Gunner James Beckley

Date of Birth c. 1892
Age at Death 26
Date of Death 26 September 1917
Service Number L/47148
Military Service Royal Field Artillery, "A" Battalion, 190th Brigade
Merton Address Tramway Terrace, Mitcham
Local Memorial Mitcham War Memorial

Additional Information

James was born in Beddington Corner in 1892. His father William was a labourer from Carshalton, while his mother Isabella was from an old established Mitcham family. In June 1894, four of the children, James, John, Emma and Amy, were baptised together at St. Mary’s Church, Beddington.

In 1901 the family were living at 7 Jarvis Cottages. James was aged nine. The other members of the family were William, aged 17 and working as a Skin Mill Labourer, most probably at the Eagle Leather Works, Emma 16, John 11, Charles 6 and Charlotte aged 1 year. All the children were born at Beddington Corner.

By 1911 the family had moved to a five roomed property at 14 Tramway Terrace, Beddington. The property needed to be large, as there were ten people living there. William Snr was working at the leather works at Deeds Mill, alongside his lodger Joseph Wynn aged 73 and his wife. James’ brother John was working as a labourer, Charlie was an unemployed Water Cress Cutter, while the other children were still at school. Records show that sadly four of the family’s ten children had died.

James aged 20, was employed as a Labourer for a Market Gardener, possibly for the Mizen Brothers Nursery. He may have worked alongside his next-door neighbour Frank Henn, who worked in the same industry and who also lost his life during the war in 1917. His story also appears on this website.

James enlisted at Wimbledon as a Gunner with the 190th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. They trained at the Army Camp on Wimbledon Common. This brigade was one of the last Pals battalions to be formed during the First World War. Such units consisted of friends, workmates or people from the same town, who joined up together on the understanding that they would also serve together, and sadly often died together.

In 1916 the 190th brigade was stationed in France. They would have taken part in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15 – 22nd Sept) which was fought during the battle of the Somme. This battle saw the first ever use of tanks on the battlefield. According to War Records, the War Office Casualty list recorded that on 31 October 1916, James had suffered from an injury described as "Wounded, Shock – Shell". It also states that “This man was entitled to wear a "Wound Stripe", which was a strip of material sewn on the lower left-hand sleeve of their jacket.

In September 1917, the brigade had moved to Belgium, near Ypres. The Battle of Polygon Wood (26 September – 3 October 1917) was the fifth major battle by the British Army during the Third Battle of Ypres, later known as Passchendaele. The attack on Polygon Wood was covered by a British artillery barrage. The whole area around Polygon Wood had been churned up by artillery fire from both sides, trees had been blown to pieces and reduced to mere stumps, and the barrage threw up swirls of dust which served to disguise the advance. Roads had been destroyed which meant that moving supplies to men on the front line was very difficult.

According to the brigade’s War Diary, James was killed in action on 26 September 1917, and was one of the 18 men who died during that month. James is commemorated on the Tyne Cott Memorial in Belgium, and locally on the Mitcham War Memorial.

James’s older brother John was killed during the war, and his story also appears on this website.


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