News, events and discoveries of the Walkley Ways, Walkley Wars history project.
James Craven was born in 1891 to James and Hannah of 1 Compton Street. He had two older bothers Philip and Thomas and a younger sister Virginia. His father died at the age of 39 when James was only 3. Hannah remarries a widower Jabez Wallis in 1896 and the family moves to 35 Parsonage Crescent. In the 1911 census James is still living at home as is his brother Thomas who is a Silversmith and his sister Virginia, with two step siblings. In December 1911 his mother Hannah dies at the age of 56. Virginia, the youngest of the Craven family remained very close to her brother James.
James worked as a Brittanica Metal Smith at Bramwell & Co on Henry Street (1897-1927). He started there as an apprentice in 1906 at the age of 15/16 and worked there until he signed up. Brittanica metal was similar to pewter but easier to stamp and could be polished to a silver sheen. Sheffield became a centre for its manufacture and it was very popular at the time with products exported all over the country and to America.
At the age of 24 on 7th September 1914, James signed up and joined the “D” Company, 10th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. After training the 10th battalion proceeded to France on 21st July 1915. James was appointed a Lance Corporal on 10th March 1916. In 1916 the 10th Rifle Brigade was in action at the Battle of Mount Sorrel, and then on the Somme in the Battle of Delville Wood and the Battle of Guillemont.
It is here at the Battle of Guillemont that James is reported as missing in action and then accepted as having died on active service on 3rd September 1916 aged 26 just a few days short of his second anniversary in the Rifle Brigade. His body was never identified and James is remembered with honour on the Thiepval Memorial. There are pictures on the internet of Guillemont at this time which show the blasted land and broken trees so typical of the horror of the Somme. There is also a photograph of the RAMC searching the packs of British dead for letters and effects to be sent to relatives after the Battle of Guillemont. The bible that James had with him would have been sent back to his relatives in this way, and is still treasured in the family.
James is also remembered in Walkley Cemetery. The inscription reads that he ‘Died for his country at Guillemont’.
James’ death was devastating for his family and it especially hurt that his body was never identified, which meant they could never really say goodbye to him and they were left wondering how he had died and whether he had suffered. This hurt is still remembered by some of his living relatives to this day.
By Revd Melanie FitzGerald, Vicar of Walkley.