James William Lee (1890-1916) - Pte G/3132 9th Bn Royal Sussex RegimentThe simple inscription “James Lee” on the Itchingfield First World War Memorial most likely commemorates James William Lee, an itinerant gardener from Bedfordshire. Quite why he is remembered here is not clear, as there are no obvious family connections, but he must have been important to someone local. The most likely scenario is that whilst working locally he became engaged to a local girl and local aural history records that Ethel Killick, daughter of Barns Green’s blacksmith, did indeed lose her fiancée in the war. No further evidence has come to light but it must be possible that this was James Lee.James William Leewas born in Lower Caldecott in Bedfordshire where his father, also James, was landlord of the King’s Head from 1890 to 1896. By 1901 his mother had died but James and his father were still in the village, living next to The King’s Head in another pub called The Grape Vine run by James senior’s widowed sister Sarah Darnell.James Senior is recorded as a gardener in the 1911 census, still living with his sister Sarah Ann Darnell but by now in Clophill near Ampthill in Bedfordshire. James William has also taken up this trade and is a gardener on an estate at Ballards Lodge Farm at Addington near Croydon.It is likely that James moved around looking for work as he was certainly in Sussex in 1914 as he enlisted at Arundel in mid-September and joined the 9th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment.On August 31st1915 James embarked for France with the rest of the regiment on the SS La Marguerite. In reserve for the disastrous Battle of Loos, the regiment did not see action until late on the 25thSeptember but even this brief taste of what was to come, lasting just four days, resulted in the loss of over 100 men. James was one of the lucky ones.Although some of the time between the beginning of October 1915 and early January 1916 was spent in the trenches, the Regiment was engaged in little fighting and enjoyed at least some respite. On January 7th1916 they were moved to Hooge near Ypres and by the 11th of the month were back in the trenches.The War Diary reports the next two days as relatively quiet but on the 13ththe Germans began a heavy bombardment continuing through until the early morning of the following day. At 5.45 on the morning of the 14thtwo mines were exploded in the 9thSussex trenches. The War Diary reports men being “hoisted into the air and many men buried” and it is likely that James was one of them.The attack also produced one of the Royal Sussex Regiment’s Victoria Crosses , awarded to Lieutenant Eric McNair who fought a brave rear-guard action from the edge of the crater produced by the explosion before crossing open ground twice to recruit and then lead back reinforcements.James was not so lucky and was likely one of those blown apart by the mine as no body was ever recovered. He is commemorated on a mass grave at Menin Road South Military Cemetery shared with many of his comrades who died at the same time.James was awarded the 1915 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal for his service and is remembered on the War Memorial in Sandy, Bedfordshire as well as in Itchingfield.