1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

James William Loveday

Contributed by: Nigel Hicks, on 2008-11-11

James William Loveday
First Name James William
Surname Loveday
Year of Birth 1879
Year of Death 1917
Regiment Royal Hampshire Regiment
Place of Wartime Residence Fleet, Hampshire

James William's Story

My maternal Grandfather, James William Loveday, was born in St Saviour, Southwark, London, on 8th July 1879. I believe that some of his family were shoemakers or potters. He moved to Fleet, Hampshire, sometime around the turn of the century & married my Grandmother, Ellen Simpson from Crondall, who was a barmaid in the Hampshire Arms. I never knew very much about her family, but can remember her sister, Aunt Kate coming to see me and my brothers and sisters when I was a child. I recall her wearing a long black dress and an enormous black hat, which was the fashion at the time.

Anyhow, my Grandparants lived in a small house at 103 Albert Street, Fleet near the old Fleet Institute, which my Grandfather had arranged to buy with a mortgage. They had three children, Lily Alexandra, my mother, who was born in 1903, followed by James Edward in 1906 and Robert Arthur in 1909. Judging by a photograph I still have of them, they look as though they must have been reasonably affluent at the time, as also borne out by the fact that they were buying their own house. I don't know where the photograph would have been taken, but assume it was at a professional photographer's studio, probably in Fleet. They all look to be very well dressed in their Sunday best and appear to be contented and happy with their lot.

All this was to change, however, as it would for thousands of families all over the country and far beyond with the onset of the first world war. Initially, because of my Grandfather's age (he would have been thirty five in 1914 at the beginning of the war) and because he had a wife and three children, he was not required to join up and fight. He had been a a member of the Fleet Band for some time, playing a trumpet, and in 1917, when hostilities were at their worst, the entire band was sent to France, supposedly to entertain the troops.

Shortly after they arrived in France, however, all the Fleet bandsmen were put in uniform and told they were now soldiers in the in the 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment. The story is that all the musical instruments were taken away from them and replaced with rifles and ammunition and my Grandfather suddenly found himself to be Private J.W. Loveday, 242465. Shortly afterwards, after very little training, all the bandsmen were ordered to the front line to fight for king and country. Tragically, and not entirely unsurprisingly, they were all killed within a couple of weeks of arriving in France.

My Grandfather was blown to smithereens in Flanders on St Georges Day, 23rd April 1917, at the age of thirty eight. No trace of him was ever found and when the Fleet War Memorial was being erected by Fleet railway station in 1921, the authorities did not want to include his name. This was because there was never a body to identify and so it was argued that there was no proof that he had in fact been killed. This caused great unrest and hurt within the family and the authorities only agreed to include his name on the war memorial after much fuss and argument by my Grandmother.

Consequently, my Grandmother, became a war widow with 3 children to bring up all on her own. Lily Alexandra (my mother) was about 14 years old at the time, so I imagine she would have had to have gone straight out to work to bring in some money. However, James Edward (Jim) would have been 11 & Robert Arthur (Bob) just 8 years old. So it would have been a huge struggle for my Grandmother to bring up the young children all on her own. I remember her having a paying in book, which she used to take somewhere in Fleet every month to pay off the mortgage money. I think she got a small pension from the army around ten shillings (50 pence) a week, but I don't think it ever went up & she used to take in washing to earn some money.

Lily May Coles (neeTaylor)

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