I think that the engraver had the wrong name as there is a Flintshire WW1 Index Card for a James STRETCH, Sealand F8 who died in 1918, there is no Flintshire WW1 Index Card that I can find, neither “Fallen”, nor “Living” for a J. Hatch in Sealand or anywhere among the Flintshire World War 1 Index cards. However, in any case, there is a J. HATCH on the North Wales Memorial Arch at Bangor, under the Sealand Parish entries, please click on the link to see his name.
So I am assuming the soldier is James Stretch
Flintshire WW1 Index Card, Sealand, F 8 – Stretch, James. Sgt. Higher Ferry, Saltney, Sealand. 71236 M.G.C. Period of Service 4 years.. Badly wounded in France & died in Hospital at Bath on 16th May 1918. Card signed by Mrs Stretch (16th May 1918) – I think that Mrs. Stretch put date down twice, once in the wrong place, no actual date of signing, by the way, all the cards were signed in 1919/20.
I will start at the beginning of Jame’s story, his birth was registered in Hawarden in 1878 (HAW/24/93), the son of Michael & Mary Stretch, but spelt “Stritch” on the 1881 census, they were living at Wood Farm Cottages, Sealand. Michael Stretch, 30, Agricultural Labourer and his wife Mary, 32 had both been born in Ireland, as was Michael’s Mother-in-Law Mary Keane, 74, and a widow. The eldest of the children was son John, 12, then daughters Kate, 10, Mary, 7, Maggie, 5, all also born in Ireland. Sons James, 2 and Patrick 6 months, had both been born in Hawarden.
Next door was another Stritch (sic) family member, I suspect, Michael, 65, head of the household and an Agricultural Labourer, also born in Ireland. He had 2 boarders living there as well, James Scott and James Crane, both 45,married and both born in Ireland. An Agricultural Labourer and a Shepherd, respectively.
The 1891 census sees the family living at Higher Ferry, Sealand, Hawarden, Flintshire, Michael, 41, still an Ag. Lab. wife Mary,40 and son John, 21, single and a Shepherd had all been born in Baslick, Co.Roscommon Ireland. Sons James, 13, Michael, 10 had both been born in Wood Farm, Sealand, Flintshire, daughters Jane, 6, and Annie, 3, had been born in Higher Ferry, Sealand.
1901 sees the family still living at Higher Ferry, Sealand, Michael, 56 was a Cattleman on a Farm, wife Mary was now 52, sons James, 23, single and a General Labourer, Patrick, 20, single and also a Cattleman on a Farm and Michael, 18, single a General Labourer makes up the family.
According to Michael Stretch on the 1911 census he and Mary had been married 48 years, 9 children had been born to them, but sadly they had lost 1 child, who, I believe was Annie in 1898(HAW/27/7). Looking at the Deaths registered in Hawarden, they would also lose Patrick in 1912 (HAW/07A/10). However there is another death registered for the Stretch family in 1909, but may not have been “our” Stretch family, a William Stretch,(HAW/05A/21), but would need to buy the certificates to make out if all this is true.
Anyway, in 1911, the family looked the same as in 1901, but older, at Higher Ferry, Sealand, Nr. Chester. (4 rooms), with Michael 69, still a Farm Labourer, he states on this that he had been born in County Rossen, Ireland, his wife Mary 68 had been born in County Rossenon, Ireland, sons James, 32 and Patrick, 30, were both Farm Labourers and son Michael, 28 was a General Labourer, all 3 sons were single.
We do know that Father Michael was still alive in 1917 as he is quoted as Next of Kin for James on his Army Service Records, he also seems to have been mentioned in Despatches, see below:-
Extracts from James’s Service Records.:-
No. 71236 (10565 (crossed out)) James STRETCH (General Service crossed out) M.G.Corps.
Where born,:- Sealand, Nr. Chester, Flintshire.
Apparent age:- 29 years 4 months
Are you married:- No.
Have you served in the services? :- Yes – 7 years service, 2nd Cheshires. B (or D) Company. Declaration signed on 24th August 1914 at Chester.
A couple of papers do not seem to relate to James
Letter ( very faded) from James Mother:-
Higher Ferry, Sealand, Nr. Chester. 14th June 1920
I beg to acknowledge receipt for Mention in Despatches Certificate awarded to my Son James STRETCH. I remain, Yours, Mary STRETCH. Rubber stamped by the Registry Machine Guns Corps, Record Office, Date :- 15th June 1920.
Next 2 Papers:- Casualty Form- Active Service.
Machine Gun Corps. No. 71236 (10565 (crossed out)) Sgt. James STRETCH
Enlisted 24th August 1914, Terms of Service:- 1 year. Date of promotion to present rank:- 6th December 1916
Embarked 26th January 1915
List of his service and promotions including leave to UK from 2nd January 1917 to 12th January 1917. Also including:- Absent 5.15am 12th January 1917 to ? 13th January 1917, Forfiets 2 days pay.
Wounded in action 27th April 1918.
Report date:- 15th June 1918 G.S.W Thigh leg, hand & head Dire. Sev. 26th April 1918
Report date:- Wounded N.Y.D. mild Calais 1st May 1918
Next Paper:- Telegraph from Officer i/c Records, Westminster. Date stamped.15th May 1918
Regret. 71236 Sgt. STRETCH J 15-th M.G.C. Died 15th May 1918 at Bath War Hospital from Shrapnel wounds Multiple AAA next of Kin Present at Death.Warspital Bath.
Next Paper:- Medical History
Birthplace:- Sealand, Flintshire
Examined:- 24th August 1914
Declared age:- 29 years 4 months
Height:- 5 feet 5 inches
Chest measurement:- 37 and one half inches, range of expansion:- 1 and a half inches.
Vision R 6/6, L 6/6
Next paper:- Admissions to Hospital
Bath War Hosp. Admitted:- 3rd May 1918 death 16th May 1918
Shrap Wd (Flesh). Head, neck, Lt. Hand, Lt. Forearm, both Buttocks, Lt foot.
Particulars as to Character of a Soldier:-
No. 71236 Sgt. Stretch, Regt. 5th Bn M.G. Corps.
How has he been employed in the Army? :- Section Segt. Machine Gunner
Is he reliable?:- Yes
Is he intelligent?:- Yes
Any other facts regarding him you wish to be noted? :- This man was a very good N.C.O.
In the case of a Non-Commissioned Officer only- Has he a good power of command and control, and is he tactful in his way of handling men? Yes
Dated 21st may 1918
Next Paper:- List in case of Warrant Officers treated in quarters.
When admitted the multiple wounds were sloughy and very foul. He had aenta? Streptococcal infection of his system & he died of caren? Septicaemia? Infin? Dull? the temp was 107 degrees.
Very hard to make out some words, written by a doctor!!
Next Paper:- Morning State of Sick- Bath War Hospital- May 16th 1918 – Date stamped 17th May 1918.
Next of Kin present at death
71236 Sergt. STRETCH, James, 15th Machine Gub Corps, age 38, Religion C of E., Multiple Shrapnel wounds. Acute Septicaemia,
Time and place of death: 6.50pm 16th May 1918 Bath War Hosp.Central
Period after which Internment may take place:- Body claimed by relatives for burial.
Officer i/c Records, 91, York Street, Westminster.
Next Paper:- Date stamped 10th May 1918 Bath War Hospital
71236 Sergt. STRETCH, James.
I regret to report that the soldier named in the margin is suffering from Multiple Shrap. Wds. Head, neck, Rt Hand, L arm and foot both buttocks, all septic. And is seriously ill.
More papers one with description of James:-
Scar right cheek
Hair:- Brown. Roman Catholic:- Yes.
Dated 24th August 1914 at Chester.
Next paper:- Military History Sheet
Mentioned in Despatches:- L.G. 1th January 1917
Medals awarded (see Medal Card.)
Next of Kin:- Father, Michael STRETCH, Higher Ferry, Sealand, Chester.
As can be seen, poor James was in a bad state and his family must have travelled to Bath to claim his body as he is buried in Chester.
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 about James Stretch confirms his regimental information and tells us his place of birth was Sealand, he enlisted in Chester and ended his Army service as a Sergeant.
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 about James Stretch doesn’t tell us where his first Theatre of War was, except (1) and he entered it on 26th January 1915.
Soldiers made their Will out before battle and they are being downloaded, and this project is ongoing.
Soldiers Wills https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/Wills?Surname=stretch&SurnameGrants=stretch&YearOfDeath=1918&YearOfDeathGrants=1918&IsGrantSearch=False&IsCalendarSearch=False#soldiers
STRETCH JAMES 71236 16 May 1918 Obtainable on line – cost £10.