MARSH, James William

No.PO/21181, Marine, James William MARSH
Aged 38
medals not known
H.M.S. Royal Oak, Royal Marines
Killed on 14th October 1939

James William MARSH was born in Bottisham on 20th October 1901 (Newmarket Q4-1901 3B:497) son of James and Ellen Jane MARSH (née BURLING).

1911 census...Aged 9 he was at SwaffhamBulbeck with his father, James MARSH [34] a horsekeeper on farm; his mother Ellen Jane [32]; sister Evelyn Ruth [3] born Swaffham. His parents were born in Bottisham.

His mother died in Q4 1918 and his father married Maria PECK in Q4 1919.

He married Edith Kate RICHARDSON in 1936 in Portsmouth. Her address later was Eastney, Hampshire. She later married Ernest S. WHITE, in 1963 in Portsmouth.

In the 1939 register Edith [11-12-1891] seems to be at 26 Owen Street, Portsmouth with her mother, Sarah RICHARDSON [5-3-1866] a pensioner. His father [6-3-1877] a highway labourer for County Council/ Air Raid Precautions warden and stepmother Maria [14-3-1881] were at Commercial End, Swaffham Bulbeck.

He enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry on 3rd February 1919. Then he was 5 feet 4 inches (162.6 cm) tall, a farm labourer, next of kin his father James of Commercial End, Swaffham Bulbeck. At the end of his 12 years, he re-engaged on 6th October 1931, now 5 feet 8 inches (172.7 cm) tall. His posting are far too numerous to detail here, but he joined HMS "Royal Oak" on 25th August 1939.

HMS Royal Oak was one of five Revenge class battleships built for the Royal Navy during the First World War. Launched in 1914 and completed in 1916, Royal Oak first saw combat at the Battle of Jutland as part of the Grand Fleet. Unable to be modernised, due to her lack of speed she was no longer suited to front line duty and was effectively a guardian at Scapa Flow. When a German aircraft was seen over Scapa Flow the Fleet was swiftly dispersed but "Royal Oak" remained as her anti aircraft guns might come in useful

On 14th October 1939 submarine U-47, captained by Günther Prien entered Scapa Flow on the surface, navigating between the blockships placed to block such endeavours and sunk her with torpedoes. The first salvo resulted in just one hit, but a second try with three torpedoes all hit and "Royal Oak" sank 13 minutes later with the loss of 833 men. The Marines mess had been destroyed by the explosion of one torpedo.

artist's impression of wreck (from

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

James Marsh is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval memorial, panel 36. col 1

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details