"To Keep in Memory"

Gnr. J. W. Precious

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GUNNER JAMES WILLIAM PRECIOUS.

263046, C Battery, CCLVI Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.

Died of Wounds, 10th November 1918.

Aged 26.

Buried in Cement House Cemetery, Langemark, Belgium. Plot XVII, Row B, Grave 19. 

TF_RFA_Badge.jpg
Teritorial Force Variant of the Royal Field Artillery Badge.

James William Precious was born in Melbourne, near Pocklington in 1892. He was the son of Isaac Edward Precious, a farm labourer, originally from Norfolk, and Mary Sarah (nee Kirby). He was the second child of thirteen born the marriage of Isaac and Mary.
By the age of nine, James precious was living with his uncle and aunt (Mary's sister), William and Louisa Lund at Rytham Gate, close to Seaton Ross. William Lund was a drainer and dyker working to ensure that the flat land in the area was kept usable for agriculture.
The 1911 census shows that James Precious was working for a local farmer called Henry Pears at Everingham, and he was employed as a waggoner. It is likely that his knowledge and experience of driving horses and their care steered him towards the Royal Field Artillery when he joined the Army.

Cement House Cemetery, Langemark.
Cement House Cemetery, Langemark.

James Precious married Jane Anne Gudgeon at the Register Office in Tadcaster, on 4th December 1915. Jane Gudgeon was the daughter of a farm labourer from Scholes, and by this time James Precious was living in Barwick and was employed as a coal miner, probably in Garforth. The timing of the marriage could be significant in that the Military Service Act was due to be enacted in late January, 1916. This legislation was brought in to stabilise the flow of recruits into the armed services, particularly the army. One important function of the act was that it was intended to make under-age enlistment impossible. It also clarified which employment categories were to be protected, thus ensuring that vital industries kept hold of men they could not afford to lose. Initially the act resulted in unmarried men under the age of 41 years being deemed to have been enlisted, and as a result many men got married in order to delay their call-up. The crucial date was set as 2nd November 1915, and so, unless James Precious had another reason as to why he should be exempted from call-up, his December marriage to Jane would not satisfy the regulations. In November 1915, four lists of occupations were published which were scheduled as being vitally important for war work. Lists B and C covered occupations in the coal industry.
Jesse Precious, James's brother, joined the 5th (Reserve) Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment on 19th June 1918 at the age of 19 and he gave his address as Moor Farm, Swinefleet, Goole. Jesse survived the war.
James Precious was in C Battery, CCLVI (256th) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. This was a unit of the Territorial Force. It had been in existence prior to the Great War breaking out, but had been titled 2nd Highland Brigade, RFA. It had batteries raised at Dundee, Arbroath and Leven. The Brigade served throughout the war with 51st (Highland) Division, a First line Territorial Force Division. For most of the war it operated 18 lbr guns.

The grave of James Precious at Cement House Cemetery, Langemark.
The grave of James Precious at Cement House Cemetery, Langemark.

According to the war diary compiled by 256th Brigade, C Battery was in positions near Asquillies in Belgium, a small village south of Mons at the time that James Precious died. The diary records, over the days preceding his death, enemy fire on their positions which wounded one or two other ranks on each occasion. War diaries for the Great War rarely name soldiers below commissioned rank, and so it is not possible to tell which day James Precious received the wounds from which he died. Perhaps, due to the time when he died, being right at the end of the war, transportation became safer, but it is curious as to why James Precious was buried at Cement House Cemetery in Langemark, as this is roughly 70 miles from Asquillies. It may be that his injuries were seen as serious enough to require treatment at one of the larger medical units based near Ieper (Ypres) and that he was in transit to one of those when he died, but this is speculation. What is certain is that, according to the data held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, James Precious was the last member of his battery to die in the war.

After the war, Jane Precious became one of the original members of the St John's Ambulance Nursing Cadet Corps, which was set up in the village in the 1930s by the local Doctor, Dr Bean, himself a veteran of the Great War.

Note: With regard to the cap badge shown above being a RFA variant, this simply means that the more usual 'UBIQUE' scroll between the crown and the gun is replaced with a spray of laurels. This is because when it was created the Territorial Force was intended to serve within the UK and therefore the 'UBIQUE' motto, which translates as 'Everywhere', was redundant.

Remembering the Fallen of Two Villages on the Eastern Fringes of Leeds.

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