WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2008-11 > 1226885377
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] JAMES: Richard Austin James 2008
Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2008 01:29:37 -0000
Intelligence officer who cleared houses and neutralised sniper fire during
the battle for Leros
Last Updated: 10:29AM GMT 13 Nov 2008
As a PoW James underwent repeated interrogations and punitive spells of
solitary confinement, but gave nothing away Jimmy James, who has died aged
88, won the Military Cross in 1943 during the battle for the island of Leros
and subsequently became deputy under-secretary of state at the Home Office.
In November 1943, following a German attack on the Aegean island of Leros,
2nd Battalion The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment (2 QORWK) was put
ashore to reinforce the defenders. On November 15 James, the intelligence
officer, was part of the reconnaissance group which was following up a
company attack on Rachi Ridge, near Leros town, when they were held up by
snipers firing from houses lining the road.
James ran forward under fire and found a secure position from which the
group could observe the attack. Then, with a private from the Intelligence
Section, he cleared the houses and disposed of the snipers. For his
gallantry, he was awarded an MC.
The Allied forces on Leros surrendered on November 16 and James became a
PoW. After being moved to mainland Greece, he ended up in an interrogation
camp near Berlin. The Germans evidently believed he had valuable information
and he underwent repeated interrogations and punitive spells of solitary
James gave nothing away other than his name, rank and number and with the
passage of time whatever operational intelligence he might have had ceased
to have value and the interrogations ceased.
Richard Austin James was born on May 26 1920 at Sutton Valence School, Kent,
where his father was headmaster. He went on to Clifton College before taking
a traineeship with British American Tobacco. In March 1939 he joined a TA
unit of the Royal Engineers, where he acquired his nickname, and went to
France as part of the British Expeditionary Force.
Evacuated from Dunkirk in a small boat in June 1940, he passed through one
of the Kent railway stations where, with hundreds of other women, his mother
was passing out tea and sandwiches to the exhausted soldiers. They missed
each other and it was only later that his parents learned of his safe
After several months in a sapper company working on London's defences, in
May 1941 James was commissioned. He served in Malta from July that year
until June 1943, a period when the island experienced more than 2000
air-raids. He was twice mentioned in dispatches for actions in the Grand
Harbour and on Luqa airfield.
Following the lifting of the siege, James trained with 2 QORWK in Egypt,
Palestine and the Lebanon in preparation for the Dodecanese campaign. After
his incarceration in the interrogation camp, he was moved to Czechoslovakia
before being transferred to Oflag 79 in Brunswick, northern Germany.
Conditions at the camp were often harsh but, whatever their own privations,
James and his comrades never forgot the brutality with which Russian PoWs in
an adjoining camp were treated. In captivity, the prisoners planned to set
up a youth club after the war. A prospectus was drafted and the then
substantial sum of 13,000 collected in cheques and pledges. The project,
named the Brunswick Club, eventually went ahead at a site in Fulham and the
Duke of Edinburgh opened the club in July 1949. James was a founding trustee
and eventually became president.
He returned to England, reduced to six stone in weight, and was demobilised
in 1946. After graduating in Economics at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, he
secured a top place in the Civil Service Examinations, and was accepted by
the Home Office. He later recalled waiting anxiously and with dwindling
funds to be told when to start. On making a timid inquiry, he was told,
somewhat tetchily, "Oh, all right. Start next Monday."
By 1960 James was private secretary to the Chancellor of the Duchy of
Lancaster, Lord Hill, and subsequently to Iain Macleod.
He was deputy receiver for the Metropolitan Police District from 1970 to
1973 and assistant under-secretary of state at the Home Office from 1974 to
1976. In 1977 he returned to Scotland Yard as receiver for the Metropolitan
Police District. There he served with Sir David McNee, with whom he
established close ties.
James retired in 1980 in the rank of deputy under-secretary of state at the
Home Office and was appointed CB. He became for a spell the chief executive
officer of the Distressed Gentlefolks' Aid Association and an interest in
supported housing involved him in the work of similar bodies.
His retirement years were spent at Buxted, East Sussex, and at Thame,
Oxfordshire. In both places he was a consistent participant in community,
charity and church affairs. A devoted Anglican, he drew much strength from
Jimmy James married, in 1948, Joan Boorer, with whom he had two sons and a
|[W-OBITS] JAMES: Richard Austin James 2008 by "Peter McCrae" <>|