The runner

Photograph of James Lever, runner, 8th Middlesex Regiment

My grandmother named her son Jim after her favourite brother, who was killed in the Great War. I believe this man, dead before my father was born, occupied a prominent place in dad's conciousness.

Letter from Sister Reid, 41 Casualty Clearing Station, British Expeditionary Force, May 1917

James Lever was a runner on the Western Front, France 1917. This was not a position with good prospects. Runners were the line of communication on the battlefield and an obvious target. He met an almost inevitable end a few weeks short of his 30th birthday. This letter from Sister Reid, at the British Expeditionary Force Casualty Clearing Station, explains what happened. How many such notes must this poor woman have written? The envelope is interesting too. In case you can't read it, the mark in the lower left corner says 'Passed Field Censor', signed by Sister Reid herself.

Photograph from the Director of Graves Registration re James Lever

Official notification of the death of Private Lever was provided by the army. The Director of Graves Registration also supplied a photograph. I assume the wooden cross was subsequently replaced with a headstone by the Commonwealth War Graves Commision.

1917 newspaper clippings, obituary of James Lever, Middlesex Regiment and Who's Who At The Front - The Runner

These newspaper clippings give insight into how the war was reported at the time. I'm guessing one came from a local paper in Southall. The other appears to be from a London evening paper.

Photo of First World War Memorial Plaque to dead British Servicemen

If a Memorial Plaque was issued to every dead British serviceman's family, presumably about a million were made. Surprising then, that this is the only one I have seen outside of a museum. It is bronze, weighs a bit over 12 ounces, and is four and three quarter inches in diameter. There is an enclosed note from King George V.

Mr. & Mrs. Lever evidently never felt the inclination to return the tear off acknowledgment strip for receipt of their son's war medals.

Photo of visit to grave of James Lever, Duisans British Cemetery, in 1991

Sadly, my grandmother suffered from dementia before she died. She could not follow a current conversation but her memories of childhood were intact and her reality. My father, visiting her in hospital, was thought to be her brother Jim, not her son. 6 years after his mother died, my dad traveled to France in 1991 to visit the grave of his Uncle Jim. An honoured soldier he could never have emulated.