Remembrance 2020 (8)
A short series of blogs about men from Stockport
8. James Bevan of Heaton Mersey
At this time of year we principally remember those who died in conflict, but many of those who returned had their lives changed for ever by their injuries or by the trauma of what they had experienced. Today I look at one of these young men: James Bevan of Heaton Mersey.
Samuel Reynolds Bevan, a jobbing gardener from Shropshire, married Ellen Ann Barrett in Stockport in 1888 and after spending a few years in Burnage moved to Heaton Mersey, where they lived first in Lyme Street and later in nearby Poplar Street. They had seven children: John (1889), James (1891), Harry (1893), Mary Elizabeth (1895), Lily (1897), Arthur (1900) and Samuel Alfred (1904). Sadly infant mortality was still relatively high at this time, and both Harry and Arthur died as babies.
In 1911 James was working as a clothing salesman, and this was possibly still his occupation when he enlisted in the 6th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment on 1 March 1915. His service record has not survived, but based on other documents it appears that he was drafted to France in early 1916. The battalion was involved in various actions on the Somme during the second half of that year, and on 2 November James was seriously wounded in the left foot by shrapnel. He was evacuated from 3rd Casualty Clearing Station by sick convoy on 8 November 1916, and in due course invalided back to England. At some point it became necessary to amputate his foot and by Spring 1917 James had been sent to Aughton Convalescent Hospital near Ormskirk.
From there he wrote a resolutely cheerful letter to a friend in Heaton Mersey, which was published in the Stockport Advertiser on 4 May 1917.
“I am simply feeling in the pink. My stump now is a treat since the warmer weather came; no ache or pain at all; also I am feeling well myself and putting on weight. I am now 11st 9lbs - not bad with a foot off. The doctor told me the other day that it should not be very long now before I came home for a few months. I should do just as well at home as I don’t have any dressings now. It will be a treat to see good old Heaton Mersey again after 16 months’ absence. I am longing to see them all at home and the chaps who are still left. We had a billiards handicap here, which I won off 60 behind scratch; not so bad seeing I had always to hop round the table. I got a 37 break in the semi-final. I have slight hopes of being home by Whit Week, but I am not building too much on it. I can get along very well now on my crutches: it’s going up and downstairs that troubles me a bit. I have some grand times here with having relatives just near the hospital. Wherever you go, you can’t beat this place, it’s great. We get plenty of food, and jolly good it is too. We have fish, eggs and bacon for breakfast on different mornings, and for dinner we generally have three dishes to choose from, and also two or three kinds of pudding. We have not yet missed having potatoes for one day. The matron and all the nurses give their services and time quite free; they are mostly well-to-do people. The other week one of our nurses married a Captain of the R.A.M.C. All the 25 of us went to the church and formed a guard of honour with our walking sticks. Best wishes to all of you; hoping I shall soon be shaking hands with you.”
James underwent several operations, and by April 1918 was home for good, having been fitted with a prosthetic foot. He was officially discharged from the army on 24 April 1918 and was entitled to wear the Silver War Badge to show that he was an ex-serviceman who was no longer fit for combat. He had married Edith Florence Hooley while still in training in England, and they were now finally able to be together permanently: their only son was born in 1920. James went on to work as a cost clerk and died in Stockport in 1952.
James is recorded on the Roll of Honour of Heaton Mersey Congregational Church as one of those from the church who served in the armed forces during the Great War.
My WWI website is dedicated to all First World War servicemen from the Heatons and Reddish: the survivors as well as the casualties.