Phelps James Spencer

James Spencer Phelps was born on 8th November 1887 in French Lynch, Gloucestershire, England.

The 1901 census on shows that the Phelps family was living in the Civil Parish of Walsworth , Hitchin, Hertfordshire England.  Head of the household was John Phelps who was 44 years of age. He had been born in Gloucestershire  and was a Journeyman, Joiner by trade. His wife Sarah Ann, was 45 and was born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.  They had three sons and one daughter. They were, Alice M. aged 14 (a Domestic Servant),  James Stewart age 13 (a Newspaper Boy). Samuel H. age 11 and Jesse age 6. All four children were born in French Lynn, Gloucestershire.

Ten years on the 1911 census reveals that the Phelps family was living at 36, White Cross Road, Cudworth, York. The only child listed in the household was Jesse aged 16 who was an Office Boy . John Phelps was 54 and Susan was 55.  (Sadly Jesse died aged 26).

James Stewart Phelps emigrated to Canada sometime between 1901 and 1911. The 1911 census for Canada shows that James was living in the Sub District of Collins Inlet, Algoma East, Ontario. He was 23 years of age and worked as a Labourer.

In 1914, James Spencer Phelps married Florence Annie Read. She had been born in Kent and emigrated to  Canada on 14th Mar 1912 aboard the S.S.Corinthian bound for St. John, New Brunswick. ( UK Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960. They were married on 15th December 1914 and had a daughter, Ethel born on 27th March 1917. (Family Tree on (The Nutt Family) and 1921 census for Canada on

James’s army records tell us that he enlisted into the 208th Battalion of the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force on 14th April 1916 in Toronto, Canada. He named his next of kin as Florence Phelps,  his wife.  His address was 32  Gladstone Ave, Toronto, Canada. His trade was Engineer. e was described on his medical form as being 5 ft 3 inches tall with a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. James had a birth mark at the top of his chest and a scar on the bend of his right arm.

After basic training in Canada, James embarked from Halifax for England on the S.S. Justicia, and on arrival in Liverpool on 14th May 1917 he was posted to Seaford Camp where he undertook duties as a signaller. Unfortunately James had not admitted that he was suffering pain and discomfort in the groin area and upon investigation by the medical staff at Sandling Army Camp it was discovered that he had a double hernia that required an operation. During his time in U.K. James spent a considerable amount of time in hospital due to having this problem and eventually he had an operation to rectify the problem on 18th February 1918  at the Canadian General Hospital, Moore Barracks, Shorncliffe.  He spent 75 days recuperating at the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Monks Horton Kent and was eventually discharged on 29th May 1918 when he was posted to Whitley Army Camp attached to the 8th Reserve Battalion.

James was selected to go to France but was refused permission on the grounds that he suffered pain and discomfort due to the after effects of scarring resulting from the surgery. He was therefore posted to various Army camps, 19th July 1918,  Shorncliffe Camp, 6th December 19 18, Seaford Camp, 21st January 1919 Shorncliffe Camp and finally on the  25th January 1919 to Kinmel Army Camp, Rhyl where he was discharged to await repatriation to Canada.

It was while James was at Kinmel Camp that he developed Influenza, and was admitted to number 9 Canadian General Hospital on 2nd February 1919 and sadly died of Bronchial Pneumonia at 4.30 pm on 10th February 1919.

(From The Library of Canada Archives).

Kinmel Park Camp was a segregation camp used to house Canadian Soldiers awaiting repatriation to Canada after the end of WW1. Unfortunately the conditions at that time were extremely harsh with a lack of every kind of commodity, the camp was overcrowded and the services were poor, there were shortages of clothing, food and blankets. As a result of this situation, a vast number of servicemen and women became ill and many succumbed to the Influenza Epidemic or complications associated with this infection.

James is buried in St. Margaret’s Cemetery, Bodelwyddan.

He is commemorated on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

James’s wife Florence remarried on 2nd June 1919. Her new husband was  Edmund Bertie Nutt

The 1921 census for Canada shows that she was living with her husband and one year old daughter at 5, Northern Place Off Shirley Road, Toronto. Her daughter Ethel was 4 years of age. Florence received James’ British War Medal, his mother Mrs Sarah Phelps of 36, Whitecross Road, Cudworth Near Barnsley, Yorkshire, received the Memorial Cross.

To read about the S.S. Justicia please follow the link.

Learn more about the other soldiers on the Bodelwyddan Memorial

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