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Author commemorates an unremarked sacrifice of World War I

Ken and Sue Wayman

Born 16 March 1895, James Aspley died on the battlefields of Belgium in the First World War aged just 19. The battalion war diary for 27 November 1914 simply reads, “Lindenhoek: Some shelling. 1 killed. 3 wounded.” In the midst of war, his life and death seemed to go almost unnoticed.

However, over a century later, author Ken Wayman sheds light on the life of Private James Aspley (known as Jimmy) and what he uncovers shows his sacrifice may not have been so unremarked after all. The book follows the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment from their mobilisation until the end of December 1914. Based on the Battalion’s war diary, regimental history and eye-witness accounts, the book walks the reader through Jimmy’s footsteps from his early life to his death in Flanders Fields.

Jimmy’s father died when Jimmy was very young, and his family moved to the Birmingham Workhouse in Winson Green. However, the Birmingham Board of Guardians agreed to move Jimmy and his brothers, Charles and George, to St Paul’s Home for Boys on Coleshill High Street – which later became part of Father Hudson’s Homes. Jimmy moved there in 1901 and, after some periods of returning home and in again to St Paul’s, he was transferred in 1909 to St Vincent’s Home for Working Boys in Deritend. St Vincent’s helped care for boys who left St Paul’s by supporting them to learn a trade and find a job.

/media/news/library/james-aspley-scan---resized-for-web.jpgAs Jimmy was a Father Hudson’s Old Boy, Ken has dedicated a chapter of the book to this period of his life in the homes. He describes Father George Hudson as a “remarkably caring individual” who was committed to the welfare of the boys in his care. After the boys were “fed, clothed, housed and schooled” in St Paul’s, he describes the move to St Vincent’s Home for Working Boys as providing “a vital link between childhood and independent manhood by helping the boys improve their workable skills.”  He then describes the next step in Father Hudson’s support system, whereby a boy would “be encouraged to take the opportunity to enhance his independence by moving out of St Vincent’s to approved Catholic lodgings.” Jimmy moved out to lodgings in 1911. He subsequently joined the army in 1913.

In June, Ken visited Father Hudson’s Care to present the charity with a signed copy of the book as thanks for the support of their Origins Service with his research, though Ken’s own research has been outstanding and he has used many sources. Father Hudson’s Care has registers that go back to 1884 and more detailed records from 1902.

For Ken, who is married to Jimmy’s great niece, Sue, this was more than an historical account – it was also a labour of love to help shine a light on a family hero.

Although Jimmy was laid to rest in an unmarked grave, he was posthumously awarded the 1914 Star, British War and Allied Victory medals. He is recorded on the Ypres Memorial in Belgium and is among those commemorated on the plaque in Sacred Heart and Saint Teresa’s Catholic Church, Coleshill.

Ken’s book, An Unremarked Sacrifice, is published by Tommies Guides and is available to purchase on Amazon. 

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