Hugh James was born in Flint in 1880 and baptised 14th April, 1880 at St Mary’s Parish Church, Flint. He was the eldest of two children to John James and Grace (Williams).
John was born in Bishop Hartley, Durham and Grace in Bagillt and were married in St Mary’s Parish Church, Flint on 15th September, 1879. They resided at Princes Street but by 1891 had moved to 19, Commercial Road.
In the 1901 census Hugh was still residing at 19, Commercial Road but was now a boarder, and it was now the home of Peter and Hannah Elizabeth Forsyth, and he was employed as a labourer. His parents, John and Grace, had moved to 27, Evans Street.
Hugh married Greenfield born Sarah Ann Harrison (sister to the Hannah Elizabeth Forsyth mentioned above) on the 13th September, 1902 at the Holy Trinity Parish Church, Birkenhead. They had five children: John Edward (1903-1983), Mary Catherine (1906-?), Sarah Ann (who died 27th July, 1915, aged 14 months, of Broncho Pneumonia and Convulsions) and two others who died in infancy.
Hugh’s father, John, was a labourer and he died in October, 1902, aged about 48, and was buried in the Northop Road Cemetery.
It would appear that Hugh had an alcohol problem as the 3rd April, 1903 edition of the County Herald attested:
“Hugh James, 24 years of age, and residing in Commercial Road, was brought up on a charge of being drunk and disorderly on the 24th March. PC Davies proved the case, and there was a long list of convictions for various offences against defendant since 1895. The Mayor said the Bench had decided to fine him 5 shillings and costs or 14 days, and to place him on the black list, where he would have three years in which to become a teetotaller. It was, he said, perfectly disgraceful that a young man like him should have allowed these cases against him.”
By 1911 Hugh and his family were living at 10, Swan Street and he was now employed as collier.
In the Flint Petty Sessions, as reported by the 10th July edition of the Flintshire Observer, it was revealed that Hugh appeared in court yet again but this time it involved one of his children:
“Hugh James, labourer, appeared on an adjourned summons in respect of his boy, John Edward James (10 years of age), who refused to attend school. The case was heard at the previous sessions and was adjourned for enquiries to be made with institutions where they received boys under such circumstances.
The Magistrates’ Clerk (Mr H Taylor) said he had received a letter from the superintendent of the training ship “Clio,” but the full complement of boys was aboard at the present time, and the boy James could, therefore, not be received. The Liverpool Industrial School would, however, receive him.
The Magistrate made an order for the boy to be sent to the Industrial School, where he would be detained until he was 16 years of age. The boys’ father was informed that he would be compelled to contribute 2 shillings per week towards the maintenance of the boy in the school, and the costs of the case would be remitted.
Note: Day Industrial Schools started in the 1880’s and 1890’s for children who did not go to school regularly. The usual school subjects were taught and some industrial training in subjects like sewing, cookery, drawing and woodwork. The main difference to ordinary schools was that the children stayed all day, from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. and that their meals were provided as well.
The schools were only closed on Christmas Day and Easter. There were no other holidays. Boys who persistently truanted were sent to a residential Industrial School at Hightown, where they would stay for at least four months.
Hugh enlisted in Flint with the 17th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 22nd March, 1915 and gave his address as 15, Evans Street.
His service record has survived and is as follows:
His medical inspection reported stated he was 5ft 7in, 9st 9lbs, chest 35in, physical development good, vision normal, and needs dental treatment. Approved by Dr W A Twemlow, 33, Church Street, Flint on 20th March, 1915.
On his attestation papers he signed his name with an ‘X’ on 22nd March, 1915.
Joined at Llandudno on 23rd March, 1915.
Posted to the 3rd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 19th June, 1915.
Litherland – 4th July, 1915 – when on active service absent without pass from 12 midnight until reporting himself at 7 pm 7th July, 1915 – admonished and forfeited 3 days pay from 6th July.
Gibraltar – 10th September, 1915 – absent from tattoo until reporting himself at 7.45 pm (45 minutes) – 3 days CB from 11th September.
Gibraltar – 11th September, 1915 – absent from tattoo until reporting at 11 pm (1 hour) – 2 days CB from 16th September.
Gibraltar – 18th September, 1915 – When on Active Service (I) Not complying with an order. (II) Drunk in barracks – 7 days CB from 20th September.
Gibraltar – 24th September, 1915 – When on Active Service creating a disturbance in the barracks from about 11.30 pm – 5 days CB from 25th September.
Transferred to the 1st Garrison Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 12th August, 1915.
Gibraltar – 2nd October, 1915 – When on Active Service drunk in town about 7.40 pm – fined 2/6 and 96 hours detention from 4th October.
Hospital in Gibralter from 29th November, 1915 to 7th December, 1915 with local injury. Sprain of left shoulder joint which was not in the performance of his military duty.
Gibraltar – 13th December, 1915 – When on Active Service absent from duty. – fined 2/6 and 3 days CB from 14th December.
Hospital in Gibraltar from 15th December, 1915 to 28th December, 1915 with Pleurisy.
Gibraltar – 31st December, 1915 – When on Active Service smuggling liquors into barracks about 11.0 pm. – 14 days confined to barracks from 1st January, 1916.
Gibraltar – 7th February, 1916 – absent from 10 pm until 10.30 pm (30 minutes). – 2 days CB from 8th February.
Gibraltar – 16th April, 1916 – Drunk in barracks whilst in picquet duty about 9.45 pm. 7 days CB from 17th April.
Gibraltar – 29th May, 1916 Improper conduct in the ranks – 5 days CB from 30th May.
Gibraltar – 12th August, 1916 – absent from 10 pm until 10.30 pm (30 minutes) – 2 days CB from 14th August.
Hospital from 28th August, 1916 to 7th October, 1916 with piles.
Gibraltar – 7th October, 1916 – When on Active Service (I) Not complying with an order. (II) Drunk and creating a disturbance outside the canteen about 8.50 pm – fined 7/6 and 14 days CB from 10th October.
Gibraltar – 14th November, 1916 – Improper conduct in the ranks – 4 days CB from 24th November.
Gibraltar – 5th January, 1917 – When on Active Service absent from camp until reporting himself at — pm – 3 days CB from 6th January.
Gibraltar – 13th January, 1917 – When in active service drunk outside Officer’s Mess Buona Vista about 10 pm. – fined 7/6 and 168 hours detention from 15th January.
Gibraltar – 24th February, 1917 – absent from 10 pm until reporting himself at 11.25 pm (1 hour 2 mins) – 5 days CB from 26th February.
Gibraltar – 3rd March, 1917 – When on Active Service drunk returning to barracks about 9.50 p.m. Fined 10 shillings and awarded 10 days detention from 5th March, 1917.
Gibraltar – 3rd March, 1917 – When on Active Service being deficient of a GS blanket value 10 shillings. 7 days confined to barracks from 15th March. Placed order stoppages of pay to pay for the blanket.
Gibraltar – 8th June, 1917 – When on Active Service absent from 10 pm 8th June, 1917 until reporting himself at 6 am 9th June, 1917 (8 hrs) – 7 days CB from 9th June.
Gibraltar – 15th July, 1917 – When on Active Service drunk and creating a disturbance in his barrack room about 3.50 pm. Fined 7/6 and 14 days confined to barracks from 17th March.
Embarked at Gibraltar 22nd July, 1917, for transfer to British Expeditionary Force (BEF).
Posted to the 14th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 27th July, 1917.
Disembarked 29th July, 1917.
Joined 5th Infantry Base depot at Rouen 11th August, 1917.
Granted leave from 13th September, 1917 to 24th September, 1917.
Posted and proceeded to 1st Battalion RWF in the Field 17th October, 1917.
Joined 1st Battalion RWF 19th October, 1917.
Hospital 13th November, 1917.
Sick. Admitted at Lido 17th March, 1918.
Genoa – 17th March, 1918 – (I) When on Active Service absent from Tattoo Roll Call at 9 pm 17th March, 1918 until 11.30 am 18th March, 1918. (II) Being in Genoa without a pass contrary to Depot standing orders. (III) Drunk returning to camp 11.30 am 18th March, 1918. Forfeit 2 days pay and 14 days Field Punishment No. 1 from 20th March.
Joined from hospital 3rd April, 1918.
In the Field – 13th May, 1918 – When on active service absenting himself from his unit from about 8.10 pm 30th May, 1918 till apprehended at Savona about 3.30 pm 30th May, 1918. Awarded 7 days –Field Punishment No 2.
Field Punishment No 1 consisted of the convicted man being shackled in irons and secured to a fixed object, often a gun wheel or similar. He could only be thus fixed for up to 2 hours in 24, and not for more than 3 days in 4, or for more than 21 days in his sentence. This punishment was often known as ‘crucifixion’ and due to its humiliating nature was viewed by many Tommies as unfair. Field Punishment Number 2 was similar except the man was shackled but not fixed to anything. Both forms were carried out by the office of the Provost-Marshal, unless his unit was officially on the move when it would be carried out regimentally i.e. by his own unit.
He also had to undergo hard labour, made to march in full order with packs and rifles twice daily, usually morning and afternoon. The soldier’s rifle equipment was inspected and if not satisfactory would be further punished. Soldiers under field punishment No 2 were not allowed to smoke or drink any rum; pay was also lost during this time. If the prisoner messed up he was sent straight to the bottom of the leave roster and also did at least an hour pack drill every day. The prisoners were only allowed blankets and to sleep on the floor and were under guarded supervision in a room from between the hours of 6pm and 6am.
Admitted to hospital in Genoa suffering from hypermetropia 18th May, 1918.
To Base Depot 26th May, 1918.
Not surprisingly he never saw front line service and on the evening of the 12th June, 1918 Private James, with another soldier, left the camp and went into the town of Praglia, Italy and was seen to fall in the river.
There were two witnesses who gave statements on the 13th June. One was a nun named A Fraceschires, who said “Last night, while returning to the Convent about 9.20 pm. I saw two soldiers on the road leading to the Convent 40 to 50 yards from the main road. One was intoxicated and was tumbling every moment while the other was doing his best to take him to the Convent. I approached them and tried to help them. The drunken one was pushing away both myself and the other soldier and did not want to follow us. Seeing I could not do anything I left them as it was raining very hard. One wore eye glasses the other was rather (illegible) with small fair moustache.”
The second witness, eleven-year-old Angelo di Emilio, went to the Police Station and announced “that about 9 pm yesterday he saw two drunken British Soldiers on the Convent Road who were trying to return to their unit. Scarcely had they arrived on the above mentioned road than the one in the drunken state rolled and fell into the torrent which on account of the (illegible) immediately carried him away.”
The body of Private James was recovered a few days later and a post mortem, held at No 39 Casualty Clearing Station on 17th June, revealed he died of acute dilation of the heart.
He was buried in the Montecchio Precalcino Communal Cemetery Extension, Italy (Plot 4, Row B, Grave 7).
He is remembered on two war memorials: Flint Town and St Mary’s Parish Church, Flint. He is also commemorated on the North Wales Heroes’ Memorial Arch, Bangor.
He was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
His wife was awarded a pension of 25 shillings 5 pence per week for herself and two children with effect from 6th January, 1919.
Hugh’s mother, Grace, remarried at St Mary’s Parish Church on 20th March, 1916, to 42 year old bachelor James Clark of 61, Holywell Road, and they went to reside in South Wales. It is not known what became of them after that date.
Sarah Ann never remarried and lived with her son, John Edward, and his wife Mabel, at 18, Queen Street, and died, in Flint, aged 73, on 12th January, 1949 and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Old London Cemetery.
She was a native and life-long resident of the borough and was a member of the Parish Church, and during her early life worked at local farms, spending many years at Dale’s Farm.