Death of A Sailor who Fought on Land
James Edwin Hitchens, Able Seaman R/510, Hawke Battalion, Royal Naval Division RNVR, died during the Arras offensive in 18 April 1917 aged 28.
James Edwin Hitchens has no known grave and is remembered on Bay 1 of the Arras Memorial.
Born at Carnon Mine 20 May 1888, James Edwin Hitchens was a ‘Mining Engine Driver‘ on the 1911 census.
Son of James and Mary Hitchens, of Carclew Terrace, Devoran, Cornwall
His brother William Hitchens was a Railway Engine Stoker in 1911.
His father James Hitchens was born in Feock into a family of Shipwrights and Mariners at Trolver Croft and worked as a Mariner on a Steamship (see the entry for Steam Ship Erimus and Devoran casualty W. J. Dunstan above). http://cornishmemory.com/item/BRA_MI_044
Many of the Hitchens family (James Edwin Hitchen’s uncles and grandfathers) were mariners and shipwrights, so maybe it was not so unusual for him to join the Royal Navy?
His Able Seaman / Mariner father James Hitchens married Mary Leverton Nicholls (b. Carnon Downs) in 1890 and they had 8 surviving children including James Edwin Hitchens out of nine births. The family lived at Carclew Terrace, Devoran.
Why was a Royal Navy sailor killed fighting in the trenches?
The Royal Naval Division which Hitchens joined was composed in 1914 largely of surplus reserves of the Royal Navy who were not required at sea and some Royal Marines who fought on land as infantry troops. They fought at Gallipolli in 1915 and throughout the Western Front from 1916 onwards.
A Royal Naval Division database shows that Hitchens joined the Army Reserve on 1st March 1916, entered the Army on 1st December 1916, was drafted for the BEF on 6th March 1917 and joined the Hawke battalion on 3rd April 1917.
He is listed as an Engine Driver ; born Devoran, Cornwall 20 June 1888 ; Next-of-Kin & home address: Father, James, Carclew Terrace, Devoran, Cornwall. He was awarded the Victory and British War medals.
The Hawke Battalion War Diary for 18 April 1917 mentions his death:
“During the day a heavy bombardment took place on our Front & Support Lines. Guns of all calibres but mainly 5.9s.
Six men killed and 12 wounded. [R/511 F. Hibberd, R/510 J.E. Hitchens, R/343 D.O. Jones, KP/541 L. Radford, Wales Z/1401 S. Rogers, & Bristol Z/1395 C. White.]
A number of gas shells were sent over, catching some of our parties unawares.
Lieutenant WOLFE-BARRY & Sub Lieutenant HUGHES both got badly gassed & were evacuated.”
James Edwin Hitchens of Devoran, remembered in his village 100 years after his death at Arras on 18th April 1917.
To learn more about Hitchens and the families remembered on Devoran war memorial https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/devoran-first-world-war-casualties-d-to-j/