Sergeant James Cave

14547 9th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment who died on 21 October 1917

Family History

James was born in 1895, the son of Arthur and Emma (nee Corrall) Cave and was one of thirteen children (a fourteenth had died in infancy). The family initially lived in 4 Court, Queen Street, Leicester but by 1901 had moved to 11 Cross Street, Oadby where James’s three youngest siblings were born.

The Cave family, circa 1903. James stands in the centre between his parents.

In 1911 the family was living at London Road Oadby, with nine of their thirteen children and an adopted daughter aged 2.

James’ parents and older siblings were employed in the shoe trade.


Military Service

James enlisted on 8 September 1914, only a month after war had broken out. His service record still exists and gives his occupation as a shoe hand. He was 6 feet 2 ½ inches in height (which was considerably taller than the average soldier height of 5ft 5inches) and he gave his religion as Baptist.

James was posted to France on 29 July 1915.

As a soldier in the 9th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment, James would have been involved in the Battle of the Somme. He received a gunshot wound to the neck on 14 July 1916, probably during fighting at Bazentin Ridge.  He was treated at a field ambulance station and removed to 45 Casualty Clearing and thence to the 3rd Canadian General Hospital at Le Treport on 15 July. The wound appears to have been superficial as James was discharged as fit and was posted to base details, at Etaples, two days later. He rejoined his unit in the field on 2 August and was promoted to Lance Corporal on 25 September 1916.

During December James received some furlough but was admitted to the 5th General Hospital, Leicester suffering from influenza. He spent the Christmas period recovering and returned to France on 4 January 1917. On 12 April James was wounded again while at duty but his service record gives no further detail. Although by 1 May he was suffering from ‘not yet diagnosed pyrexia’, possibly trench fever or maybe a fever as a result of the wound. He was treated at a casualty clearing station at Walincourt and then admitted to a field hospital at Treport. By 12 May he was sufficiently recovered to return to base duties and was back in the field by the end of the month. James was appointed Acting Sergeant on 7 June.

The 5th Northern General Hospital, Leicester, now part of the University of Leicester.

In late September 1917, on the Passchendaele Battlefield, the 9th Leicesters were involved in a key battle at Polygon Wood near Ypres.  The fighting saw the death of the regiment’s commanding officer Lt. Colonel Philip Bent who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in leading the counter attack which he inspired with the call of ‘Come on the Tigers’.

Lieutenant Colonel Philip Eric Bent VC who was killed on

1st October at Polygon Wood.

The destruction at Polygon Wood, 1917

After the action at Polygon Wood, the Leicestershire Brigade left the front line at the beginning of October for a few day’s rest. By 15 October they were back in the front line and James was killed on the 21st October.



Sergeant James Cave has no known grave but is Remembered with Honour on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

At the time of his death his parents and his unmarried siblings were living at 214 Avenue Road Extension in Knighton. As well as being commemorated on the Oadby war memorial, James was also remembered on the First World War memorial at St. Michael’s Church, Scott Street, Leicester (now demolished).

James is also remembered on the Oadby Senior School Memorial, now hanging in Launde Primary School.

Four of James’ brothers Harry, George, Thomas and Walter also fought in the First World War.  George died of influenza in 1919 in Le Havre.