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© Barns Green - A Local History of The Great War 2014
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James William Lee (1890-1916) - Pte G/3132 9 th  Bn Royal Sussex Regiment The   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   Lee    was   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 9 th  Bn Royal Sussex Regiment. On   August   31 st    1915   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   25 th    September   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   7 th    1916   they   were   moved   to   Hooge   near   Ypres   and   by   the 11 th  of the month were back in the trenches. The   War   Diary   reports   the   next   two   days   as   relatively   quiet   but   on   the   13 th    the   Germans   began   a   heavy bombardment   continuing   through   until   the   early   morning   of   the   following   day.   At   5.45   on   the   morning   of the   14 th    two   mines   were   exploded   in   the   9 th    Sussex   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.
The Fallen