Private James Young

Regiment: 2nd Battalion, The Royal Sussex Regiment
Service No.: G/8752
Date and place of birth: 3rd quarter, 1893 in Fontmell Magna, Dorset
Date and place of death: 20 August 1916 (aged 23) High Wood, Somme, northern France

James Young was born in Dorset and arrived in Elsted shortly before the war. A married man with one son, he was killed in the Battle of the Somme six months after he enlisted.

Family background

James Young was born in 1893 at Fontmell Magna, near Shaftesbury in north Dorset. He was the third son and fourth child of Alfred Young (1866 – 1921) and his wife, Caroline née Francis (1864 – 1914). Alfred had been born in East Orchard and married Caroline, from Sturminster Newton, in her home town on 23 December 1886.

Their first child, Henry was born in early 1888, but died as an infant. A second son, George was born in early 1890, followed by a daughter, Elizabeth, the following summer. At the time of the 1891 census, Alfred, Caroline and George were living at Kit Hill, three miles south-west of Shaftesbury, where Alfred (aged 25) was employed as an agricultural labourer.

James was born in the summer of 1893 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church in Fontmell Magna (three miles to the south-east of Kit Hill) on 3 September 1893. In the 1901 and 1911 censuses, the family were still living at Kit Hill. By 1911, the family comprised the parents and five children, with two children having died – Henry, who died as an infant, and George who also died young. The three surviving sons were all shown as farm workers.

Caroline died in August 1914, aged 50, and was buried at St Andrew’s in Fontmell Magna on 28 August.

Six weeks later, on 12 October 1914, James (aged 21) married Beatrice Ellen Brown (1895 – 1990) from the nearby village of Stalbridge. The couple were married in Basingstoke, although it is not clear what connection they had with that town. Within a year, the couple were living at Elsted where their son, Frederick James, was born on 24 October 1915. He was baptised at  St Peter’s Church, Treyford on Boxing Day, 1915.

Military service

James enlisted at Chichester on 14 February 1916, joining the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. At the time of his attestation, he gave his occupation as a carter, and his address as Nod Cottage (now Noddswood), Old Ditcham, near Petersfield.

After only a short period of training, he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion and sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force on 21 June 1916. Within days of his arrival at the front, the battalion were plunged into the fighting in the Battle of the Somme.

Death and commemoration

In mid-August, the battalion were at Mametz Wood, a few miles east of Albert and were attacking the enemy positions at High Wood. On 20 August, the battalion were ordered to move forward in support of the Northamptonshire Regiment. They met heavy resistance from the German machine guns and made very little headway before being relieved by the 2nd Welsh Regiment.

James Young was one of 21 men from the 2nd Battalion killed during the failed assault on High Wood whose bodies were not recovered and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

As well as the War Memorial at Elsted & Treyford, James Young is also commemorated on that at his home village of Fontmell Magna. The October 1916 Fontmell Magna Parish Magazine announced the death of Private James Young, killed in action. “He left this parish some years ago, and another claims him for their ‘Roll’, but our deep sympathy goes out to his widow and his father.”

Subsequent family history

In March 1917, James’s widow was awarded a pension of 15/- per week (equivalent to about £43 today); by this time, Beatrice had returned to Dorset and was living in the St James area of Shaftesbury.

In late 1918, Beatrice re-married, to Frederick Toogood, after which the couple lived at Enmore Green, Shaftesbury. It appears that the couple had one son, Bertie, born in 1924. Beatrice died in 1943 and was buried at St John the Evangelist at Enmore Green on 10 February 1943.

Frederick Young married Winifred Hill in Sturminster in 1942; he died in Herefordshire in 2005.

James’s father, Alfred, died at Fontmell Magna on 1 February 1921 and was buried at St Andrew’s Church four days later.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project