James Henry Green was born in Brixham, Devon, on 13th April 1868, the only child to Isaac and Sarah Green. Isaac was the son of a miller from Essex, who found work as a miner in the south west; he sadly died in 1871, when James was just a toddler.
Sarah had been married before she met Isaac; she had had two children, both daughters, with her first husband, William Tozer, so James had two half-sisters. William had died in 1865, and Sarah had gone on to marry James’ father later that year.
The 1881 census found Sarah and the children living in a cottage in the middle of Brixham; she was listed (somewhat uncharitably by current standards) as a mangle woman. She had taken in a couple of lodgers and James – then aged 13 – was listed as a scholar.
James was evidently keen to make a place for himself in the world. In 1885 he enlisted in the Royal Navy, working as a Boy on a number of ships until, on his 18th birthday, he was given the rank of Ordinary Seaman. His naval records show that he had a dark complexion, brown eyes and brown hair and stood as just 5ft 1in (1.55m) tall.
During his initial ten years’ service, James served on nine ships as well as shore-based establishments, working his way up to the rank of Able Seaman. One the initial period of enlistment was up, he extended his time in the navy voluntarily, eventually serving on a further five vessels and reaching the rank of Able Seaman before transferring to the Coastguard in South Shields. James was stood down form active naval duties in January 1908 and transferred to the Royal Naval Reserve, based in Chatham, Kent.
It was while he was in County Durham that he met Edith Hansford (or Handforth), a horse keeper’s daughter from Whitburn. The couple married in the spring of 1901, and settled down in Sculcoates, to the north of Hull.
When war was declared, those in the Royal Naval Reserve were called into immediate action, and James was no exception. Given the rank of Petty Officer, he was initially assigned to HMS Pembroke, the shore establishment in Chatham, before a brief tour on HMS Columbine, and a longer term on the gunboat HMS Britomart.
In July 1916, Petty Officer Green returned to HMS Pembroke; he remained based there for six months, before being admitted to hospital, suffering from phlebitis (an inflammation of the veins in the legs). Sadly, the condition got the better of him; he passed away in the Royal Naval Hospital in Chatham on 19th February 1917, at the age of 48.
James Henry Green was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in his adopted home town of Gillingham, Kent.