James, William Edward, 271 and 139, Police Constable.

Paul Watts

William Edward James Re-joining The Police
Herts Police Historical Society

Early Life

William Edward James was born on 21st December 1887 at Chelmsford.

His father, Anthony William James, married his mother, Elizabeth Wilkinson at Halstead in 1878. They had four children Florence Eva born in 1884 at Chelmsford, Daisy Elizabeth born in 1886 at Chelmsford, William Edward and Minnie Ada born in 1889 at Halstead.

In the 1891 census the family were living at 14, Lower Anchor Street, Chelmsford and Anthony is employed as a Electrical Brass and Iron Fitter. They are still at the same address during the 1901 census, William is employed as a butcher’s assistant whilst his father is still an Electrical Engineer Brass Fitter

By the time of the 1911 census William’s parents have moved to 18, Lower Anchor Street, Chelmsford and his father is now a Tool Maker Electrical Engineer, but William had left home and joined the Army.

Early Army Service.

William’s Army Service Record has not survived but from other sources we know he probably enlisted at Chelmsford on 27th December 1904 as Gunner 22007 in the 6th Company, Royal Garrison Artillery signing up for short service of three years in the Colours and nine years in the Reserves. He went into the Reserves on 27th December 1907.

For the next three years it’s believed that his occupation was as a Machinist, and he was probably living with his parents, but then at the end of that period he joined the Police.

Police Service.

His Police Service Record has also not survived but from other sources we know the following. He started his Probationer Training at F Division at Hertford on the 14th February 1911 and he was Appointed on the 16th March 1911 as Police Constable 271.

This is reiterated in General Order 12 of 28th March 1911 which announced that PC 271 James was appointed on the strength of the Force on 23/11 per week from 16th March 1911.

At the time of the 1911 census William Edward James, Police Constable, was lodging at Devon Villa, 118, Railway Street, Hertford with the Neeve family.


William married Isabel King on the 23rd August 1912 at St Giles Church, Mountnessing and they later had a son, William T. born in 1927 at Hitchin. Almost certainly because he had married William was transferred on the 10th September 1912 to A Division to a station where there was suitable accommodation for a married man.

General Order 118 of 21/07/1915 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. William is shown as PC 271 James W.E. A Division recalled to 47th Company, Royal Garrison Artillery on 4th August 1914.

Army Service During The War.

From William’s Medal Roll Index Card and Medal Roll we can see that Acting Corporal 22007 William Edwards James served in 326th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery and although he was recalled to the Colours on 4th August 1914 he did not go immediately to France as he was not awarded a 1914 or 1915 Star however, he did receive the British War and Victory medals.

The War Office Daily List No. 5419, published on the 17th November 1917 revealed that Acting Bombardier 22007, W.E. James, Royal Garrison Artillery who enlisted at Chelmsford had been wounded. Consequently, he was entitled to wear a “Wound Stripe” as authorised under Army Order 204 of 6th July 1916. The terms of this award being met by him being named in this list.

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 139 James A Division was awarded £0/5/0 extra per week with £0/11/10 to be paid retrospectively with the allowances for the week ending 22nd January 1919.

Something of note in this Order is the change in his Warrant or Collar Number from 271 to 139. 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.

Re-joining The Police.

General Order 23 of 25th January 1919 listed 25 Police Officers, who having been released from H.M. Army, had been re-appointed to the Force. William was shown as: PC 139 James W.E. of A Division Braughing from 23rd January 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.

The Electoral Rolls for 1919 and 1920 list William Edward and Isabel James as living at Council Cottages, Braughing.

General Order 54 of 28th March 1920 informed William that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/6/0 to £4/8/0 per week from 16th March 1920.

There is no record of William being transferred however, the Electoral Rolls for 1921 to 1927 list William Edward and Isabel James as living at Offley in E Division. General Order 43 of 25th March 1921 supports this as it notifies William, who is now shown as being E Division, that he is to receive another increase in his rate of pay from £4/8/0 to £4/10/0 per week from 16th March 1921.

Mutual Aid To Norfolk Police.

General Order 68 of 11th April 1923 instructed officers to assist with dealing with a strike by Agricultural Workers in Norfolk.
“The following detachment of the Hertford County Constabulary is detailed for duty in the County of Norfolk as from 11th April 1923 inclusive:
Rank    No.     Name                     Division        Station
Inspr.              Wright H.                E                   Stevenage
PS        69       Stapleton W.J.        A                   Ware
PS       102      Morse A.                 D                  Great Berkhamsted
PC       129      Burch S.G.              A                   Much Hadham
PC       163      Cannon R.              A                   Ware
PC       304      Whyman G.A          A                   Buntingford
PC       342      Milton G.                 A                   Sawbridgeworth
PC       172      Wood S.                   B                   Hoddesdon
PC       182      Reece A.                  B                   Essendon
PC        200     Bangs A.                  B                   Hertford
PC        227     Paterson J.              B                    Nup End
PC       183     Godfrey P.C.            D                  Wheathampstead
PC       343     Green C.                   D                  Great Berkhamsted
PC        58       Bailiff T.A.                D                  Tring
PC        213     Gray F.                     E                   Datchworth
PC        205     Capell T.                  E                   Barley
PC        124     Godfrey C.E.M.       E                  Sandon
PC        139      James W.                E                   Offley
PC        154     Hagger F.                E.                  Ickleford
PC        214     Parker T.                 E                   Royston
The detachment will proceed by nearest rail route to Cambridge arriving G.N. Railway 10.41 a.m. and G.E. Railway 11.38 a.m. On arrival at Cambridge Railway Station Inspr. H. Wright will call the roll, take charge of the detachment and proceed leaving Cambridge G.E Railway at 11.45 a.m. arriving at 4.12 p.m. On arrival at Holt the Inspector will march the detachment to the Police Station and report to Superintendent Levi Collyer. Superintendents will make arrangements for the above officers to reach Cambridge on Wednesday 11th April 1923 by the time stated. Dress: Great coat, Cloth Jacket, 2nd Trousers, 2nd Cloth Helmet, Leggings and usual appointments. Railway fares may be advanced if required and an account for same will be rendered to Headquarters for repayment”.

General Order 84 of 26th April 1923 was an update on the mutual aid given with regard to the strike of Agricultural Workers in Norfolk.
“Reference Order No. 68/1923.
The members of the detachment of the Hertford County Constabulary having returned to their respective stations the Chief Constable has much pleasure in publishing for general information the following extract from a letter received from the Chief Constable of the County of Norfolk, under date 23rd April 1923:
Begins: “On behalf of the Norfolk Police Authority, and myself, I would wish to thank you most sincerely for so kindly and quickly coming to our help. As the result of your timely aid the intimidation and hindering of workers was at once stopped. I need hardly say that your men behaved themselves at all times in an exemplary manner and carried out all the duties they were asked to perform to my entire satisfaction. Every effort was made to make them as comfortable as possible under the circumstances and I hope that they will carry back a happy memory of their short tour of duty in Norfolk.” Ends. The Chief Constable endorses the remarks of the Chief Constable of Norfolk and is gratified that the members of the Detachment maintained the high standard and upheld the reputation of the Hertford County Constabulary”.

Mutual Aid To Luton Borough Police.

General Order 156 of 14th November 1926 announced orders for an Inspector, two Sergeants and 18 Constables with regard to the visit of HRH The Prince of Wales to Luton on the 17th November 1926. William was listed as one of those detailed to attend. In command of the Hertfordshire contingent was Inspector G.T. Sharp of R Division who would act under orders as laid down by the Chief Constable of the Borough of Luton. The detachment was instructed to report at the Borough Police Station Luton at 9 a.m. The men were ordered to take the following dress and equipment: Great Coats 1925 issue, Cloth jackets 1926 issue, Dress trousers 1926 issue, Cloth helmets 1926 issue, Whistle and chain, Handcuffs, Pocket Book, Truncheon, Black woollen gloves and Capes.

Again, there is no record of his transfer but the 1928 to 1930 Electoral Rolls list William Edward and Isabel James as living at Grove Avenue, Wheathampstead so in all probability he was now stationed there.

Retirement And Life After The Police.

William retired as Police Constable on 15th March 1936 on completion of his 25 years’ service.

The 1939 Register shows William and Isabel and their son William living at 60, White Lion Lane, St. Albans. William is recorded as being an ex-PC retired on pension and a Caretaker and Doorkeeper at a Dance Hall.

William Edward James died on the 14th November 1969 at St. Albans.

This page was added on 30/01/2020.

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  • Stephen thank you for your comment. We always welcome any information that adds to the life stories or any other of the posts on the website. I have amended the post accordingly.

    By Paul Watts (30/01/2021)
  • Over in Mountnessing, Essex we have been researching Isabel King’s marriage to William Edward James – it took place on 23 Aug 1912 at St Giles Church, Mountnessing. We have a Parish Record and a marriage photograph. The reference you made to Billericay is the Essex Registration District so not strictly correct. We are now part of Brentwood and in the past Mountnessing was attached to Greater Chelmsford and Greater Billericay. Interesting history and learned a great deal about his life. Many thanks.
    PS I’m not related to Isabel nor William.

    By Stephen King (27/01/2021)