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James Edward Southren (1894-1918)

Sunderland man served with Royal Garrison Artillery shot days before the Armistice

My great uncle, James Edward Southren, volunteered in early 1915 and was drafted into the Royal Artillery. He served throughout the war in Egypt and France. He was killed 5 days before the end of the war on 6th November 1918. I started to research his story when I retired and it has taken me about 6 years to get to the point where I can commit his story to a permanent record. The enclosed file is Jim’s war story.

James Edward Southren was the son of James Bell Southren and his first wife, Kate Adelaide Taylor. He was born in Sunderland, then part of County Durham, in 1894.

He was barely one year old when his mother died, aged 23, and he was bought up by his father’s brother, Edward, and his wife, Sarah Elizabeth Cansfield, as his father was a ships engineer and spent a lot of time at sea.

This lead to a certain amount of acrimony in later years. On the Commonwealth War Graves citation it shows their address as 2 Wallace Street, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland. Jim was the half brother of my grandmother Kate Adelaide Southren, who was one of six half siblings of Jim through James Bell Southren’s second wife, Anne Cansfield.

Before the First World War, Jim worked in the coal mining industry, one of the main employers in the North East of England at that time. By the time Jim volunteered at the beginning of the First World War, he was a blacksmiths striker at Wearmouth Colliery, one of the mines in Sunderland.

Jim joined up and served as a Gunner in the 37th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery. I had been told several times by older members of the family that he went unscathed throughout the war, until, five days before the armistice, on 6 November 1918, during a rest period with his colleagues, that he was struck in the head by an allegedly stray bullet and killed instantly.

Jim is commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site. He is buried in Harlebeke New British Cemetery in Belgium. Block IV, plot C9. He is also commemorated on a plaque at the Miners Hall of the former Wearmouth Colliery, and his name also appears on the Book of Remembrance 1914-18 at The Holy Trinity Church in the section of those living in Southwick. Although, as with the CWGC and the colliery plaque, his family name is spelled Southern instead of Southren.

Please scroll down to the “Related material” link to see a more extensive account of James’ war experiences.

Flickr, photograph of colliery houses on Wreath Quay Road, Sunderland[email protected]/23716754195

Civil Parish: Sunderland

Birth date: 1894

Death date: 06-Nov-1918

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 2 Wreath Quay Road, Monkswearmouth, Sunderland (1911 census)

Employment: Blacksmith striker (1911 census)

Family: Uncle and aunt: Edward Southren, Sarah Elizabeth Southren (1901 and 1911 census)

Military service:

37th Siege Battery
Royal Garrison Artillery
Regimental number: 52498

Medal(s): 1915 Star (Egypt, 29 December 1915)
British War Medal
Victory Medal

Gender: Male

Contributed by JohnOz, Stanley Common, Derbyshire