James THOMSON, Watford, World War 1

January, 2013




Kathryn Atkin (Ken @t katkin.plus.com) wrote from Sheffield to say: Private James Thomson, SS13840 ASC, died when the troopship Royal Edward was torpedoed in the Aegean Sea 13/8/1915. No additional details given in CWGC site. Soldiers Died in the Great War says he was born in Edinburgh, enlisted London, lived in Watford. Can you track him down, please? I'm preparing a site about the men on the Royal Edward.

As I am sure you have realised James Thomson is a very common name (especially if you include spelling variants) but there seems to be only one who fits the bill living in Watford at the time of the 1911 census.

He was a 48 year old widower who was one of three people lodging with James Coulton at No 5 Court, 23 High Street, Watford.  He is described as a yardman working for a corn chandler and - most significantly was born at Cramond, Edinburgh. The entry is followed by the word Resident in brackets - and it may be that the person filling in the form was treating Scotland as if it was a foreign country and has no other significance.


[Picture from the World War 1 Document Archive]

RMS Royal Edward was a passenger ship which, during the First World War became HMT (His Magesty's Troopship) Royal Edward. On 13th August 1915 she was carrying reinforcements to Gallipoli when she was torpedoed and rapidly sank with considerable loss of life.

(See Wikipedia).


There is no sign of James in Watford in the 1901 census - and the nature of such "behind the High Street slums" was such that there are unlikely to be any other records about workmen that lodged in them, unless they got into some kind of trouble and are mentioned in court records. However with a year and birthplace there is a chance you could track him down in the Scottish records.


Kathryn responded: Yes, that all fits. He was in the 18th. Labour Company, all older men. Now James Thomson is more than just a name. My Grandfather was lost on the Royal Edward, a fact which set me on the trail.


She also provided a link to a page relating to her grandfather - which includes more information about the Royal Edward, iseveral pictures.


Anthony has added the following information relating to the Scottish connections: Could he have been a former serviceman? Although James Thomson is a common name, especially in Scotland, not many of that age admit to Cramond as their birthplace. A couple of hits in the Scottish Census suggest he might have been a soldier. Findmypast British Army Service Records have a man who fits the bill: James Thomson born about 1863 at Cramond joined the 56th Brigade 1 March 1881 and rose from private to colour sergeant before being discharged after 12 years service that had included 3 years each in South Africa, Ceylon and Hong Kong. His next of kin was his mother Margaret, Edinburgh.


There was a Pte James Thomson born 1863 at Castlehill Barracks Aberdeen at the 1881 Census (3/4 April 1881). No hits in 1891 when the above soldier was serving abroad. In 1901 there is a James Orrock Thomson born Cramond 1863; he is a lodger at the Village of Airds, Saddell, Argyllshire and his occupation is Sergeant Instructor of Volunteers. Both these census records are for a single man whereas the one at Watford is declared to be a widower (like the other members of the household).


The medal card of SS/13840 is very sketchy. It does not declare his death. However, his medal was retired and I read the comment as "intestate." So there was nowhere to send it.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

Jamuary 2013   Page created and updated