James Anderson was born on 9th April 1892 in Galway, Ireland. He was one of eleven children to labourer Thomas Anderson and his wife, Mary. Thomas was a labourer and fisherman, and it was into the sea-faring life that James entered into when he finished school. The 1901 census notes that the family were Roman Catholic, and that, while not all of them were able to read and/or write, those that could – James included – could do so in both English and Irish.
James was set on using his knowledge of boats to build a career for himself and, on 9th December 1911, he enrolled in the Royal Naval Reserve. His service records show that he was 5ft 3.5ins (1.61m) tall, had a fresh complexion and blue eyes.
Over the next few years, Seaman Anderson served on a number of different vessels, plying the seas around Ireland, to and from Liverpool. He was on board the Cressy when war was declared, and within a couple of weeks, he had been stationed at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.
There is little information about James’ life during the war, although, as he appears to have been permanently based at HMS Pembroke, it is likely that his skills were being put to training new recruits, rather than serving at sea.
As the war progressed, Chatham Dockyard became busier. In the summer of 1917, the base became so overcrowded that temporary accommodation was set up in the barracks’ Drill Hall: this is where Seaman Anderson found himself billeted.
On the 3rd September 1917, the first night air raid carried out by the German Air Force bombarded the town, and scored a direct hit on the Drill Hall; Seaman Anderson was among those killed that night. He was just 25 years of age.
James Anderson was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.