James (Jim) was born on 29th March 1915 in Duck Street (Now Duke Street), Sychdyn. His father was Johnny Bateman (Known to many in Sychdyn as Taidy Bateman). Jim’s mother was Cordelia Bateman (nee Bond). She was Johnny’s second wife – the first had died after producing two children.
This second family included five children – James, Sid, Norah, Maud and Annie. Johnny was a coal merchant and some Sychdyn residents will recall him as a character who delivered coal till the year he died (1970) when he was 95 years old, assisted by his son Sid who would have been a sprightly 70 plus year old. Before he joined the army in 1941, James too, helped his father with the coal business.
James married Gwendoline Bennett of Flint Mountain in 1940 and their daughter Barbara was born later that year. He enlisted in 1941 and served in North Africa before being moved on to Italy. During the autumn of 1944 he had an operation to remove his appendix. His health declined sharply during the last months of 1944 and the beginning of 1945. His heartbreaking letters home to Gwen, chart his deterioration. Undulant fever is better known as brucellosis a disease transmitted through animal contact or contaminated milk or milk products. The symptoms include fevers that come and go, headaches, sweating, weakness, anorexia and depression. Jim’s letters home illustrate all these symptoms. Perhaps because his body was weakened after the surgery, the brucellosis was able to attack him with devastating results. Through his misery and suffering, his love for his wife and baby shines out of his sad, sad letters. The original letters are very frail and so we have transcribed them rather than scan them.
Grateful thanks to Jane Ashley – Jim’s niece, for the correspondence between Jim and Nora.