Written by Alex McGahey
James was the son of Francis and Ellen Beckenham (née Coomber), the youngest of seven children, and born on 18 May 1897 at Woodmansterne, Surrey.
James enlisted at Coulsdon in Surrey as Rifleman R/38097 of the 7th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps, although the records show that he was previously Private T4/142645 with the Army Service Corps. As the 1914/15 Star is not listed on the Medal Roll Index with his medal entitlement, he must have not gone abroad until at least 1916. He died in action on Monday 20 August 1917, aged 20.
Extracts from the War Diary of the 7th Kings Royal Rifle Corps
16th Aug 1917 – In TRENCHES – following upon an unsuccessful attack by other divisions on INVERNESS & GLENCORSE woods, the Bn moved into Brigade reserve at ZILLBEKE BUND and on the following day (17th) took over trenches N of MENIN road in J13 and J14 sheet 28.
Dispositions – 2 ½ Coys in front line and immediate support, Bn HQ and 1 ½ Coys in part of a tunnel built under the MENIN road by the Germans from HOODGE to INVERNESS copse. 7th R.B. on our right, 42nd J.B. on our left. Divisions relieved 18th and 56th.
The line was in a very bad state after the recent heavy fighting, the approaches were very difficult and the whole area very much shelled. There was no infantry action during this tour and attention was concentrated on improving trenches. Casualties – 3 O R killed, 23 O R wounded.
20th August 1917 – at DICKEBUSCH – Bn was relieved by 6th D.C.L.I. and moved to camp at DICKEBUSCH, expecting to remain there about 4 days. Owing however to the course of operations we had a series of moves at very short notice, moving on 22nd to CHATEAU SEGARD, back again to DICKEBUSCH the next day (23rd), and the following morning (24th) on a sudden order due to a successful German counter attack we were sent to ECOLE YPRES in motor lorries, and finally after a good deal of uncertainty, we took over the same line and came under the orders of the 43rd J.B. The situation was much the same as when we left, and we still held the important ridge which the Germans were anxious to get back owing to it’s great command of the country behind our lines.
James was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory Medals.
He is another Beckingham/Beckenham commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial at Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, on panel 115 to 119 and 162A and 163A.
His parents lived at Chamberlain’s Cottage, Chipstead Valley Road, Coulsdon, Surrey at the time of James’s death.