Lives Remembered: Jimmy James

Richard Austin James, known as Jimmy, was an early volunteer for war service, experienced some of the sharpest trials and setbacks of British forces and won the Military Cross during intense combat in the battle for Leros in November 1943. Harsh treatment as a prisoner of war meant that he returned to Englandin 1945 weighing only six stone.Cambridge was followed by a career in the Home Office, where he rose to Deputy Under Secretary and became Receiver of the Metropolitan Police.

James was mobilised on 1 September 1939 and was in Northern France the following month. Evacuated from Dunkirk on 1 June 1940 in a small boat, James passed through one of the Kent railway stations where, with hundreds of other women, his mother was handing out tea and sandwiches to the exhausted men. Sadly, they missed each other and his parents had to wait for some time to hear of his safe return.

Serving in Malta with the Royal West Kents from July 1941 until June 1943, James experienced the period of most intense privation and bombardment (there were more than 2,000 air-raids) and was twice mentioned in despatches for actions in the Grand Harbour and Luqa airport.

Following the lifting of the Malta siege he took part in the Dodecanese campaign. Initial allied victories were reversed and at the beginning of November 1943 the Germans launched their attack on Leros. For bravery in the resistance James was awarded the Military Cross.

With the allied surrender on 16 November 1943 James became a POW. The Germans believed he had valuable information (probably about his liaison work with partisans on Samos) and in consequence he was harshly treated, with repeated interrogations and punitive spells of solitary confinement.

Moved to Germany, James eventually ended up in Oflag 79, a camp in Brunswick, Northern Germany. There, with his comrades, James joined in a scheme to mark their own survival and to commemorate the fallen. A youth club would be established as a contribution to a better world "which all wished to see emerge from the desolation of war", as the prospectus declared. The Brunswick Club still flourishes in Fulham, West London, having been nurtured by the ex-POWs over the years. James was a founding trustee, eventually becoming president; he was active in the Club's interest until recent years.

Cambridge followed demobilisation and James, securing a top place in the Civil Service Examinations, chose to go to the Home Office. He later recalled how, having been appointed, he waited anxiously, and with dwindling funds, to be told when to start. On making a timid inquiry he was told, somewhat tetchily, "Oh, all right. Start next Monday".

This begrudging welcome could not have been more at odds with a career and an office he came to love. In 1977 he went to Scotland Yard as Receiver of the Metropolitan Police, serving with Sir David McNee, with whom he established close and friendly ties. The two men shared key values and complemented each other in important ways.

James retired in 1980 with the rank of Deputy Under Secretary and was awarded the CB. He became for a spell the Chief Executive Officer of the Distressed Gentlefolks' Aid Association, an organisation that he served in several other capacities when he stepped down from the top post. An interest in supported and sheltered housing involved him in the work of similar bodies.


Richard Austin James, wartime soldier and civil servant: born Sutton Valance School, Kent 26 November 1922 ; married Joan Boorer 1948 (one son, two daughters); died 10 September 2008.

If you would like to contribute anobituary, please send pieces of no more than 600 words to Obituaries, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; by fax to 020 7005 2010; or by email to We reserve the right to edit copy for length and style

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower