According the Aberdeen University Roll of Honour, James was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and Aberdeen University - where he graduated M.B. in 1878 and M.D. in 1889. He took up practice in Sunderland in 1878 and at one time served in the Durham Artillery Volunteers, and earned the Long Service Medal for service in the Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade. He joined the R.A.M.C. at the outbreak of war and, on being offered hospital work, made personal application to be sent on active service. His application was successful and in May 1915 he was appointed to the Hospital Ship ''Asturias'' on which he served during the evacuation at Suvla Bay, and also when she was torpedoed on her way from Avonmouth to Southampton. James was then appointed Medical Officer on H.M.H.S. the "Warilda", and a fortnight before his death was made the Officer Commanding H.M.H.S. “Aberdonian". He died on board this ship at Southampton. According to his Medal Index Card, James entered the war on 14th April 1917 on board a hospital ship. James was the son of Alexander Beattie, a farmer; and was the husband of Anne Beattie of 5 Park Place West, Sunderland.