Private Christopher James, recorded as aged 36, died on 3rd May 1916, serving with the 11th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. There is a slight discrepancy with his age, as he would actually have been 39 when he died. He was born in 1876 in Pencoyd, Ross, Herefordshire to parents James (a farm labourer) and Harriet. Soldiers Died in the Great War also has an error in the birthplace – listing his place of birth as St Leonard’s, Hertfordshire.
It looks as if the family stayed in Herefordshire until about 1900. Christopher seems to have been the second youngest of five children. In 1891, he was aged 14, living with his parents in Ballingham, Herefordshire, with two of his siblings, Mary Ann (aged 33, recorded as “deaf and dumb”) and 7-year-old John Frederick. In addition, there is a 7-month-old child, Frederick Williams, listed as “adopted”.
It looks as if Christopher’s father, James, died in Herefordshire in 1900, aged 69. We haven’t been able to find his widow, Harriet, on the 1901 census, nor three of their children – Mary Ann, Christopher or John Frederick. The other children, Sarah Louise and James Henry, had moved away from Herefordshire. Sarah Louise had married Henry Manns, and they were living in Lugtrout Lane, Catherine-de-Barnes, whilst John Henry had moved to Swansea. It seems that after the death of their father, their mother moved to Swansea to live with her son and his family. She died there in 1905.
By 1911, Christopher and his sister Mary Ann had moved to Lugtrout Lane to live with their sister and her family. Christopher worked as a general labourer, and Mary Ann’s occupation was recorded as washing and needlework. The census recorded that 55-year-old Mary Ann had been “deaf and dumb since birth”.
It’s not known when Christopher enlisted, but he first entered a Theatre of War on 19th August 1915. The Solihull Parish Magazine of June 1916 expresses the vicar’s sympathy for Mrs Mann [sic] on the loss of her brother, Private Christopher James, caused by the explosion of a shell. He is buried at Bienvillers Military Cemetery in France, and is also commemorated locally on war memorials at Catherine-de-Barnes and Solihull.
If you have any more information on Christopher James or his family, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934