|Date of Birth||March 20, 1890|
|Place of Birth||Greenwich, London|
|Next of Kin||William Grounsell (uncle), Anerley, England|
|Trade / Calling||Bookkeeper|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Field Artillery|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||530 Third Street North, Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||July 12, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||26|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||December 15, 1988|
|Age at Death||98|
|Buried At||Mount Pleasant Cemetery, London, Ontario|
Gunner James Charles King joined the Canadian Field Artillery in July 1916 and served in France and Belgium for almost two years. He was wounded in the last months of the war but he survived and returned to Canada in January 1919.
James was the son of James (Sr.) and Mary King of Greenwich, London, England. He was born in Greenwich on 20 March 1890 and his father was a police constable at the time. James immigrated to Canada around 1912 and found work with the Canadian Pacific Railway. By the time he enlisted he was living in Kenora, Ontario and working for the CPR as a bookkeeper. He went to Winnipeg to enlist, signing up on 12 July 1916 with the 76th Depot Battery, Canadian Field Artillery. Next of kin was his uncle William Grounsell in Surrey, England. James later changed this to his mother Mrs. Mary King in Winnipeg.
The 76th Battery sent drafts of men overseas as needed and James arrived in England on the SS Grampian on 24 August 1916. After training for two months with the Reserve Brigade he was sent to France on 19 October and transferred to the 2nd Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. From 20 February to 11 April 1917 he served with the 1st and 3rd Divisional Ammunition Columns. Ammunition columns were responsible for bringing artillery shells and other supplies to the batteries in the forward areas. On return trips they brought back unused ammunition and salvageable material like spent shell casings. Much of their work was done at night and horses were the main means of transport.
James rejoined the 2nd Brigade in April, just as the Battle of Vimy Ridge was ending. Later in 1917 the Canadians were at the Battles of Hill 70 (August) and Passchendaele (October-November). James was away for the first two weeks of December, on a leave of absence, and in January 1918 he was ill for ten days, suffering from trench fever. That winter the Canadians were holding a long stretch of the front line in the Lens-Arras area. In the spring they spent some time in reserve before undergoing several weeks of intensive training in open warfare. The final period of the war, known now as the Hundred Days Offensive, began that summer with the Battle of Amiens (8-11 August 1918).
James was one of the casualties on the first day of the offensive, 8 August, when he was struck in the right shoulder by shrapnel or shell fragments. He was admitted to No. 5 General Hospital in Rouen on 9 August and evacuated from there to England on the hospital ship Gloucester Castle. He recovered at Queen Mary’s Military Hospital in Whalley from 13 August to 11 September. Afterwards he spent almost two weeks at the convalescent centre in Epsom and he was discharged to duty on 23 September. He was assigned to the Canadian Field Artillery Reserve Brigade and he served in the UK for the next four months. He sailed from Liverpool on the SS Olympic early in 1919, arriving in Halifax on 18 January. He had two weeks landing leave and he was discharged on demobilization on 17 February in Winnipeg.
James stayed in Winnipeg after his discharge and he was married there the following year. His wife, Jean May Somerville, was born in 1897 in Hampstead, London, England, the youngest daughter of George and Bessie Somerville. Jean arrived in Quebec on the Empress of France on 9 June 1920, going to her ‘intended Mr. King’ in Winnipeg. They were married on 20 June. James and Jean made their home in Brandon and he worked for the CPR for another thirty years, retiring in the early 1950s. They had one son, Derek. James moved to North Bay, Ontario in 1972 to live with Derek and his family. They later moved to London, Ontario when Derek was transferred there. James passed away in Parkwood Veterans Hospital on 15 December 1988, at age 98. His wife had died in 1972, at age 75, and Derek passed away in Strathroy, Ontario in 2010, at age 85.
James is buried in the veterans section at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in London. He is commemorated on the Canadian Pacific Railway First World War Roll of Honour.
By Becky Johnson
Photos kindly provided by James’ granddaughter Pam.