James Charles Feary

James Charles Feary
Born in 1877 at St Ives, James was the eldest of five children born to John, a general labourer, and Sarah (née Francis). On the night of the 1881 Census James was with his grandmother at Vicar's Row, St Ives. He was back with the family in 1891 at Eight Bells Yard, opposite The Waits,  St Ives. Parents, four children and grandmother occupied three rooms. James worked as a gardener's boy.

James married Louisa Simons in 1899. They were living at 2 Alexandra Place, St Ives in 1901 with their first born, Maud. James' occupation was a cattle dealer's labourer. By 1911 they had moved to 22 Crown Walk, St Ives, the family of three sons and two daughters occupying three rooms. Another son was born in 1913.

Why would a father with six young children sign up to go to war? James must have been military-minded. He's reported in 18 April 1913 as a new recruit in Corporal Dawson's team of Territorials, attaining the grand score of 0 out of 25 in a shooting competition. 

James may have enlisted before the outbreak of war. And although registered at birth plain James Feary, at some point he acquired the middle name of Charles. He was certainly quickly in the thick of battle. Enlisted with the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, early in 1915 he fought in the Second Battle of Ypres. James was wounded and his letter home, published in the Hunts Post of 5 March 1915, tells of a rather narrow escape.

Some of Bedfordshire Brigade under training; many of the soldiers never saw home again
Returning to the 8th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, James fought in the Battle of the Somme. At 6.20am on Friday 15 September 1916 the sixth phase of the Battle commenced at Flers-Courcelette. The initial attack was a disaster. Supporting tanks used for the first time only travelled a few yards before getting bogged down. British artillery shells fell short onto the attacking waves of British soldiers, causing many casualties. The German wire was still intact. After a gallant attempt to get through the uncut wire and wall of machine gun bullets, a retreat was ordered back to the starting lines.

War diary for 15 September 1916, 8th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment
James was killed in the initial attack on Friday 15 September. His remains were initially recorded as 'Unknown British Soldier' and the burial return shows the only effects returned to base were two pieces of boot, although his service number was also recorded. James' death was first reported in the Hunts Post on 13 October 1916, where it was confirmed he left behind a wife and six children. His death was further reported on 3 November 191610 November 1916 and 24 November 1916. He was aged 39yrs.

James was buried at Serre Cemetery No 2, Somme, France. In addition to St Ives War Memorial, he is remembered on a plaque in the Methodist Church, St Ives.

Do you have a photograph of James, or any additional information? If so, please get in touch via the make contact page.

Source materials
Click any of the links below to view original source materials.
1881 Census
1891 Census
1901 Census
1911 Census
Commonwealth War Graves Register
Burial Return
Commemorative Certificate

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