Jenkins, James Henry. Died 30th Jul 1915

James Henry SIMS a.k.a. JENKINS, died 30 July 1915

James ‘Jenkins’ is recorded on the Rugby Memorial Gates as JENKINS J. S., and proved very difficult to identify. His story will explain why.

James was born in about January 1895, in the town of ‘Mexico’, in the United States as James SIMS.   Mexico is a town in the northeast part of Oswego County, New York state.

His mother Louisa Margaretta Evans, was born in Swansea in 1870, the daughter of William and Louisa Evans, and she was 10 months old and living in Swansea for the 1871 census. Her marriage to James’s father, William James Sims, was registered in the Swansea registration district in the first quarter of 1892.

Very little census information is available, and it seems likely that the family spent much of their time abroad, seeing that James was born in the USA.

At some date James came to Rugby and the BTH records show that he was employed as a ‘winder’.

Fortunately James’s Service File has survived in The National Archives ‘Burnt Records’, although some sections are not legible or are now missing. It is these that have helped ‘reunite him with his name and family’ and provided the evidence of his birth in America.

Just before the war, James had been an apprentice and his Attestation noted that his ‘leave to enlist expires August 1916’. When he joined up he was 5ft. 9⅓in. tall, weighed 131lbs., and had blue eyes and brown hair.

James enlisted at Rugby for three years on 31 August 1914, as Private No. A/3456, in the 8th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He was 19 years and 216 days old and was posted to his unit on 3 September 1914.

After 216 days ‘Home Service’, during which time he would have been at the Winchester Depot and elsewhere undergoing training, he went out to France on 19 May 1915, landing at Boulogne.

He was ‘killed in action – in the field’, 73 days later, during the Battle of Hooge Crater on 30 July 1915.

(For more background to his training and more detailed information on the Battle of Hooge Crater, see the separate article on ‘Rugby Remembers’)

James was awarded the 1914-15 Star – received by his mother on 25 March 1920; the British War Medal – received on 2 February 1921; and the Victory Medal – received on 18 May 1921.

James Henry SIMS has no known grave but is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Panels 51 and 53.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission record noted that he was the ‘Son of Mrs. Louisa Margaretta Sims’.

However, there is no record of a James Sims on the Rugby Memorial Gates. It seems that his father had died, and his mother had ‘remarried’ although, again, there appear to be no formal records, and quite possibly, his death and her remarriage were actually both abroad.

The details provided in the Service Records for the return of James’s effects, on 6 March 1916, now gave his mother’s name as Mrs. Louisa M S Jenkins’ and her address as ‘16 Hallbrook Place [probably Holbrook Avenue], Rugby’. His effects included: ‘Correspondence, Photos, Photo no Case, Diary, Note Book, Religious Books.’

His Service Records include documents detailing his next of kin, to allow payment of outstanding back pay and gratuities. The form was postmarked Winchester, and then ‘Rugby Station’ on 12 May 1919, but the return was not signed by his mother until ‘23 July’ – the year being burnt, but presumably 1919. His father, Henry James Sims was recorded as deceased.   His mother had moved house and was now recorded as Louisa Margretta Jenkins of 49 Manor Road, Rugby. There were two younger brothers, ‘of the full blood’, named in the army records: William Frederick Albert Sims, and George Stanley Sims, then aged 21 and 18 respectively, suggesting births in about 1898 and 1900.

There were also three children who were ‘of the half blood’: William ?Freeon? Jenkins, then 14, having been born in about 1905; and two girls: Daisy and Mabel Jenkins, then aged 12 and 10 born later.

The names and ages would suggest that James’s father died sometime about 1900, and his mother remarried [or commenced a relationship] with a Mr. Jenkins by about 1904.

The first payment of James’s financial effects, on 26 February 1916, was to’ Mrs Louisa Margaretta Sims Jenkins’, who received £4-13-9d. James’s two brothers received payments of £1-3-6d each. His mother received a further £3 on 5 September 1919.

It was no doubt his mother’s new surname that caused the confusion and use of the Jenkins surname for James on the Memorial Gate, and in the BTH Memorial Book.

The BTH Memorial Book records ‘Jenkins J H S – Winding Dept., Rugby – Rifleman – King’s Royal Rifles – 3456 – killed 30 July 1915’ as serving. He is then recorded in the Roll of Honour as ‘Jenkins H S’ with exactly the same details.

However, the list of names on the BTH War Memorial as reported in the Rugby Advertiser, on 4 November 1921, included him as ‘SIMS James H’.

A ‘SIMS W F A’ is also recorded as ‘serving’ and was also in the BTH ‘Winding Department’ at Rugby.   He was a ‘signalman’ in the Royal Naval Division, No. BZ 2304. This would have been James’s brother, William Frederick A Sims, who seems to have retained his original surname – no doubt as he was available to correct matters.

The list of BTH casualties also included a SIMS Frank William W. He seems to be unrelated, although working in Rugby, and seems to have been Private, No: 295288, who served in 2nd/4th Bn., London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), and who was killed on 26 October 1917; he also has no known grave and is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial.