James was born in Lewes on 24/06/1924 the younger son of Frank Arthur and Annie Elizabeth Jacobs, nee Whitington. James’ parents married in the Steyning District in 1916 and moved to Lewes.
It was not a completely happy marriage. They were living apart in 1939 and the following year in August his mother summoned his father for the non-payment of maintenance for her boys. This would suggest that they were still living at home.
At the time James’ mother was living with her father at 1A Ranger Hut, Castle Banks, and James’ father with a work colleague in Western Road. He was a lorry driver for Chandlers and Co. and later served in the Civil Defence Rescue Group.
James’ obituary in the local paper says that he was educated at Pells school and worked for Marsh and Sons, butchers, and later for the Lewes Co-op.
The 1939 register lists him as an errand boy for an ironmongers and his elder brother Frank Henry as a butcher. He was a member of the congregation at St John sub Castro and in the choir for a short period.
His obituary also says that early in the war he was part of the ARP Messenger Service and then a Warden. This must have been after September 1939 when the register was taken.
James enlisted in the Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey) and was numbered 14388135. He was first placed in the 2/6th, a Territorial Battalion. They, along with the 2/4th and 2/5th, were formed into the 35th Infantry Brigade and, after brief training at Caterham, were sent to France. They sailed from Southampton to Le Havre and spent some months working on lines of communication, building a new railway junction. This also gave the opportunity for extra training.
A German advance meant a speedy withdrawal, and a long and arduous train journey followed. They eventually sailed back to the UK from Cherbourg for more civil defence work and some consolidation of units.
The Surrey Regimental Rolls suggest that James was transferred to a different Battalion in 1942 and other records suggest that he became part of 1/5th Battalion. Due to this confusion it is difficult to trace his movements accurately.
Records exist of him in the 1/5th being injured in Normandy in 1944 and later dying, but the CWGC lists his death as a member of the 2/6th. Both Battalions had fought together in Italy in the capture of Tunis in May 1943, and then at Salerno in September the same year.
The 1/5th returned to England in preparation for the invasion of North West Europe. James was certainly involved in the invasion of Northern Europe following D Day. He was initially reported as wounded but later as killed on 03/08/1944 while in Normandy.
James has no identified grave and is remembered on the Bayeux Memorial on panel 12 column 3 and also in their Book of Remembrance. His name is inscribed on the memorial at St John sub Castro and the Lewes War Memorial.