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.

Seá*McConville

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 obituaries@independent.co.uk. 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
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk