Private James Alexander Rayne

Date of Birth c.1897
Age at Death 19
Date of Death 24 April 1916
Service Number S/6050
Military Service 1st Battalion Seaforth Highlanders
Merton Address 38 Dorien Road, Raynes Park
Local Memorial St. Saviour’s Church, Raynes Park

Additional Information

James Alexander Rayne was born in Glasgow c1897, the son of James and Mary Rayne. Within a few years the family had moved south and by the time James was five they were living in Lambeth in South London. The following year they moved to 38, Dorien Road, Raynes Park which was still the family home at the time of his death.

By 1911 James was one of ten surviving children – 2 had died in infancy – and he had already left school. His father was a bootmaker and James, who was now 14, was working as a cycle maker’s assistant

James enlisted in the Seaforth Highlanders and first served in France as a private in the 1st Battalion from 7th October 1915 The battalion embarked to Mesopotamia in December 1915 and upon arrival was engaged in various actions against the Ottoman Empire during the siege of Kut, including the battles at the Sheikh Sa'ad, Wadi, Hanna, Dujailia, and Sannaiyat. On 4th February 1916, after suffering heavy casualties, it amalgamated with the 2nd Battalion of The Black Watch to form the Highland Batallion.

James Rayne died on 24th April 1916, five days before the Fall of Kut, described by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as ‘one of the most infamous defeats suffered by British Empire forces in the First World War.’ The British Army Medal Roll Index card indicates that he died of wounds. Private Rayne had by this time been promoted to Corporal. He was awarded the British, Victory, and 15 star medals. The 1914–15 Star is a campaign medal of the British Empire which was awarded to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who served in any theatre of the First World War against the Central European Powers during 1914 and 1915. The medal was never awarded singly and recipients were also awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.[1]

Corporal Rayne is remembered on the Basra Memorial which commemorates more than 40,500 members of the Commonwealth forces who died in the operations in Mesopotamia from the Autumn of 1914 to the end of August 1921 and whose graves are not known. Until 1997 the Basra Memorial was located on the main quay of the naval dockyard at Maqil, on the west bank of the Shatt-al-Arab, about 8 kilometres north of Basra. Because of the sensitivity of the site the Memorial was moved and is now located 32 kilometres along the road to Nasiriyah, in the middle of what was a major battleground during the first Gulf War.

The War Graves Commission is currently unable to maintain the memorial because of political instability in the area. They have therefore produced a two volume Roll of Honour listing all casualties buried and commemorated in Iraq. These volumes are on display at the Commission's Head Office in Maidenhead and are available for the public to view. The Commission continues to monitor the situation in Iraq and once the political climate has improved to an acceptable level it will commence a major rehabilitation project for its cemeteries and commemorations.

Corporal Rayne is also commemorated St. Saviour’s Church in Raynes Park


* Required field