James Welch VC (1889 1978)

James posed a particular problem to me. I thought that I had accounted for all the Victoria Cross holders that had a Sheffield connection when I came across a brief article in a newspaper of the time which stated that James was presented to King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth on the occasion of their Royal Visit to Sheffield. The newspaper was The Times and the date was 22 October 1937. It referred to the Coronation tour of their majesties which visited Sheffield the previous day

 

I checked what little information there was on James and could not find anything that connected him to the Sheffield area. This is a brief summary of what is available   

James Welch VC (7 July 1889 28 June 1978) was born at Stratfield Saye. He was 27 years old, and a Lance-Corporal in the 1st Battalion, The Royal Berkshire Regiment (Princess Charlotte of Wales's), British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC. This is the a copy of the citation that appeared in The London Gazette dated 27th June 1917


On 29 April 1917 near Oppy, France, Lance-Corporal Welch entered an enemy trench and killed one man after a severe hand-to-hand struggle. Then, armed only with an empty revolver, he chased four of the enemy across the open and captured them single-handed. He handled his machine-gun with the utmost fearlessness, and more than once went into the open, exposed to heavy fire, to search for and collect ammunition and spare parts in order to keep his guns in action, which he succeeded in doing for over five hours, until wounded by a shell.

He later achieved the rank of Sergeant. He died on 28 June 1978 at Bournemouth and was cremated  a few days later at the local crematorium. His Victoria Cross is displayed at The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment (Salisbury) Museum, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.

From Victoria Cross Awards 1856 - 1920

The Find A Gravesite does have the following though

In loving memory
of a dear wife
mother and grandma
Daisy Welch
Fell asleep 28th. June 1968
aged 82 years
James Welch, V.C.
28th. June 1978 aged 88,

These photos seem to indicate to me that James was not cremated but buried alongside his wife Daisy. The grave is at Bournemouth Crematorium and North Cemetery Bournemouth Dorset, England which is where the confusion may have arisen. There is a Crematorium on the site but James was not cremated there.

And the other fact I was able to discover is that JAMES and DAISY were married in Sheffield in 1915

Surname First name(s) Spouse District Vol Page
Marriages Dec 1915 Barnes Daisy Welch Ecclesall B. 9c 723 Welch James Barnes Ecclesall B. Volume 9c page 723

and James was born - Surname Given Name District Volume Page - Births Sep 1889 Welch James Basingstoke 2c 200

Daisy requires further verification but there is an entry in the registers Births Jun 1886 Barnes Daisy Wortley 9c 267 - Wortley being a district of Sheffield.

JAMES and DAISY may have had five children. Again verification is required

Births Jun 1918
Welch Daisy V Barnes Sheffield 9c 895
Births Mar 1920
Welch James O Barnes Ecclesall B 9c 933

Births Mar 1921
Welch William C V Barnes Ecclesall B. 9c 780
Births Mar 1922
Welch Margaret E Barnes Ecclesall B. 9c 739
Births Jun 1923
Welch Francis D Barnes Ecclesall B. 9c 687

In the autumn of 2008 someone posted a query to the Great War Forum and received the following reply - "VCs of the First World War : Arras and Messines 1917 (Gerald Gliddon) says that he lived in Sheffield after the war and worked for a cardboard box company. He moved from Sheffield to Bournemouth in 1960. He served in the RAF Auxiliary Reserve in WW2. So about 40 years living in Sheffield....."

And so it looks as though James spent nearly all his working life in Sheffield, retiring to Bournemouth in 1960

In March 2015 I received an e-mail from a fellow researcher who kindly attached this contemporary newspaper cutting

And as a result of this information I was to locate this report from the Reading Mercury dated 28th July 1917

and also this report again from The Reading Mercury dated a month earlier 30th June 1917

Sources

VCs of the First World War : Arras and Messines 1917 (Gerald Gliddon)

London Gazette 27 June 1917

Reading Mercury dated 30th June 1917 and 28th July 1917

Notes

James attended the VC REUNION DINNER on Saturday, 9th November 1929 at The Royal Gallery, House of Lords, Palace of Westminster. There is a marvelous photograph on Picture Sheffield that has the caption

"Sergeant James Welch, the only surviving V.C. who resided in Sheffield, had an enthusiastic send-off from his fellow workers at C.H Lea Ltd., (incorporating the Sheffield Cardboard Box Company), Cavendish Street, leaving for a reunion dinner in London"

For more information see 'Sheffield Mail', Saturday 9th November, 1929 and The Star, July 17th 1962.

In June 2015 I was in the Sheffield Local Studies Library and I came across his name in the Sheffield Telegraph dated Tuesday 17th July 1962. James (74) who was described as "Sheffield's only living VC" had been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace, and then a banquet at the Mansion House in London. Attending these events would be over 200 holders of the Victoria Cross and George Cross.

But rather sadly the next day's edition of the Sheffield Telegraph carried a rather sad report that James was not able to attended the events due to continuing ill-health.

The report mentioned that James lived at Western Road, Crookes. A look at the Kelly's Directory for 1962 gave the entry "188 Western Road - Jas Welch"

I passed the house today  - Sunday 5th July 2015 - and from my observations the house is a buy-to-let/ student property, There is no mention that this was the home of Sheffield's last living Victoria Cross holder.

NOTES

1911 Census

Name Daisy Barnes
Relationship to Head of Household Servant
Condition Single Gender F Age 25
Estimated Year of Birth 1886
Occupation General Domestic
Employed Y Working at Home N
Place of Birth Sheffield Yorkshire
Enumerator Information
Address 49 Cairns Road Crosspool Sheffield Parish Ecclesall Town Crosspool Sheffield
Type of Building Private House Number of Rooms Nine Inhabited Y
Reference RG14PN27753 RG78PN1588 RD509 SD2 ED33 SN149
Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding) Registration District Ecclesall Bierlow Registration Sub District Ecclesall West Central
Enumeration District 33

James was about as far away from Crosspool as you could imagine - Meerut India

1911 Census Record
Personal Information
Name James Welch
Condition Single
Gender Male 
Age 21 Estimated Year of Birth 1890
Employed N
Working at Home N
Place of Birth Stratfieldsay Berks
Military Rank Private 2nd Battn Royal Berkshire Regt
Enumerator Information Address Meerut India
Town Meerut India Inhabited Y
Reference RG14PN34982 RD641 SD7 ED12 SN9999
Administrative County Overseas Military Enumeration District 12

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This page was last updated on 22/01/17 16:28