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Imperial War Museum War Partnership logoFirst World War - On this day...... 5th September 1915

 

Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War

On the centenary of their death, we remember

James Wilson Barnett LUCAS
b.1896 ;
d. 5th September 1915. Aged 19


Private S/10418 - 3rd Battalion (Special Reserves), The Buffs
Remembered with Honour
Teynham (St. Mary) Churchyard, East Corner.
Drowned - Dover (12 noon - 1 pm)

John Lucas's Gravestone

Inscription reads:
PRIVATE JAMES WILSON BARNETT
LUCAS, 3rd BUFFS.
Dearly beloved son of
John and Mahala Lucas of Teynham
Who was accidentally drowned at Dover
September 5th 1915, aged 19 years.
----
The golden gates were opened
A gentle voice said come:
With farewell left unspoken
He calmly entered home.
Some day we hope to meet him
We know not how or when.
And clasp his hand in a better land
And never part again.
----
Thy will be done

James and all but two of his sisters and brothers were born in the Parish of Eastling (south of Newnham). His extended family were from Boughton Under Blean, east of Faversham. But as World War 1 approached, his father had moved to Greenstreet Hill, a cottage just west of the present-day Mount Pleasant Cottages (opposite The Dover Inn).

At the age of 17 years and 1 month, James (a general labourer - working for Mr W Rowe of Mercer's Brickfield for 2½ years) went to Canterbury to enlist into the 3rd Battalion (Special Reserve), The Buffs. In his enlistment papers of 20th January 1913 it appears he was responding to a local recruitment notice and had spoken to Sergeant Ingram (The Buffs) before signing up. His "Statement of Services" simply records - "Present 1913" and "Present 1914" before he was mobilised on 8th August 1914 at the outbreak of war, still in the Special Reserve. In March 1915, one record shows James attended a course of instruction in Cold Shoeing that was certificated by 1st Battalion/3rd London Brigade, R.F.A. He remained in the Special Reserve until his death without having served overseas. Without experience of fighting, his reckonable service was nevertheless calculated as 2 years and 229 (or 230) days. He had stood ready to serve his country, but tragedy struck before he could join his fellow soldiers.

James's Medical Record paints a picture of the man. Physically, even for that time, he was a modest 5 feet and 2¼ inches tall, chest measurement of 32¾ inches with 2 inches expansion. He weighed 114 pounds (52 kilograms) with "good" physical development and eyesight. He was formally assessed as "Slight defects but not sufficient to cause rejection." Birthmarks included pigmentation over the spine between his shoulder blades and moles to the left of his belly button (umbilicus). His eyes were blue, hair was brown. Described by his employers as "sober, honest, very quiet and obliging lad". He was not married.

From the military records some time after James's death, we see that his father (John Lucas) lists his relations: mother 'Mahala'/Molly (deceased); William John (26 years old, Reg.No. 117863 in 186 Company of the Machine Gun Company, Indian Brigade, North Persia); Harry (11 years old, 104, St. Johns Road, Faversham); Charles (no address). Sisters: Thirza (104, St. Johns Road, Faversham); Lilly (5 Stopford Road, Gillingham); Daisy (Woolwich); Rose (Kennington Road, London); Florrie (193 Marylebone Road, London); Ivy (Greenstreet Hill); Molly (P.O. Teynham, Kent). All confirmed by W.A. Purton, Vicar of Teynham, The Vicarage, on 19th November 1919. James left effects to his father of £2 4s. 9d. and the War Gratuity of £3 10s. 0d. after the close of hostilities.

James's brother Private William John (sometimes John William) of the Machine Gun Company was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and survived the war.


Circumstances of the death of Private James Lucas

A full account of the tragic drowning of this soldier on 5th September can be found in the Dover Express dated 10th September 1915.

SOLDIER DROWNED WHILST BATHING. An inquest was held the Esplanade Hotel Monday afternoon before the Borough Coroner, Mr. Sydenham into the death of James Wilson Barnett Lucas, 19, private of the 3rd Buffs, who was apparently drowned whilst bathing on the other side of Shakespeare Cliff towards Abbotts' Cliff on Sunday morning.
Mr. T. Harris was chosen foreman of the jury.
William Lucas, brother of the deceased, of Teynham, Faversham, Kent, gave evidence of identification. His brother, he stated was 19 years of age. He last saw his brother alive about a fortnight ago when he visited home at Teynham. His brother had never suffered from fits, and he wrote home frequently and had never complained his health or anything. Deceased was a blacksmith: in civil life. He had been bathing since he had been in Dover, but witness did not know if he could swim.
Private George Horn, 3rd Buffs, said that at 11.30 the previous morning he went down to the beach at Abbotts' Cliff with the deceased, and had a bathe. Witness went first followed by the deceased. His comrade was just learning the same as witness himself. The tide was just going out but the water was calm. Witness could not swim much himself. They were both learning. Witness came out first and went up to dress, about a couple of yards up the beach. Deceased said "Chuck another stone in," for fun, and witness did so. He did not hit the deceased. Deceased then went on swimming about for some time until about five minutes after that he called out. Witness looked and saw him: laughing, for he was always joking fellow. He then heard him call out something, and put his hand up and sink. Witness had his clothes on but rushed into the water and tried to reach him but the water was too deep for him and he himself went under once. Deceased was about five feet four inches in height. Witness scrambled ashore and a sentry who was on the top of the cliff saw him coming out the water and gave the alarm. Assistance came from the coal mine, and Mr. Gatehouse, a boatman, who lived that way, fetched a boat as quick as he could and dragged for the body and found it. He found the body some way further out than witness and his friend were bathing. The sea was not rough, but there appeared to be an undercurrent. Witness knew deceased during the past seven or eight weeks and he had always enjoyed good health. They attempted to restore life into the body without avail. Witness had bathed with the deceased at the same spot before, but they had never experienced any difficulty before. When deceased held up his hand he appeared further off in the water than witness himself had been.
By the foreman. He would rather have done deceased a kindness than an injury. The water appeared warmer on that occasion. He went into the water to try and rescue his friend with his trousers shirt and socks on, but it was no good.
The foreman said the deceased's friends were no doubt most thankful to him for what he tried to do for his friend.
The Coroner. You did all you could.
Charles Gatehouse, Shakespeare Colliery, said the previous morning his attention was called to the deceased having sunk. He ran down on to the beach and inquired as to where the man had sunk. They looked to see if they could see any bubbles rising but failed to see any. Witness would have gone in but if it was out of his depth it was no use for him do so. He then got his boat and went round the spot where they thought the body was and felt for it and eventually, after about a quarter of an hour found it in about eight feet of water, where the beach joined the rocks and sand and at which point there was a slight fall. There was no doubt that it was this fall which sucked him under. The place was safe enough for bathing, many of the collier men having gone down there for years. Witness then conveyed the body to the Shakespeare Bay beach where it was received by the R.A.M.C.
Lieutenant Jutland Rawlinson, R.A.M.C., stated that from a telephone message received about noon the previous day he took a detachment of men with a stretcher down to the beach at Shakespeare Bay. Shortly after Mr. Gatehouse rowed ashore with the body, which was naked. Examined the deceased and found life was extinct, death having taken place quite recently. There was a slight abrasion on the upper lip probably due to scraping on a rock, but this in no way affected deceased's death. Having made no post mortem examination witness could form no opinion as to the cause of death. Deceased might have had heart failure or anything.
The Coroner: Have not you any probability?
Witness: I can only put it that the appearance of the body was consistent with drowning.
The Coroner: There nothing to lead you to form any other opinion?
Witness: Oh, no.
The jury returned verdict of "accidental death," and commended Private Horn for his efforts in endeavouring to save his comrade.


The Extended Lucas Family (draft)

Lucas Family Tree

Click on image for enlargement