[Skip to content]

Person Details
25 Mar 1897
He was the son of Harry and Emma Unwin. Harry and Emma (nee Kilby) both came from St Ann's. Harry, the son of John and Mary Unwin, was to become a stonemason like his father. In 1891 Emma (14) lived at 50 Leicester Street, with her widowed mother, Mary, a charwoman, and three siblings. Harry and Emma were married in St Ann's church, Nottingham, on 16 August 1896. They were to have nine children two of whom died young and whose names do not appear on either the 1901 or 1911 census. Their surviving children were: James William (b. 25 March 1897), Mary Lizzie (b. 1898), Edward (b. 1901), Rose Emma (b. 16 January 1902), Albert (b. 28 February 1903), Kathleen (b. 11 July 1908) and John (b. 23 March 1912). All the children were born in Nottingham. In 1901 Harry and Emma with their three eldest children, James, Mary and Edward, were living at 45 Bombay Street, Nottingham. Ten years later in 1911 the family was living at 77 Matthias Road, St Ann's. Of their six children, only Mary, who would have been about 12 years old, was not at home on the night of the census. Harry and Emma's youngest child, John, was born the following year. Both James and his father enlisted on the outbreak of war. James joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry on 19 September 1914 and 34 year old Harry joined the Sherwood Foresters two days later on 21 September 1914. Harry's service record gives an address of 4 Simon's Terrace, Westminster Street, for his next of kin but it is not clear when the family lived there. However, James' service record names his father as his next of kin and his address from 1 May 1915 was 4 Simon's Terrace. At the time of James' death in 1916 his parents were living at 2 Retford Terrace, Westminster Street, St Ann's, but they later moved to 8 Darby Terrace, Lotus Street, St Ann's Well Road. Harry Unwin served in 2/7th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (473399, Private) initially in B Company but transferring to C Coy on 5 September 1915; he served in France from 30 August 1915. Harry was disciplined on a number of occasions during his time in the army. In June 1915 when he was at Shoreham he was awarded 9 days Field Punishment No.2 for being absent from tattoo roll then once in France he was awarded 4 days Field Punishment No.2 in March 1916 for falling out on the line of March without permission. In March 1918 he forfeited 2 days' pay for being absent from his place of duty and, more seriously, in 1919 he was awarded 14 days Field Punishment No.1 for overstayed leave to UK from 0630 28 December 1918 to 0630 10 January 1919. Harry later transferred to the Labour Corps. James' mother died in 1934 aged 57 and his father died in 1937 aged 59. Of his siblings: Mary Lizzie married Richard H Walker in Nottingham in 1919 and died in 1922 aged 25. Edward married Florence Henshaw in Nottingham in 1924 and died in 1959 aged 58. Rose Emma married Alexander B Brown in Nottingham in 1927 and died in 1929 aged 27. Albert married Louisa Brown in Nottingham in 1931 and died in 1983 (registered Loughborough) aged 82. Kathleen married Lawrence Walker in Nottingham in 1927 and died in 1986 aged 77. John died in 2003 (registered Glamorgan) aged 91.
He was an errand boy when he enlisted in the RMLI in September 1914
29 Feb 1916
3038900 - CWGC Website
HMS Alcantara Royal Marine Light Infantry
James joined the RMLI on 19 September 1914 at the age of 17 years 5 months 25 days. As James was under-age ie. under 18 years, he forfeited 187 days toward his engagement, good conduct badges and pension. He gave his religion as Roman Catholic. He joined at the Recruit Depot Deal, Kent, on 19 September, and served there until 3 February 1915 then on 4 February transferred to Portsmouth Division. He joined HMS Alcantara on 2 May 1915. James was killed in action on 29 February 1916 (see below). His body was not recovered for burial and he is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. He qualified for the 1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. On February 29th 1916, the auxiliary cruiser HMS Alcantara became engaged near Norway in a fierce battle at close quarters with SMS Greif, a German warship masquerading as a Norwegian steamer bound for Rio de Janeiro. As the British had lowered boats for an inspection, the Greif had unmasked her guns and opened fire. The first discharge struck the Alcantara's bridge which caused heavy damage and destroyed the communications equipment. Further shots hit and sank some of the boarding parties' boats and also knocked out the Alcantara's steering gear. HMS Andes assisted Alcantara by disabling Greif’s steering gear but Greif hit Alcantara with a torpedo as both ships fought to a standstill and sank. Alcantara’s surviving crew were in the water for about twenty minutes before being picked up. An estimated 187 Germans perished along with seventy-two of Alcantara's ship's company. Five officers and 120 German sailors were rescued and taken prisoner by the Andes and Munster.
Nottinghamshire Archives ref. PR,6786, St Mary's Parish Register p.480. 8 Darby Terrace, Lotus Street: 'UNWIN. James Wm (killed, Royal Marines)'. The record suggests the family attended St Ann's church although James' service record gives his religion as RC. Note: St Ann's church demolished; war memorial missing. PO/17724 Private Leonard Horne joined the RMLI in September 1914; he served in HMS Alacantara from 22 April 1915 and was also killed on 29 February 1916. Leonard was born in Wakefield and lived there until at least 1911 but later moved with his family to Jacksdale, Nottinghamshire. He is commemorated on the Underwood St Michael & All Angels memorial. (See record on this ROH)
Remembered on