James was born at Ipswich on 5 March 1929. He spent his boyhood at nearby Bramford with his grandmother, where he enjoyed village life and sang in the church choir.

LCpl JWL King
LCpl JWL King

It is not surprising that James became a soldier, it was a family tradition. His father was an RQMS in the Grenadier Guards.

He was attested at Norwich in November 1946, a few weeks sort of his 18th birthday, for five years with the colours and seven on the reserve. He was actually embodied on 2 January 1947 when he joined a Primary Training Centre.

On completion of his primary training, he was transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps for training as a driver/operator. On completion of this training, he was, on 12 July 1947, drafted to BAOR to join the 8th Hussars.

He soon adapted to Regimental life and was a popular and active member, being a useful cross country runner and also taking part in other track events and also swimming.

He was later that year appointed lance corporal and employed as the Squadron pay clerk – an appointment that commanded some respect as it was advisable to keep on the right side of the incumbent.

For the benefit of the younger generation, at that time the SQMS was also responsible for all pay matters. There was the ritual of a weekly pay parade, where under the eye of the Imprest Holder we saluted for and received our pay in cash.

While at Leicester he was promoted to Corporal and employed as the ration corporal. When the Regiment moved to Tidworth and ‘C’ Squadron was brought up to strength on mobilising for Korea, James was employed as the squadron clerk.

James was a fiercely independent individual with a happy-go-lucky attitude to life. This did not always endear him to his superiors and his promotion route was sometimes a case of two steps forward and one step back.

In September 1950 he married Betty.

On arrival in Korea, he returned to duty as a troop Corporal in ‘C’ Squadron. After an altercation with a senior NCO resulting in an encounter with the Brigade Commander on 24 January 1951, he was demoted to lance corporal.

This led to an inter-troop posting and he became operator to his old friend Bill Holberton with whom (after being pistol whipped) he was captured in the Imjin battle in April 1951.

While a PoW he was subjected to Chinese propaganda and their indoctrination policy. It was a complete waste of their time – it was like water off a duck’s back. He received a sentence of six weeks in solitary confinement for ‘ adopting a capitalistic attitude’.

He wrote of his experience in a book called In Clutch of Circumstances, a most appropriate and ironic title. Had he not had the run-in with the senior NCO, causing the inter-troop posting and the resultant consequence he would never have been captured.

James was very supportive of Bill Holberton while a fellow PoW, especially after Bill was released from his sentence in ‘Paks Palace’. They were later split up when all sergeants were moved to a separate camp.

On release from the PoW camp, James arrived in the UK in September 1953 and was finally released in January 1954.

His character on discharge was exemplary and he had been awarded the Korean Service Medal and the United Nations Service Medal with clasp Korea.

He was allowed to retain his appointment of lance corporal until the 62nd day of disembarkation in the UK.

Jimmy and Betty emigrated to Canada but after a short time returned to the UK. They decided this was a wrong move and returned to Victoria BC where James was to spend the rest of his days. He made several trips home to the UK and travelled extensively elsewhere.

James and Betty had two daughters, Jill and Sandra.

James was very proud of his municipality and played a very active part. He was an alderman and council member for 21 years.

He sang in the church choir and assisted in running the local football team. He was a member of the Lions League, the PoW organisation and a KVA organiser. For relaxation, he enjoyed a game of poker and played regularly for 25 years.

In the latter years, he did not enjoy good health, no doubt this was brought on by his ordeal as a PoW.

James died on 23 January 2008.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 8th Hussars
  2. Korea 1950-51