James received his medical educated at Queen’s College in Cork, qualified M.B. in 1898. On 25 April 1900 he joined the Army Medical Services at the rank of Lieutenant. From 1900 to 1906 he served in India, during which time he passed the Diploma of Public Health with honours and qualified for promotion to the rank of Captain on 25th April 1903. In 1909 he passed the Diploma in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene. He then gained promotion to the rank of Major on 25th January 1912. From 1913 to 1914 he served in Hong Kong.
James entered the war in France in January 1915 but by 24th February 1915 was heading towards the Gallipoli campaign as Deputy Assistant Director of Medical Services [D.A.D.M.S.] for Sanitation. In May 1915 he landed at Helles on W beach. He served with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force until September 1915, when he was invalided. From 1916 to 1917 he served in Salonika, holding the post of A.D.M.S. of the 16th Army Corps. He was again invalided. On 26th December 1917 he gained promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, then from 1917 to 1920 he served in Mesopotamia as the Commanding Officer of No 3 General Hospital. In August 1921 he was at the Military Hospital, Belfast, then from 1921-1924 he served with the British Army of the Rhine. At the time he was married, in 1924, he was attached to G.H.Q. staff of the Rhine Army.
After he got married he lived and worked in Ireland, then retired with pay on 18th February 1925. He ceased to be on the reserve of Officers on 13th October 1928.
He then moved to Southport and became Superintendent of the Flagstaffe Convalescent Hospital, Southport. He died in the hospital after a long illness. His funeral was held at St Bartholomew’s Church, Rainhill. He was the husband of Monica Mary Stapleton-Bretherton of Rainhill.