Saturday, 8 December 2012

Aha, Jim Lad

Jim Russell was born on 1 Oct 1892 at 4 Caledonia Street, Thornaby but for the only time in his life (it would appear) he was registered as James Russell on 5th November by his father John Russell, grocer. It was only when my Mum obtained a copy of his birth certificate in 1988 that she realised he had been fibbing (knowingly?) when he insisted that he had been christened Jim. He's Jim on his army papers, Jim on Mum's birth certificate, Jim on his death certificate and Jim on his gravestone.

By all accounts, he was bit of a lad and it was 'suggested', quite forcefully I think, that he make a new life for himself. He went to Australia, apparently under the auspices of the Salvation Army (he never had a good word to say about them), sometime between 1911 and 1914. In 1911 he's listed in the census at 82 Buchanan Street, Thornaby as an assistant grocer. The next time he appears on paper in 21 Dec 1914 when he signs his attestation papers for the Australian Imperial Force (although the form also says he joined on 1 Oct 1914, his 22nd birthday). His father, John had died on 14 Feb 1912 so his next of kin is given as Mrs H Russell.

The 14th Infantry Battalion of the AIF left Melbourne on 2 December 1914 and arrived in Gallipoli (via Egypt and Lemnos) on 26 April 1915 under heavy shrapnel fire. On 21 August Jim was wounded (gunshot wound right shoulder) in the fighting around Hill 60 and evacuated to Mudros; he returned to his unit on 22nd September. Mum remembers him saying that he had been one of the guides on the beach during the evacuation of Gallipoli in December 1915.

After reorganisation of the battalion in Egypt, it was sent to France in June 1916 arriving at Marseilles on the SS Transylvania. As part of the 4th Infantry Brigade, the 14th took part at Pozieres, Mouquet farm, Messine and Polygon Wood; Jim missed the Polygon Wood action (26 Sept 1917) as he was sick with PUO (pyrexia (fever) of unknown origin) and pleurisy, taken to Etaples and didn't rejoin the unit until 2 Nov 1917. He was allowed 3 weeks leave in England in December and returned to France and detached for duty with HQ, 4th Infantry Brigade. It may have been here that he was 'cook for a general' as he claimed.

Just over a year later, on 23 July 1918 he was hospitalised with a carbuncle on his back and transferred to England spending some time in the Pavilion Hospital in Brighton; his health can't have been very good as he spends some time in various hospitals and on 14 October was transferred to the New Zealand Hospital at Codford with another carbuncle.

Back at the Codford depot on 1 November 1918, he was entitled to leave in Australia (he was a 1914 enlistee) but look 75 days in England in lieu having orders to report back to AIF Admin HQ in London on 23 January 1919.  The Armistice having been signed  on November 1918, he was sent to Tidworth to await demobilisation. He was discharged on 25 June 1919 and I have his demob papers.

We're pretty certain that he had made the acquaintance of Miss Stella Stonehouse before he left; quite how, we don't know, but they married on 4 December 1919.  It's clear though, from the stories that Mam tells that he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress. Understandably so.

Jim and Stella, with financial assistance from Stella's father, opened a shop in Clifton Street, Middlesbrough - yes, it was a grocery - and son Maurice was born in 1921, daughter Elizabeth (Betty) in 1925.

When war returned in 1939-45, Jim eagerly joined the Home Guard, even after all he went through in the Great War.

He died on the 16th June 1951 aged 58;  cause of death given as cerebral haemorrhage, arterio sclerosis. The informant of the death, Maurice Russell, described him a master grocer (although I think this says more about my uncle than it does about my grandfather)

1 comment:

  1. Update!

    Ancestry have released information on departures from the UK so I now know Jim went to Australia on 14 October 1913 on the SS Indrapura (Tyser Line Ltd), sailing from Tilbury to Melbourne.

    What did he get up to between landing in Australia and signing up for the AIF?