James Frederick Hain was born on 5th November 1881 in the village of Holmer in Herefordshire. He was one of seven children to James and Catherine Hain, and was more commonly known as Fred. On James Jr’s birth certificate, his father was listed as a manure agent, although by the time of the 1891 census, the family had moved to London, where James Sr was now running a coffee house.
When he left school, James Jr started work as a French polisher, but he had a taste for adventure and joined the army. He served in South Africa during the Boer War campaign of 1899-1900, attaining the Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Transvaal Clasps.
In 1900 James returned home, finding work as a French polisher. The military life was in his blood by now, though, and in September, he re-enlisted. Initially joining the Royal Berkshire Regiment, he was soon transferred over to the Royal Engineers as a Sapper.
James had signed up for a period of eight years and, as part of his role as a wireman (maintaining and fitting telegraph cables), he was stationed abroad. On one particular trip, when his battalion was travelling from Plymouth to Limerick early in 1908, he was injured. According to the accident report: “owing to bad weather on boat between Fishguard and Waterford he was thrown violently forward, striking his head against a girder.” Treated in Limerick, “the disability is of a slight nature, and in all probability will not interfere with his future efficiency as a soldier.”
Sapper Hain’s time with the service was nearly up, and he was put on reserve status in November 1908. By 1911, he was working as a linesman, and boarding in a house in Hayle, Cornwall.
War was on the horizon by now, and on 5th August 1914, James was called back into service. He saw action on the Western Front, adding the Victory and British Medals and the 1915 Star to his count. In October 1915, he was treated for shell shock, and evacuated back to England.
At the beginning of 1917, Lance Corporal Hain was transferred back to the Army Reserve, suffering from neuritis. His health was to suffer for the rest of his life.
In September 1917, having settled in Cornwall, James married Beatrice Opie, an innkeeper’s daughter from the village of Wendron, Cornwall. The couple would go on to have a son, who they called Frederick, two years later.
Discharged from the Army, James put his engineering experience to good use, joining the General Post Office to work with telegraphs.
By this time, James’ medical condition had been formally diagnosed as General Paralysis of the Insane. A degenerative disease, similar to Alzheimer’s disease, it was associated with brisk reflexes and tremors (usually most obvious of the lips, tongue, and outstretched hands) and characterised by failing memory and general deterioration.
By August 1920, James was admitted to the Somerset and Bath Asylum in Cotford, because of his worsening condition. He was not to come out again, and passed away ten months later, on 13th June 1921. He was just 39 years old.
James Frederick Hain was buried in the St James’ Cemetery in Taunton, Somerset.