JAMES STEPHENS (1873-1915)

Private James Stephens SS/13904, 18th Labour Coy. Army Service Corps was lost at sea along with over 860 other men on 13th August 1915 whilst aboard the troop ship Royal Edward which was bound for Gallipoli.

James Stephen's story has come to us from his grandson Bill Spraggs. The following is a report on the life of James Stephens (1873-1915).

Bill's maternal grandfather was James Stephens who was born in 1873 in Linkinhorne, the son of Thomas Stephens and his wife Susanna, nee Doney. Thomas was a sawyer and had likely worked on the Trebartha Estate (shown here). Thomas was brought up in Bathpool and moved to Waycross when he married Susan Doney, a Lewannick girl. James was the seventh child of their family. The first five were all baptized in St Torney's, the sixth in St Cleer and finally James was born in Linkinhorne.

The family's North Hill connection can be traced back at least 300 years into the 16th century through the Luskey and the Horrell families. The Luskeys lived at West Castick until they moved to Knighton and there are descendants of the Horrell family living in Linkinhorne to this day.

James was six feet four inches tall and a labourer. He had spent some time in Canada, returned to England and met and married Harriet Ellen Jeffery in Plymouth in May 1901. They had four children in the period from 1902 and 1913, two boys and two girls. Sadly both boys died as babies leaving just the two girls, Alfreda and Annie. James found work in the Phoenix Consols Mine on Caradon Hill and the family moved to Rilla Mill until the mine closed, the work dried up and they moved to St Austell, looking for another new beginning around 1913.

With the start of the First World War, James joined the Territorial Army and was a member of the Army Service Corps. He was 42 when he and over one thousand three hundred other soldiers embarked at Avonmouth for Gallipoli in July 1915, aboard His Majesty's Transport Ship Royal Edward. That evening the ship was seen leaving Cornish waters for the Mediterranean.

On the morning of the 13th August the ship was six miles off the Greek Island of Kandeloussa when it was attacked and sunk by a torpedo from the U-Boat UB-14. Royal Edward sank in six minutes. Some men were picked up by a hospital ship, others by a French destroyer but at least 864 lives were lost, according to an official admiralty list. James was numbered amongst the lost. His body was never found and his name is inscribed on the Helles Memorial in Turkey (pictured here).

The list of the dead was published in the British newspapers and James' name was spotted on the list by his daughter Alfreda who showed it to her mother, Harriet, and thus she learned of the death of her husband.

Harriet was pregnant with her fifth child and had no income, Alfreda was 13 and Annie was 6. The family were sent to St Austell Workhouse where Harriet died in childbirth, along with the baby.

Annie's lifelong memory of her mother was of seeing her in a coffin with the baby.

The two children were taken in by Thomas Spraggs and absorbed into his family. Alfreda later married one of Thomas Spraggs' sons and Annie married one of Thomas Spragg's grandsons.

Thanks to his grandson's contact with us James is now remembered here.

The images at the top of the page show (L-R): The Helles Memorial in Turkey; the cap badge of the Army Service Corps; St Austell Workhouse; British War Medal (WW1)