This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915-1918.
Case 10: James Edgar Prince
The Prince family was described as being poor but respectable by members of their parish. Edgar Spence Prince worked as a ‘market gardener and fruit dealer’ for 26 years prior to the war, and was also known to sell fish to the surrounding areas. However, with the effect of war, this role was no longer providing enough funds to support his family. Instead, Prince took up a job at the Farnborough Aircraft Factory, occasionally taking on extra hours. His wife Thyrza wrote of their hopes to send their son, James Edgar Prince, to a Training College if he had returned from war, using the money they had been saving, so that he may be able to better his position. Unfortunately, after James passed away in India, Thyrza wrote: ‘that Dream has ended.’
James was described as ‘clever, painstaking, and preserving’, his family providing him with the best education that they could afford. In a letter after his death, Captain F.R. Fear described him as a ‘fine fellow and keen soldier and good friend’. It is believed that had he not taken ill, Prince would have been put forward for a promotion. James passed away on the afternoon of the 8 May 1916, after suffering from enteric fever for 3 weeks.
Following his death, his family found themselves in urgent need of their son’s insurance money. The cottage that they had rented for 24 years was part of an estate just outside Basingstoke, which belonged to Sir Lionel Phillips. Philips, however, was in the process of selling the estate to Grant Stephenson of Westminster, London, who was planning to sell on the land in separate lots. The Prince family therefore wished to purchase the cottage they had made their home, and would be unable to do so without their son’s Life Policy payment.