25468 Private JAMES ROOKS.

4th/5th Battalion Grenadier Guards.

who died, aged 29, on the 24th April 1919.

Son of William and Mary Ann Rooks, of 8, Thomas St, New Skelton-in-Cleveland, N Yorks.

James Rooks' Silver War Badge.

New Skelton Cemetery.

1901. James aged 11, was living at 8 Thomas St and had been born at 1 Back Lane, Skelton.
His father, William, aged 60, was a Sandstone quarryman, and had been born in Danby, N Yorks. His mother, Mary, aged 50, had been born in Gt Ayton, N Yorks. By 1911 she had had 9 children and 8 were still living. He had 4 older sisters - Mary A Gott, aged 26, who was married and lived at 18 South Tce, Skelton;
Hannah Jane, aged 24, who was a domestic servant in the Huddersfield area;
Isabella, aged 22, who was a nurse domestic at 11 Nevern Sq, S Kensington, London;
and Ada, aged 20, still living at home.
His four brothers were - Edward 18, an elementary school teacher; William 16, a farm labourer; Thomas 13, a newsboy; and Alan aged 8.
Thomas fought in the War with the 17th Bn, Northumberland Fusiliers and survived.
Alan was killed in the Battle of the Somme, on the 14th September 1916, fighting with the 6th Bn, Yorkshire Regt.

1911. The family are still at 8 Thomas St. Allan, now 18, is working as an apprentice grocer and James as an apprentice house painter. The other children have left home, but Edith Emily Gott, grand-daughter is living with them.

James Rooks.
Before the War James was a painter and decorator and he enlisted in the Army at Saltburn, N Yorks Recruiting Office on the 22nd January 1916.
On the 9th February he was medically examined at Richmond, N Yorkshire.
He stood 5 ft 10ins, but weighed only 9 stone and had suffered pneumonia in 1915.
Even though he was found to have flat feet and bunions, he was posted to the Grenadier Guards 5th Reserve Battalion at Base Depot, Caterham, Surrey.
How such a slight lad with foot problems coped with the rigorous Guards' drilling and War training of the time is unimaginable.
Obviously he did not, as by July 1916 he was in the County of London War Hospital, Epsom. and was there until the 10th January 1917.
Nevertheless, such was the demand for men, at the time, that he was posted to France on the 29th May 1917 to the 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards.
Presumably he went through the process of the "Bull Ring", which was aimed at brutalising men, so that they could kill at close quarters with cold steel.
On the 12th June 1917 he was posted to No 7 Entrenching Battalion.
On the 24th July he rejoined the 4th Bn Grenadier Guards.
At the end of August he was sent back to the Base Depot at Harfleur and classified as physically unfit with tuberculosis.
By October he was back in England with a reserve Battalion and by December 1917 he was in the Queen Alexandra Barrack Hospital with chronic inflammation of the lung.
He was given a medical discharge on the 7th May 1918, his condition being attributed to the effects of Military Service, among which "exposure" was mentioned.
As well as the British War and Victory medals he was awarded the Silver War Badge, shown above.
This Badge was issued to the many thousands of service personnel who were discharged as physically unfit to serve either through illness or injury.
It is said that the badge was issued so that holders could wear it and avoid the charge of cowardice, that was often levelled at men of fighting age who remained at home.
James managed to obtain a job at one of the local ironstone mines in the undemanding role of a timekeeper.
On the 24th April 1919, he decided life was not worth living and hanged himself.
He was buried at New Skelton, without a headstone.
His name has not been included on any of the local War Memorials nor yet acknowledged by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

This wrong has now been corrected. See page 21 of Contributed Emails for erection of Commonwealth War Graves Stone in New Skelton Cemetery.

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