Welcome, Guest
Username: Password: Remember me
  • Page:
  • 1

TOPIC:

5612 Private John James, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers - murdered, 17.5.1903 2 months 3 weeks ago #71539

  • BereniceUK
  • BereniceUK's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 2309
  • Thank you received: 1113
NEATH MAN DONE TO DEATH.

SOUTH AFRICAN HERO'S TRAGIC FATE.

.…Private James (5,612), of the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and a native of Neath, has been done to death near Altcar (Lancashire), where there is a camp for musketry instruction. He was found early on Sunday morning in a dying condition on the path leading from Formby to Altcar Camp, battered and cut about the head and face to a terrible extent. He was removed to the camp hospital, but on the arrival of Dr. Carter Private James had succumbed. Private Bogie Wilkes, a recruit of the same regiment, and a native of Birmingham, has been arrested in connection with the tragedy. James had the China and South African medals. A soldier's belt was found in a field a short distance from where the body lay.


James was one of a few old soldiers accompanying the recruits of his battalion for musketry practice, arriving at Altcar last week. He and Wilkes were in Formby on Saturday, and had been drinking together.
….The deceased was a son of Mr. John James, engineman at Bryncoch No. 1 Pit, and who resides at Taillydon, about two miles from Neath. Private Jack James served through the South African war and in the Chinese expedition, and was present with the combined force which effected the relief of the Pe-king Legations. Two weeks before Christmas James left Neath after a few weeks' furlough, and returned to the regimental depot at Wrexham, being shortly afterwards drafted to Lichfield. He was a quiet, steady-going fellow, and, according to the opinions of those in a position to judge, one of the last likely to provoke a quarrel with anyone. Private James was one of the guard of honour selected in connection with the unveiling at Wrexham Church by the Prince of Wales of the memorial to the heroes who met their death in South Africa and China.
….Mr. David James and Mrs. James, brother and sister-in-law of Private James, left Neath on Tuesday afternoon with the intention of bringing the body home for interment, but, owing to the prevalence of small-pox in the Liverpool district, the authorities refused permission to remove the body.

MAGISTERIAL INQUIRY AT BIRKDALE.
….On Monday Private Arthur Wilkes, recruit of the 1st Battalion Welsh Fusiliers, aged 21, was charged (before Messrs. T. O. Climming and W. Jones) at Birkdale Police-court with having caused the death of Private J. James, aged 30, of the same battalion, some time between late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
….From the statement made by Superintendent Jervis, of the Lancashire County Police, it appears that the deceased and the prisoner were in company together in Formby, and had visited public-houses in that village, which is distant over two miles from the Altcar Camp, where the detachment of the Welsh Fusiliers are encamped. They were last seen together going in the direction of the camp shortly after nine o'clock, and they both appeared to be somewhat in drink. At four o'clock on Sunday morning Private Boswell, of the same regiment, was proceeding along the path from Formby to the camp, when he found Private James in an unconscious state, lying face downwards in a ditch by the side of the path, and at a point about a quarter of a mile distant from the camp. He was bleeding and moaning, and his head and face were terribly battered. Boswell lifted James out of the ditch and laid him on the bank, and ran off for assistance. James was subsequently carried on a stretcher to the camp hospital, but he died a few minutes before the arrival of Dr. Carter, of Formby, the camp doctor. The base of his skull was fractured, and he was frightfully cut about the nose, mouth, and chin, one ear being cut through. On the police being notified Inspector Hodgson and Police-sergeant M'Lellan arrived at the camp, and the whole of the Welsh detachment were paraded before them, and their clothing and equipment inspected. It was found that the prisoner Wilkes was wearing another man's belt, and a belt, not yet identified as the accused's, had been found in the field near the spot where James was found lying. The prisoner, it had been found, had bought a pair of new regimental trousers from a comrade on Sunday morning, paying a shilling for them, he having fallen n on parade in fatigue serge pants. The new trousers were found in his bag in his tent, his own regimental trousers being missing. Wilkes was taken into custody and lodged in Formby Police-station. Mr. Jervis asked for the remand of the accused to Thursday, which was granted.
….The prisoner in the dock seemed self-possessed. He is nicknamed "Bogie" Wilkes, and is a native of Birmingham, having joined the regiment at Worcester in September of last year.

OPENING OF THE CORONER'S INQUEST.
….On Tuesday Mr. S. Brighouse, county coroner for South-west Lancashire, conducted an inquiry at the Railway Hotel, Formby, into the death of Private James, of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
….The jury, fifteen in number, after being sworn, visited the scene of the tragedy, and there also viewed the body, whither it had been taken from the camp hospital.
….Dr. Carter explained to the jury the injuries of the deceased, whose head was terribly cut and battered, the doctor stating that one wound fracture of the skull was sufficient to cause death without the numerous other wounds.
….One of the jury was overcome by the sight and fainted on returning to the hote
….Evidence was given by Private Boswell and Sergeant-instructor of Musketry Stevens, both of the deceased's regiment.
….Boswell stated that at about four o'clock on Sunday morning he was on his way to camp when he found the deceased in a ditch face downwards, groaning and unconscious. A short distance away he found the cap, stick, and handkerchief of the deceased, and a sixpence and two pennies. James groaned as he was carried to camp, but was never conscious. Stevens identified deceased, and produced his attestation papers, which showed that the deceased had been sent from Lichfield to be cook for the battalion's recruits doing musketry instruction at Altcar. He was 29 years of age, and his name was John James.
….The inquest was adjourned till Tuesday.

FUNERAL AT ALTCAR PARISH CHURCH.
….The remains of Private James were interred at Altcar Parish Church on Wednesday. The funeral was a military one, the body being borne on a gun-carriage from Seaforth Artillery Barracks. The several regiments encamped at Altcar, the 5th Lancashire Fusiliers, 3rd King's Liverpool, and Lancashire Artillery, were represented, forty-five of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers heading the procession. The chief mourners were Mr. and Mrs. David James (brother and sister-in-law of the deceased), from Neath. There was a large crowd of people from Formby and neighbourhood to witness the funeral. The officers of the Royal Welsh Regiment present were Lieutenants Harris and R. N. Phillips and Second-lieutenants Barker, H. J. Phillips, Blair, and Knox-Gore. Private James was laid in a grave next to that of a private of the North Staffordshire Regiment, drowned three years ago whilst bathing at Formby.

Weekly Mail, Saturday 23rd May 1903
_______________________________________________

NEATH HERO'S FATE.

VERDICT OF "WILFUL MURDER" RETURNED.

….As reported in the Extra-Special and later editions of yesterday's "Evening Express."
….At Birkdale Police-court yesterday morning Mr. S. Brighouse, coroner for South-west Lancashire, conducted the adjourned inquiry into the death of Private John James, aged 29, of the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who was found in a dying condition in a ditch near Altcar Camp early on Sunday morning, the 17th inst. The deceased was a native of Neath, and a week previous to his death came from Lichfield Barracks to act as cook to a detachment of recruits at Altcar Camp, and in connection with his death Private Arthur Wilkes, aged 21, a recruit of that detachment, has been in custody since the 17th inst. He enlisted into the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers at Worcester in September last year.
….The Coroner intimated that the prisoner Wilkes had a few minutes previously asked leave to make a statement, and at that moment Inspector Hodgson was in the cell downstairs taking that statement. He (the coroner) proposed putting Mr. Hodgson in the witness-box to tell the jury what Wilkes's statement was, and this might shorten the inquiry considerably.
….The jury retired for a quarter of an hour, while the prisoner's statement was being taken.
….On the court resuming, Inspector Hodgson entered the box, and the prisoner was placed in the dock. He had a gloomy and worn appearance, though he watched closely the evidence and articles produced, which included a belt which Inspector Hodgson found the prisoner wearing, and which belonged to another man (Private Burke). Witness said he had paraded the detachment to which the prisoner belonged, and had examined the belt on each of the 66 men. A belt was missed by Burke. Private Wilkes also wore a blue serge fatigue pair of trousers, and on being challenged why he had not his regimental trousers on, he stated they were in his kit, from which Sergeant Jenkins took a pair of regimental trousers which did not have prisoner's number, and which afterwards were identified by Private Bullen, who sold them to the prisoner on Sunday morning. Witness found no marks on the prisoner's body except tattoo marks, which he had from his feet upwards. With regard to the prisoner's statement that morning, witness read it, and it was signed by the . This stated that he and the deceased had got drunk together in Formby. On the way to camp the deceased sought to get back to the village, and he tried to dissuade him, and deceased took hold of him. To loose himself he used his belt on the deceased, and left him, but he did not know what he had done.
….Dr. Carter described the terrible injuries about the head and face of the deceased. The whole of the wounds could have been caused by the belt produced and found near the scene of the tragedy.
….The movements of the prisoner and deceased prior to the tragedy were next traced, and the finding of the body and the ownership of the belt and the trousers found with the prisoner.
….Archibald Lyon, paper editor, spoke to seeing deceased and prisoner on four occasions on Saturday night. They were both fresh.
….Private Burke stated he found the torn and mud-stained trousers of prisoner behind the stores in the store tent, which prisoner occupied.
….Robert Formby found the prisoner's belt, bloodstained, lying in the field, fifteen yards from where the deceased was found. The prisoner had previously denied to Burke that the belt was his.
….Private Bullen said prisoner bought a pair of trousers from him on Sunday morning.
….Private Shepherd found the deceased's watch and chain in the sand box of the latrine, which was between the spot of the tragedy and prisoner's tent.
….Dr. Collingwood Williams, public analyst, said that the tongue and other parts of the bely bore large blood stains. There were also undoubted blood spots on the trousers, but no blood was discovered on the tunic.
….Private Hamer stated that the tunic prisoner was found wearing on the Sunday morning was not the tunic prisoner had when he left Lichfield a week previously.
....Police-sergeant M'Lellan, who charged the prisoner at Formby Police-station, said that he made no reply.
….A verdict of "Wilful murder" was returned against the prisoner.

Evening Express, Wednesday 27th May 1903
_______________________________________________

NEATH SOLDIER'S FATE.

TRIAL AT THE LIVERPOOL ASSIZES.

….At Liverpool Assizes on Friday Arthur Wilkes, 21, a soldier, was indicted for the wilful murder of John James, also a soldier, at Altcar on May 16. Mr. Shee, K.C., who, with Mr. Maxwell, appeared for the prosecution, said the prisoner and deceased were privates in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who were quartered at Altcar Camp on the 12th of last May, the deceased having charge of the cooking arrangements an prisoner of the stores. Up to the 16th of May there had been no quarrelling between them, and on the afternoon of that day they were both in camp. In the evening they went out together, and between six and seven o'clock were seen at the Grapes Hotel in uniform. At nine o'clock they were seen at the Blundell Arms, and afterwards near the railway station, when they still seemed on friendly terms. What happened subsequently could only be gathered from what prisoner had himself said, to the effect that he and deceased quarrelled, and in order to from the grip of the deceased he used his belt upon the deceased. Between three and four in the morning a witness, named Boswell, was returning to camp, when he heard groans coming from a ditch, and there found James. A stretcher was procured, and James was removed to the camp hospital, where he died immediately afterwards. It was then discovered that he had seventeen wounds on the head and face. Near the ditch was found a belt, which could be identified as belonging to the prisoner, and which had blood upon it. A watch that deceased had been wearing on the day in question was missing. All these circumstances, counsel urged, pointed to the conclusion that prisoner had assaulted James to rob him. Subsequently it was alleged prisoner procured a regimental belt, and altering the number, claimed it as his own, and that he also bought a pair of trousers from a comrade. The deceased man's watch was found in the sand near the prisoner's tent, and prisoner's regimental trousers, damp and dirty, were found near the stores. On analysis blood was found both on the belt and trousers, and prisoner was arrested.
….Evidence was then called in support of the prosecution. Witnesses spoke to the movements of the prisoner and the deceased on the night of the occurrence, of the finding of deceased in the ditch, and the subsequent discoveries that led to the prisoner's arrest.
….Police-inspector Hodson, of Birkdale, read a statement made by the prisoner to the effect that on the night in question he and James were both drunk, and that the latter wanted to have more drink. Prisoner objected, and got hold of the deceased's arm in a friendly way to try and get him to the camp. They started wrestling, and the deceased got vexed. The prisoner was anxious to get out of his clutch, and used his belt to make him lose his grip. Then he (prisoner) left him, and went back to the camp, not knowing what had been done to deceased.
….The medical testimony was that the deceased sustained seventeen wounds, nine of which extended to the bone. The cause of death was fracture of the skull, and considerable violence must have been used upon the deceased.
….Addressing the jury on behalf of the accused, Mr. Sharp argued that there was no case of robbery and murder, and ridiculed the idea that a man would kill his friend for the paltry sum deceased had upon him - one shilling. His defence was that put forward by the prisoner in his statement to the police inspector, which was a complete explanation of what took place on the fateful night. The jury must act upon the evidence, and reject the suggestions of the prosecution. The prisoner, he urged, had committed homicide in self-defence, or, at most, was only guilty of manslaughter.
….His Lordship, in summing up, said that, in his opinion, there was no evidence that prisoner acted in self-defence. was also sorry to say that the evidence did not support the theory of manslaughter.
….The jury found the prisoner guilty, with recommendations to mercy, and he was sentenced to death.
….The Judge, in passing sentence of death, characterised the offence as a wicked and cruel murder. The prisoner had been recommended to mercy owing to his youth, but his Lordship warned him not to rely on that.
DATE OF THE EXECUTION.
….The day of execution has been fixed for Tuesday, the 18th inst., at Walton Gaol, Liverpool.

Weekly Mail, Saturday 8th August 1903
_______________________________________________

THE MURDER OF A NEATH SOLDIER.
….A letter was received at Liverpool on Saturday from the Home Office announcing that the death sentence passed upon Private Arthur Wilkes, of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, for the murder of Private John James, a comrade, at Altcar, had been servitude for life. James, it will be remembered, was a native of Ammanford.

Weekly Mail, Saturday 22nd August 1903
_______________________________________________
_______________________________________________


I'd visited St Wilfrid's, Great Altcar parish church, in 2018, before I was aware of John James' burial there, and one of the gravestones I'd photographed was that of George Walton, the North Staffs. Regiment soldier who'd drowned in 1900. From memory I was pretty sure that there were no gravestones on either side of Walton's grave, and when I went back this morning, that turned out to be the case.

Walton's grave.

Possibly John James' grave.

Walton's gravestone to the left, no nearby gravestones.

Inside the church is what I hope is, fingers crossed, a record of grave locations; however, it may turn out to be a record of gravestone inscriptions, in which case it won't be of any help when I go back again.

Would the regiment have let a murdered serving soldier be buried without a gravestone? Has the gravestone been removed after becoming unsafe? Or was John James later reburied in Neath?
The following user(s) said Thank You: jim51, Frank Kelley

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

5612 Private John James, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers - murdered, 17.5.1903 2 months 3 weeks ago #71544

  • Frank Kelley
  • Frank Kelley's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 6693
  • Thank you received: 898
A very sad end to a promising career in the nanny goats, interestingly, the remains of John James papers have survived in WO363, the final entry upon the service statement is simply "Died 17 5 03" very sad indeed, he had been a serving Militiaman in the 3rd Welsh Regt on joining the RWF too.
The following user(s) said Thank You: BereniceUK

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

5612 Private John James, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers - murdered, 17.5.1903 2 months 3 weeks ago #71550

  • BereniceUK
  • BereniceUK's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 2309
  • Thank you received: 1113
Altcar Camp still exists, having been used for training purposes for around 160 years. While walking from Formby to Great Altcar I could hear rifle fire.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altcar_Training_Camp

Once Local Studies, probably in Southport, reopens, I'll go and look at old maps to see if it's possible to identify the path that James and Wilkes took back to camp.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

5612 Private John James, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers - murdered, 17.5.1903 2 months 3 weeks ago #71553

  • Frank Kelley
  • Frank Kelley's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 6693
  • Thank you received: 898
I should not venture too close if I were you!


BereniceUK wrote: Altcar Camp still exists, having been used for training purposes for around 160 years. While walking from Formby to Great Altcar I could hear rifle fire.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altcar_Training_Camp

Once Local Studies, probably in Southport, reopens, I'll go and look at old maps to see if it's possible to identify the path that James and Wilkes took back to camp.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

5612 Private John James, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers - murdered, 17.5.1903 2 months 3 weeks ago #71555

  • BereniceUK
  • BereniceUK's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 2309
  • Thank you received: 1113

Frank Kelley wrote: I should not venture too close if I were you!


Trigger-happy cadets? Definitely not!

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

5612 Private John James, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers - murdered, 17.5.1903 2 months 3 weeks ago #71558

  • Frank Kelley
  • Frank Kelley's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 6693
  • Thank you received: 898
I note that John James service statement in WO363 clearly shows service in China and WO100/181 also confirms his attachment to the 2nd RWF at Hong Kong, after his service with the 1st Battalion in South Africa, interestingly, I could not see him in WO100/95 in respect of the China War medal, one wonders if any entry has his initial and number wrong.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

  • Page:
  • 1
Moderators: djb
Time to create page: 1.847 seconds
Powered by Kunena Forum