William Alfred James (back row, fourth from left) in Godmanchester football club, circa 1912-13

My grandfather, William Alfred James, was born on December 31st, 1891. His father, William, was a miller who, like his father before him, had lived in the Cambridgeshire village of Godmanchester all his life. Indeed, William Alfred's family could be traced back to having lived in the village since 1212. William, like those before and after him, was a freeman of the Borough of Godmanchester on account of his ancestors being given the honour by King John while on a progress through the village. Or so the story goes.


Having left school at 12, William Alfred lied about his age to gain entry into the Grenadier Guards in 1908. He was just 17 years old. As a member of the King's Company in 1910, he was one of those who stood guard as Edward VII lay in state in the throne room at Westminster Abbey and at the funeral in Windsor.

Edward VII lies in state

© Richard James 2019