Service number: 14299 | Rank: Corporal | Regiment: Norfolk Regiment
Killed in action, October 18, 1916, in Flanders.
Buried at BANCOURT BRITISH CEMETERY, Pas de Calais, France.
WHAT I KNOW ABOUT JAMES …
James was born in Brandon on 4th May 1893, his parents already had two daughters and because James was their first son he was named him after his father, but for whatever reason William turned his back on his father’s name and used the name James instead, and William became his middle name.
James’ father was employed as a warrener working on land around Brandon and the family got by on a poor wage while living in a small cramped dwelling in Town Street. Tragedy visited the family when James’ mother, Elisabeth, died but his father got on with his life and by the time the 1911 Census had taken place he had married a woman from Mildenhall. He also had a better paid job as a gamekeeper and moved the family into better accommodation along Chalk Road. James, for reasons we may never know, did not move with the family to Chalk Road but instead went to live with his uncle and aunt in Kirby Bedon, near Norwich. His uncle kept a farm and owned a dairy herd and James was tasked with driving the milk cart. It was while he was living there that he refused to be called by his father’s name of William and also that, a month into the war, he took himself into a Norwich Army Recruitment Office to enlist into the Army. Upon joining up he gave his next of kin as being his two sisters and his uncle Albert Rix. James did not list his father and an ultimate snub toward his father was when he stated on the enlistment form that he lived with his father … in Kirby Bedon, his uncle’s farm!
On 12th September 1914 he was posted to the Norfolk Regiment and after a period of training he went over to France in August 1915. It seems he had a distinguished career – being promoted to Lance Corporal in April 1916, and then Corporal in September of that same year. On 16th October James’ battalion moved up to the frontline in readiness to launch an assault on the German lines. The Germans saw what was happening and unleashed a heavy artillery barrage on the battalion the following day, but this had limited affect although it did cause a few casualties. Then, at 3.40am on 18th October, the battalion went over the top and began their assault. By all accounts it went well and parts of the enemy trenches were captured, but it came at a cost – 248 men from the battalion killed, wounded or missing.
The War Office wrote to James’ sister in November 1916 to notify her of his death. His comrades had apparently buried him 3½ miles from the tiny village of Combles in Northern France, but he was reburied after the war in a more permanent war cemetery.
His Army Record states,
“Buried 200 yards from road loop and 40 yard S.E. of Grandecourt … 3½ miles N of Combles.
Exhumed and reburied Bancourt British Cemetery, 2 miles E of Bapaume.”
After James’ death there was correspondence between James’ uncle, Albert, and the War Office over who should get his war medals and death plaque. Records held by the War Office at the time officially listed his eldest sister Alice as his first next of kin and she was still living in the family home along Chalk Road. After the war Albert wrote to the War Office to tell them that he was the blood relative of James’ late mother and James had told him that his possessions should be forwarded to Albert should anything happen to him, therefore was entitled to the medals and plaque. However there was a twist to the claim for James’ medals when in February 1920 James’ father, William, filled in a form, co-signed by the local Rector of Brandon, to declare that because he was James’ closest relative, his father, then he should get the medals. It is not yet been identified who received the medals.