James was born in February 1884 at 94 Bexley Road Erith, Kent to parents James and Emma (Ladson Wright) and baptised two months later on 6th April at St John the Baptist, Erith.
He was recorded on the 1891 census aged seven, living at 22 Colebrook Street, Erith along with his parents and younger sister Celia. James attended school and his father worked as a bricklayer. Ten years later on the 1901 census James was aged seventeen and worked as an apprentice within an engine fitting factory. The family had moved to 23 Crayford Road, Erith, although James’ father was not listed on the census that year.
He decided on a different course of work life and joined the Navy on 11th May 1909 for twelve years service, leaving his occupation as a Fitter and Turner. He was recorded being 5'9" tall, with dark brown hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion. His service history follows:
HMS DEFIANCE - 11/05/1909 - 31/03/1910, rated as Actin Electrician Artificer 4th Class
HMS PEMBROKE II - 01/04/1910 - 02/05/1910
HMS ANTRIM - 03/05/1910 - 04/03/1912, rated as Electrician Artificer 4th Class on 11/05/1910. James was recorded on the 1911 at home on leave at 10, The Nursery, Northend, Erith during the 1911 census, aged twenty seven.
HMS SHANNON - 05/03/1912 - 09/03/1914, rising to Electrician Artificer 3rd Class on 11/05/1912
HMS PEMBROKE II - 10/03/1914 - 30/03/1914
HMS VANGUARD - 31/03/1914 - 09/07/1917 rising to Electrician Artificer 2nd Class on 9/05/1916
He served aboard the dreadnought during the Battle of Jutland and his character was always remarked as very good. His effects including £327 7s 10d were left to his father following his death, along with his Star, Victory and British war medals
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England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 Free BMD
Bexley, Kent, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1925 Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre; Bexleyheath, London, England; Bexley Parish Registers; Reference Number: PA137/1/B/6
1891, 1901 & 1911 England Census
Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services, 1848-1939 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services; Class: ADM 188; Piece: 1019
British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Admiralty: Naval Casualties, Indexes, War Grave Rolls and Statistics Book, First World War.; Class: ADM 242; Piece: 007 (1914 - 1919)
Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972 Class: ADM 171; Piece: 94
Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919 TNA Series: ADM 242/7; Scan Number: 0069
Photo courtesy of Bexley Archives