Unit: 4th Battalion The Worcestershire Regiment
Location of VC action: Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey
Date of VC action: 28/06/1915
Citation: For most conspicuous bravery during the operations in the Southern Zone of the Gallipoli peninsula. On the 28th June 1915, when a portion of a Regiment had been checked owing to all the officers being put out of action, Second Lieutenant James, who belonged to a neighbouring unit, entirely on his own initiative gathered together a body of men and led them forward under heavy shell and rifle fire. He then returned, organised a second party and again advanced. His gallant example put fresh life into the attack. On the 3rd July, in the same locality, Second Lieutenant James headed a party of bomb throwers up a Turkish communication trench, and, after nearly all his bomb throwers had been killed or wounded, he remained alone at the head of the trench and kept back the enemy single-handed until a barrier had been built behind him and the trench secured. He was throughout exposed to a murderous fire.
Herbert James was born at 11 Ingleby Street in Ladywood, Birmingham. He was the son of Walter and Emily James. By the 1891 Census his family were living at 76 Three Shires Oak Road in Bearwood, Smethwick. James returned home, after his award of the VC and received Civic receptions in both Birmingham and Smethwick. His family address, as of his visit in November 1915, was 141 Poplar Avenue in Edgbaston, Birmingham. He later achieved the rank of major.
By the mid-1950s, James was separated from his second wife and renting a room at Brunswick Gardens, Kensington making a living as a fine arts dealer. It was here in August 1958 that he was found unconscious by his landlord – it appeared that he had a seizure. None of his fellow residents had any clue that was a Victoria Cross holder, as he lived a reclusive life, had no visitors and took no phone calls. It was only when the landlord returned to James’ room that he picked up a book of a complete list of VC recipients open to the page which had James’ name on it underlined in pencil. James’ medals were sold at auction in 2008 to the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum in Maryborough, Australia, where they are on display.
Two memorials to James were unveiled in 2010. On 2nd July, a memorial stone was unveiled at the East Chapel in Kensal Green Cemetery, where he was cremated. On 12th November, a plaque was unveiled at Bearwood Road School, where James attended as a child.