John James was born on the 17th May 1890 at Sowton, Devon.
His father, Reuben James, married his mother Mary Lake on the 17th December 1877 at Exeter. They had eight children four boys and four girls and John was the fifth eldest.
In the 1891 census the family were living at Bishops Clyst, Sowton, Devon and Reuben was a farm labourer. The 1901 census finds then at the same address of Cottages, Bishops Clyst, Sowton and Reuben is now recorded as being a bricklayer’s labourer. At the time of the 1911 census are still living at what is now recorded as Winslade Cottage, Clyst St Mary, Devon and Reuben was employed as a farm labourer again. John had left home and joined the Army.
Early Army Service.
The only Army Service record which has survived is his enlistment in the Militia.
He joined the Militia on 18th June 1907 as Private 4923 in the 4th Battalion, Devon Regiment. He provided the following information:
He stated that he had been born and was still living with his parents at Sowton, Exeter, Devon, his employer was E. Stone of Sowton where he was employed as a baker. He said he was 18 years of age, was not an apprentice, was not married and had never been sentenced to prison. He said was in the R.G.A. (V.R.) (Royal Garrison Artillery Voluntary Reserve).
He was medically examined at Exeter the same day and the following recorded:
Apparent age: 18 years, Height: 5 feet 8 inches, Weight: 134 lbs, Chest: 35 ½ inches expansion 2 inches, Complexion: Fresh, Eyes: Grey, Hair: Light brown, Vision: Right eye 6/9 Left eye 6/12. His Religion was recorded as Church of England
He gave his next of kin as his father Reuben James and mother, Mary James of 31 Clyst St Mary.
It is recorded that he received 76 days drill on enlistment and then on 8th October 1907 he joined the Coldstream Guards.
His main Army Service Record has not survived. However, we can see from his Medal Roll Index Card and Medal Roll that he did enlist into the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards on 8th October 1907 as Private 7454, signing up for short service of 3 years in the Colours and nine in the Reserves. He was transferred to the Reserves on the 7th October 1910. There is no record of what he did for the next four months before he then joined the Police.
His Police Service Record has not survived but from other sources we know that John started his Probationer Training at C Division, Watford on the 14th February 1911. At this time all Probationers were trained on Divisions and not at Headquarters.
In the 1911 census living at 25, Sutton Road, Watford as boarders with the Day family are PC John James and another new recruit PC Ernest Albert Victor Elkins.
General Order 16 of 24th May 1911 announced that PC James 132C is appointed on the strength of the Force on 23/11 per week from 4th May 1911 inclusive.
On the 14th June 1913 he was transferred to G Division but less than two months later he was posted back to C Division on the 5th August 1913. The Electoral Roll of 1914 list him as living at the Police Station, St Albans Road, Watford.
General Order 118 of 21st July 1915 is a list of 96 officers which included the Chief Constable, 43 Constables who were Army reservists who were recalled and 50 Constables and 2 Sergeants who volunteered for military service. John is shown as PC 132 James J. C Division recalled to 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards on 4th August 1914.
Army Service During The War.
Although recalled to the Colours on 4th August 1914 he did not immediately go abroad as he was not awarded a 1914 or 1915 Star. He did later receive the British War and Victory medals.
He was also awarded a Silver War Badge the details recorded on the Roll are as follows: Guardsman 7454 John James, Coldstream Guards, enlisted 8th October 1907, he served overseas, and was discharged from the Army on 24th February 1919 with D.A.H. (Disordered Action of the Heart no longer physically fit for war service). Badge number B223071 was issued on 9th July 1919.
John James married Florence Elizabeth King in 1918 in Hemel Hempstead. They had two children Geoffrey Rupert J. born in 1922 at Watford and Kathleen Florence M. born in 1924 at Hitchin.
Back home the families had not been forgotten as can be seen by General Order 20 of 19th January 1919 entitled, “Allowances to wives of Police Soldiers”.
It announced that the Chief Constable had considered the position of each individual Police Soldier under the new scale of pay and found after taking into consideration the total income of the family from allowances, including the value of the soldier’s food and clothing, that in 16 cases the families were in a worse financial position then they would have been had the man remained in the force. These cases were put before the Standing Joint Committee and they authorised extra payments, with effect from 1st July 1918. PC 132 James C Division was awarded £0/0/5 extra per week with £0/5/1 to be paid retrospectively with the allowances for the week ending 22nd January 1919.
Re-joining The Police.
Before John could re-join the Police, he would have had to have another medical to ensure he was fit to carry out Police duties. Whatever the issue was with his Disordered Action of the Heart he must have recovered sufficiently as General Order 39 of 12th February 1919 listed eight Police Officers, who having been released from H.M. Army, had been re-appointed to the Force. John was shown as:
PC 16 James J. of C Division Watford from 20th February 1919 on £2/10/0 per week.
Each officer had to be formerly re-attested. The Superintendents concerned had to report to Headquarters the date and place of Attestation and before whom taken.
Something of note in this Order is the change in his Warrant or Collar Number from 132 to 16. Prior to the outbreak of war, it was fairly common to issue the same Warrant Number to more than one individual providing they were posted to different Divisions so that the Divisional letter would differentiate between them. No record of an Order instructing that this should end and that Warrant Numbers should become unique has been found, but it was obviously issued simply by the fact of the number of returning Constables who were not given their old number, as someone else was already using it, and were issued with a new one.
General Order 131 of 7th June 1919, General Order 91 of 14th May 1920 and General Order 86 of 25th May 1921 notified John that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £2/10/0 to £2/11/0 per week from 4th May 1919, from £4/6/0 to £4/8/0 per week from 4th May 1920 and from £4/8/0 to £4/10/0 per week from 4th May 1921 respectively.
The Electoral Rolls of 1921 to 1923 show John living at Deadman Ash, Sarratt but exactly when he was transferred to the detached beat is not known.
General Order 11 of 19th January 1923 advised John that from the 31st January 1923 he would be transferred from C Division at Sarratt to A Division at Eastwick, to occupy the cottage vacated by Constable Barber. The Electoral Roll of 1924 merely shows John and Florence as living in Eastwick.
On the 24th April 1924 John was cautioned by the Chief Constable for without proper authority communicate to an unauthorised person a matter connected with the Force, in that he at Bishops Stortford on 28th February 1924 reported to Inspector Martin Toolin of the R.S.P.C.A. a case of cruelty to a dog without the authority of his superior officer.
General Order 132 of 14th August 1924 notified eleven Constables that they had been successful in the Examination for Promotion from Police Constable to Sergeant undertaken on 2nd February 1924. Included in the eleven was PC 16 James J. of A Division.
Promotion And Transfer.
General Order 142 of 25th August 1924 notified John that from 28th August 1924 he was to be an Acting Sergeant. The very next General Order, 143 of 26th August 1924, told John that from the 4th September 1924 he was being transferred from A Division at Eastwick to E Division at Hitchin, and to occupy a cottage to be vacated by Constable 175 Woolmore. The Electoral Roll of 1925 lists John as living at 83, Balmoral Road, Hitchin.
That Did Not Last Long!
On the 31st October 1924 the Chief Constable disciplined John and PS 295A William George Huckle for entering licensed premises, The Railway Inn at Eastwick, and consuming intoxicating liquor therein whilst on duty. He was ordered to revert to the rank of Constable with pay at the rate of £4 10s 0d per week.
Promotion And Transfer Again!
His misdemeanour did not hold John back for long as General Order 59 of 29th April 1926 informed him that he was to be promoted to be Acting Sergeant from that date. Again, the very next General Order 60 of 3rd May 1926 informed John that from the 11th May 1926 he was being transferred from E Division at Hitchin to D Division at Fleetville, to occupy a cottage vacated by Police Sergeant Carder. The Electoral Rolls of 1927 to 1930 show John and Florence listed as living at 46, Tess Road, Fleetville, St. Albans.
Retirement And Life After The Police.
John James retired as an Inspector from D Division on the 16th May 1938.
The 1939 Register lists John and his family as living at 2, Hockliffe Street, Leighton Buzzard and records his occupation as Licensee and retired Police Inspector.
John James of 72, Hockliffe Street, Leighton Buzzard died on the 24th February 1965.