McDowell, James

James McDowell was the son of William & Elizabeth McDowell (nee Jones) who, I believe, married in 1884 at St. Oswald’s Church, Chester (Cheshire West    CE15/8/393).  According to the 1891 census they were living at Liverpool Road, Gt. Neston, Chesire (Parkgate). William was head of the household, 35 and was a Publican who had been born in Killashaudra, Ireland. His wife, Elizabeth, was 31. Their listed  children, were William S., 6, Margaret E., 5, Lily, 3 and James 1.

William McDowell  died in 1899, aged 44.  (His death was registered in Neston (Wirral NES/14/24).  Elizabeth remarried  in Chester in a Civil Ceremony in 1900 (Cheshire West ROC/41/11).  Her new husband was Samuel Evans. They were recorded in the 1901 census living at 333 & 335 High Street, Connah’s Quay, Flintshire.  Samuel Evans, 33 was a General Labourer, who had been born in Connah’s Quay. Elizabeth Evans, 39 was born in Whitchurch, Salop.   Her children were Willie, 16, an Ironworker’s Labourer, Maggie, 15, Lily, 13,  James 11 and Norah 9. All the children had the surname McDowell and all had been born in Neston, Cheshire.

James’s working career began with him being a Labourer but he joined the army in 1904 . He served in  the 3rd Bttn of The Grenadier Guards until  January 1910. After he’d   left the army, in April 1910, he became a Police Constable with the City of Liverpool Police Force.  His address at that time was 31 Royston Street Liverpool.

In September 1910 he applied to join the City of London Police Force.  His application to the Force, included a description.  He was  single, 21 years and 5 months old. and was over 6 feet tall and his chest measured 37 1/2 inches. His eyes were brown , his hair dark brown and his complexion was ‘fresh’. He had a scar on the palm of his right hand. It was in this application that he detailed his previous employment history (as detailed in the previous paragraph).  The application papers contain references and checks on a number of  testimonials, including one from a Superindendent of Flintshire’s Constabulary, Mold which was  written in October 1910


Re James McDowell

Your letter of the 5th Inst has been duly forwarded here. The Testimonials are authentic and the applicant is a very steady, respectable young man and likely to make a successful constable. He has been known to our Sergt Hill of Connah’s Quay for the past 7 years and he speaks highly of him”.

He received a supportive (tick box type) testimonial from the Grenadier Guards and a short letter from The City Of Liverpool Police Force which basically said they had no complaints about his conduct.

He was a successful  applicant and he became PC 274 of ‘D’ Division.  He was recorded on the 1911 census as a 21 year old Police Constable at Cloak Lane Police Station, in the District of St Sepulchre and All Hallows, London EC.

In August 1914, James reported to his senior officer at Cloak Lane that he had received a mobilization order under which he was to immediately rejoin his regiment at Wellington Barracks. He was at once relieved of his police duties and he returned all his police clothing and equipment. He was back in the army.

UK, Soldiers who Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, accessible on includes an entry for James McDowell. It mistakenly says that  his place of birth was ‘Kiston’, Cheshire. This should have read Neston.  It  confirms his regimental information as above and tells us that he enlisted in Chester. (Was this his original enlistment in 1904?)

His medal index card, also on ancestry  stated that he qualified for medals from the 13th August 1914. It lists his three medals which includes the rare 1914 Star.

On the 24th April 1915, he married Emma Letitia Wagner in a ceremony at the Parish Church of St Matthew in London. The address given on the wedding certificate was 14 Marborough Street. (The same address appears on his Commonwealth War Grave Certificate).  James’s occupation was recorded as ‘soldier’. One of the conditions of joining the London City Police had been that he must be a single man.

The UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 in which the army calculated what moneys were owed to deceased soldiers includes an entry for James McDowell. It tells us that the sole Legatee was his widow Emma who was paid £1. 17s 10d on the 6th November 1917 and his War Gratuity of £18 on the 6th December 1919. This source states that he died at No 4 Casualty Clearing Station in Belgium.  

James McDowell’s  City of London Police Record includes a short summary of his career with them which listed his year on year move up the pay scale. The last entry says ‘Died from wounds received in action’

A  portion of the  James McDowell’s Police record is taken up with correspondence between the London Police Force and James’s widow Emma Letitia McDowell.  James had advised her in 1915, that she should apply for a Separation Allowance of 15/- a week from police Funds. It seems that she was granted this until his death in July 1917.

She pursued her belief that she was entitled to a Police pension. The police throughout this correspondence, insist that she was not entitled.

One of her letters explained that her husband died on the 22nd July 1917 and her son was born on the 5th October 1917. This child died on the 22nd February 1922.  She had received a small allowance for him for the period that he lived.

Emma remarried in 1933 and became Mrs Cooke.  By 1955 she was a 64 year old widow again, living at 16 Finlay Street, Fulham. Once again she pursued her claim for a Police Pension for the years before she remarried. She enclosed a newspaper cutting which contained the story of another police widow who had been awarded a retrospective pension.  Once again, she was told she was not entitled.

Acknowledgement Grateful thanks to police Historian Rebecca Walker who is working with a colleague on a website recording the details of the City of London Police officers named on the WW1 Force memorial. She realised that James McDowell was a soldier that we at Flintshire War Memorials had an interest in and shared with us, the details of his story.  Here’s a link to his page on  their website ‘Plod in the Square Mile’.

James McDowell

Learn more about the other soldiers on the Connahs Quay and Shotton War Memorial

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