L/Sgt. James Bance (1894 – 1917)

Unlike the Bowen cousins, the two Bance men commemorated on the Platt War Memorial were brothers, and were tragically killed within two months of each other. The Bance families had lived in the district for over a century, and by the start of the Great War were fairly numerous in the parish, with eight of them seeing overseas service between 1914 and 1918.

James Bance was born in Crouch in 1894, the son of Thomas, a coal trimmer from Platt, and a Londoner named Louisa Adams. He grew up in Borough Green at Spencers Cottages, which were situated on Station Road and built in the 1870s by Thomas Spencer, who, at that time, owned the Platt brickyard. He had an older half-sister, Janey Hatton, a younger brother named Thomas and a very much younger half-sister named Annie Louisa (born 1906). James’ father died aged 30 in 1902 when James was only seven, but a few years later in 1911 his mother re-married to George Broad. Prior to the war James was working as a mill hand with his mother, step-sister and brother.

James enlisted in the Army at Maidstone on 29 August 1914 with Albert Edward Rayfield from Crouch, and joined the 11th (Service) Battalion the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. The battalion had been raised at Winchester in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army (K2) and formed part of the 59th Brigade, 20th (Light) Division. After training close to home they moved to Blackdown, then in February 1915 to Witley and onwards to Larkhill in April for final training. James and Albert proceeded to France on 21 July 1915, disembarking at Boulogne and proceeding to the Saint-Omer area, where the division were concentrating. Immediately prior to going overseas, James married a local girl named Ada Elizabeth Durrant, and a son named George was born a few months later.

James’s service records have not survived, however we know his battalion was based in the Ypres Salient from February until July 1916 when they were sent to the Somme, and entrenched opposite Guillemont. In September the brigade took part in an unsuccessful attack on the German line in front of Les Boeufs that claimed the life of fellow rifleman Reginald Thorndycraft, but was compelled to fall back with considerable loss.

On 4 April 1917 the battalion took the village of Metz in an operation was admirably performed with the loss of 29 killed and 100 wounded. The also captured 60 prisoners, four machine guns and three trench mortars.

By early June the battalion were in the Left (Noreuil) Sector, which was northeast of Bapaume and west of Cambrai. During this particular tour, two companies based in the front line were hit by trench mortars on a number of occasions, and it seems that in one of these attacks James was mortally wounded and died on 9 June.

At the time of his death James held the rank of lance sergeant. He was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and is commemorated in Bay 7 of the Arras memorial.

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