John Rowden James
The story and photographs are shared by the Trust with kind permission from John James, son of John Rowden James.
My name is John Robert Rowden James, the youngest son of John Rowden James, (old family names handed down, my grandfather was Robert Rowden James).
My father's army number 1546112, South Staffordshire Regiment, 2nd/ 6th Battalion. He enlisted on the 8th December 1939 at Gloucester and he was killed in action on the 8th July 1944 during the move on Caen. I assume it was somewhere near the Gruchy / Cambes-en-Plaine area and he is buried at the Cambes- en- Plaine British War Graves Cemetery, Grave reference is row A number 7. Just 2 days later, on the 10th, I was born.
My Mother arrived home after having me in hospital and on entering her home, among the post was the letter telling her that my father was killed in action. She already had two children, my brother was 7 years old and my sister was 5 years old. They had been with our grandparents whilst my mother had been in hospital.
I have several letters that my father sent to my mother from France including one of his last letters to her asking her that when the baby was born to please name it after him if a boy or after her if it was a girl.
In the very last letter from my father to my mother, which was written on the 5th July, he wished her well with my birth.
Wed 5/7/44 James J R 1546112, C coy 2/6 BN. South Staffs Reg.
Dearest darling, just a few words to sought of cheer you up. I believe you are not feeling too bad as I'm quite aware that you are near the end of your time.
I expect dearest that by the time you get this it will be all over and I do hope that someone will let me know as soon as possible. everything here is alright so far. I am in the very best of health, so do not worry too much, although I know it is hard not to. How are the pets darling? I shall be glad when I am able to see them again, not leaving you out of course my darling. This is all for now, I will write again soon. All my love Darling xxx Jack.
A couple of explanations to references in the letter are as follows:-
1. He mentions that my mother is at the end of her time, ------- he refers to her coming to the end of her pregnancy of course.
2. He refers to the pets,-------------- he refers to my Brother Terry aged 7 yrs and sister aged 5 yrs, apparently he always called them his pets.
3. Letter is signed Jack and not John ------------- Apparently he was always called Jack because his father was John even though he is John on his birth certificate.
There are some pictures of my Dad with my Mum and also of my brother who was seven years older than me and my sister who was five years older.
There is also a copy of the letter my mother received from the records office informing her of my fathers death. Not a pleasant letter to receive with two young children and a new born baby I'm sure you would agree.
In 1949 my mother decided to take my brother, who had just started grammar school, to see his father's grave in Normandy at his request. He of course was the only one of us three children who knew his father. Anyhow, the visit was was organized by The British Legion.
They took this picture of my Dad's grave when the visited in 1949, and another that I have taken on one of my many visits to the grave over the years.
It is really amazing how something like this sad visit, could turn into what became a very happy second marriage for my Mum as during the visit, quite by chance, she met the man who became the most incredible step-father to us three children and the most loving husband for my Mum.
I have always said that this would make the most wonderful love story film, full of drama, sadness and happiness, the full story is truly worth listening to.
JOHN ROWDEN JAMES
Army • PRIVATE
South Staffordshire Regiment
DIED 08 July 1944
SERVICE NO. 1546112