This is him, my Great Uncle Jim. He served and died in France in World War 1 in Boulogne on 2nd August 1917. With the centenary of the Armistice approaching, now seems a good time to honour and remember him.
Although I never met him, he was my Grandma’s brother, and he was family. His name was James Small and he served with the Royal Marine Labour Corps in WW1.
He wrote to Dolly and Fred – my Grandma and Grandpa – in December 1915 when he was stationed in Le Havre. Here is part of the letter he wrote, with a photograph of himself attached.
He says “Well, Doll, you never said what I could send the children” (that would be my dad and his sister, my aunt) “I was a good mind to get a pinafore for the girl” and he says later on “Let me know what little thing I can get the children from France”.
Jim is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery. As a member of the Royal Marine Labour Corps it’s unlikely that he was in active service on the front, and was most likely to have been involved in heavy manual support work.
Nonetheless, he was doing his bit and paid the ultimate price as it’s possible that he contracted an illness (the conditions weren’t healthy) and died in hospital. He was 47 or 48.
In the 1930s, my dad (one of “the children” mentioned in Jim’s letter) went to Belgium and France to see the WW1 battlefields and trenches. He found Jim’s grave in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery and took this photo.
About 10 years ago I also went to find Jim’s grave. It looks much the same, is clean and surrounded by well-kept gardens, thanks to the War Graves Commission, who helped by sending me the exact location of the grave so I could visit and pay my respects.
Now, when we travel to France on our way to visit and explore more of this, one of our favourite countries, I always nod towards Boulogne spread out below as we pass by on the autoroute, and think of Great Uncle Jim resting, I hope, in peace, and not forgotten.
Boulogne Eastern Cemetery War Graves