James Plympton was born in the spring of 1875, one of four children to Richard and Mary Plympton from Yeovil, Somerset. They raised the family in a cottage to the south of the town centre, where Richard was a labourer and Mary a glover. When they left school, James and his two brothers followed in their father’s footsteps, finding labouring work in the local area.
In the summer of 1899, when James was 24, he married Elizabeth Maria Holt, an agricultural labourer’s daughter from the village of Misterton, near Crewkerne. The couple would go on to have six children, but, according to the 1901 census, they had set up home near the centre of Yeovil, with their first born, Dorothy, and James’ recently widowed mother.
Mary, at 69, was no longer working, and so Elizabeth found employment as a cloth ripper – presumably for the local glove industry – earning a little extra money to support James’ labouring work. This was a job that he continued to do: the 1911 census found James and Elizabeth living in a five-roomed cottage in Yeovil; Mary had by this time passed away, as had young Dorothy, but the couple were surrounded by their other five children, Elizabeth looking after them and James working as a jobbing mason.
By now war was imminent, and James enlisted to play his part. While full details of his service are no longer available, it is evident that he had joined up by the summer of 1915. He was a Private in the Somerset Light Infantry and was assigned to the 7th (Service) Battalion. He was shipped to France on 24th July 1915, and, for his service, was awarded the 1915 Star and the British and Victory Medals.
Private Plympton returned from France at the start of 1916; he was suffering from nephritis – inflamed kidneys – and was admitted to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. Sadly, it seems that his treatment came too late; he passed away on 31st January 1916, at the age of 41.
James’ body was brought back to his home town; he was laid to rest in Yeovil Cemetery.
A local newspaper, the Western Chronicle, reported on James’ funeral; interestingly it gave his rank as Sergeant, although none of the official military documentation corroborates this.