military Medal for ‘Courage, resource and devotion to duty’ at Hermies. (Commonwealth Gazette No 174 11 October 1917)
Lance Corporal Duffield was Killed in Action on 4 May 1917 at Bullecourt, France and has no known grave. His name is inscribed on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, France and on several memorials in his home town of Macclesfield, England.
James enlisted at Inverell in September 1917, giving his age as thirty two and occupation as Telegraph Linesman. He became a Sapper with the Tunnelling Companies and sailed from Melbourne Victoria on HMAT A71 Nestor in November. Prior to his departure he was given a farewell at Stannifer at which the townspeople presented him with a gold medal. He had been in the district for two years.
Three weeks after disembarking at Suez in mid December 1917, James sailed for England via France. He spent a few weeks there until sent to France in March. Seven months later he received a severe gunshot wound to his knee and was evacuated to England and admitted to Exeter War Hospital. James was returned to Australia in February 1919 and medically discharged.
Sapper James Duffield has his name recorded on the Stannifer Honor Roll which was unveiled in 1921.