James was educated at Stranraer High School, and at Edinburgh University - qualifying M.B., Ch.B. in 1914. He attended the Officers Training Corps, Artillery from 1908 to 1914 and was a cadet at the rank of Serjeant. On 2nd October 1914, he gained a temporary commission in the R.A.M.C. at the rank of Lieutenant, then entered the war in France on 15th with No 13 General Hospital. He gained promotion to Temporary Captain on 2nd October 1915. From 25th February 1918 to 15th May 1919 and 21st June to 3rd September 1919 James served under the rank of acting Major. During this time he became the Deputy Director of Medical Services for the 3rd Cavalry Division. He was award a Bar to the Military Cross:- “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On the night of 3rd-4th October 1918, he carried important messages to advanced collecting posts at Joncourt, the road being under heavy machine-gun fire and bombing from aircraft. On the night of 9th-10th October, he carried out an exhaustive reconnaissance of roads and villages under heavy shell fire, His untiring energy was worthy of great praise.” On 1st April 1919 he took up a permanent regular commission at the rank of Captain.
James was seconded to the Egyptian Army 1919-24, serving in Sudan in 1920. In 1925 he became a Specialist in Ophthalmology and served in the Opht. Specialist Connaught Hospital in Aldershot 1925-28. During this time he gained the rank of Major on 2nd October 1926. From 1928 to 1933 he served in India, during which time was at the Connaught Military Hospital at Poona 1928-29. From 1929 to 1932 he served at the British Military Hospital Bangalore, then in 1932 the British Military Hospital Trimulgherry. He then returned to the UK to serve at the QA Military Hospital at Millbank from 1933 to 1938. On 25th June 1938 he gained promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He then returned to India and served there until 1941 - at the British Military Hospitals Lahore & Kasaul 1938-1940 and 1940-1941, and was the Commanding Officer at the British Military Hospital Dalhousie Jul-Oct 1940. On 23rd April 1941, James began serving under the rank of acting colonel, then of temporary Colonel from 23rd October 1941. He served in Pariforce & Palestine 1941-1944, during which time he was the Commanding Officer of No 23 General Hospital 1943-44. He gained the full rank of Colonel on 11th November 1944, but served under the rank of L/Brigadier from 15th September 1942 to 21st March 1943. From 1944 to 1946 he served in North West Europe and with the British Army of the Rhine. During this time he was the Assistant Director of Medical Services at HQ Line of communication in 1945; was the Commanding Officer of 115 General Hospital and 84 British Military Hospital in 1945, and the A.D.M.S. at HQ Berlin 1945-46. On 22nd December 1946 to 7th May 1947 James served under the rank of acting Brigadier, and was with the Middle East Land Forces acting as D.D.M.S./A.D.M.S. at HQ Cairo District 1946-1947. He was then A.D.M.S. at HQ North Western District 1947-48. He retired on pay on 1st January 1949, then ceased to be on the Roll of Officers on 1st December 1951. He died on 9th March 1960 at Stranraer. James was the youngest son of Mrs Biggam of Clydesdale Bank House, Dumfries.