Memorial Plaque

Note: the plaque misrenders his surname as “Scarfe” instead of “Scarff”.

   3 FEB. 1915

Connection with Effingham

He was not native to Effingham but was residing here, with his parents, when he enlisted.


William James’ parents were William Scarff (Snr.), born at Starston, Norfolk in 1867 [GRO Ref: Depwade 4b 218, 1867 (Q1)], and Margaret (née) Self, born in Colchester, Essex in 1863 [GRO Ref: Colchester 4a 261, 1863 (Q1)]. By the time of the 1881 Census Margaret had moved into the household of a relation James Squire at 1, The Terrace, London Road in Redenhall, Norfolk [PRO Ref: RG11 Piece 1965 Folio 83 Page 41]. Redenhall and Starston are only about two miles apart, so this is presumably how she came to meet William (Snr). They married in 1889 [GRO Ref: Depwade 4b 577, 1889 (Q4)].

The 1891 Census finds them living in Harleston, just SE of Starston, next door to William (Snr.)’s father James:

1891 Census
The Common, Harleston, Norfolk : PRO Ref: RG12 Piece 1543 Folio 56 Page 8

William Scarfe [sic] : head : mar : 24 : agricultural labourer : Startston, Norfolk
Margaret Scarfe : wife : mar : 28 : — : Colchester, Essex

next household:
James Scarfe [sic] : head : mar : 55 : roadman [with] County Council : Needham, Norfolk
Letitia Scarfe : wife : mar : 42 : — : Weybread, Suffolk
and several children …

Above, James is with his second wife Letitia (“Lettie”) Jane (née Borrett) whom he had married in 1883 [GRO Ref: Depwade 4b 635, 1883 (Q4)]. His first wife Almena (née Day) – the mother of William (Snr.) – whom he had married in 1858 [GRO Ref: Depwade 4b 391, 1858 (Q3)] had died aged “39” in 1878 [GRO Ref: Depwade 4b 133, 1878 (Q2)].

William James was born at Harleston in 1896 [GRO Ref: Depwade 4b 249, 1896 (Q3)] but his family presently moved from there to Weybread (Letitia’s birthplace) in Suffolk. Here he is aged “4” in 1901:

1901 Census
Lodge Mill Lane, Weybread, Suffolk : PRO Ref: RG13 Piece 1766 Folio 84 Page 15

William Scarf [sic] : head : mar : 34 : gardener domestic : Starston, Norfolk
Margaret Scarf : wife : mar : 38 : — : Colchester, Essex
Eva Scarf : dau : unm : 8 : — : Harleston, Norfolk
William Scarf : son : unm : 4 : — : Harleston, Norfolk

By 1911 the family had moved to Totteridge in Barnet, where William (Snr.) was working as a gardener at a property named “The Lodge”:

1911 Census
The Lodge, Garden Hill, Totteridge, Hertfordshire : PRO Ref: RG14 Piece 7138 Schedule 57

William Scarff : head : mar : 44 : gardener domestic : Starston, Norfolk
Margaret Scarff : wife : mar : 48 : — : Colchester, Essex
Eva Scarff : dau : unm : 18 : — : Harleston, Norfolk
William James Scarff : son : unm : 14 : school : Harleston, Norfolk

Soon afterwards the family moved to Effingham where William (Snr.) worked as a gardener. This is evidenced by the Service Record of William James who in 1913 enlisted for four years’ service in the 5th Bn., East Surrey Regiment, giving his address as Effingham. In the course of the ensuing war he was posted to India where he drowned on February 3rd 1915.

His parents both died in the first quarter of 1941, the GRO references being (for William Snr.) [GRO Ref: Depwade 4b 524, 1941 (Q1) – aged “74”] and (for Margaret) [GRO Ref: Depwade 4b 526, 1941 (Q1) – aged “78”].

Military Records

1. Service Record

National Archives: WO363 (War Office): Soldiers’ Documents, First World War ‘Burnt Documents’

William James’ service record has survived as just four sheets. His Attestation Form states that he enlisted at Leatherhead on June 6th 1913. He gave his birthplace as Norfolk, his age as “17 years 1 month”, his occupation as gardener and his address as “The Cottage, Effingham”. He named his father as his next-of-kin, giving for him the same address with the additional words “The Lodge”, seeming to imply that the cottage was associated with Effingham’s Lodge. Below is his original signature from the form:

He was medically examined the same day at Great Bookham and recorded as being 5’5″ tall with “good” vision and “fair” physical development. He appears to have undergone “annual training” that year at Patcham in West Sussex from July 27th to August 10th 1913, and a year later was deemed to be in “embodied service” from August 5th 1914 onwards.

On October 29th 1914 the battalion embarked at Southampton bound for India, arriving at Bombay on December 2nd. From there it was posted first to the Allahabad Brigade in the 8th Lucknow Division and thence, in August 1915 to the Nowshera Brigade in the 1st Peshawar Division. However, before the latter move William James had already died, in February 1915. His service record states that his service had terminated owing to his “having been drowned”.

Date of Death
Service No.
Additional info.
Grave/Memorial Ref.

East Surrey Regiment, 5th Bn
not stated [but was about 19]
Buried in Barkacha Military Grave.
Face 15.

3. “Soldiers Died in the Great War” Record

This adds nothing to the above other than confirming that he enlisted at Leatherhead.

4. Medal Record

His medal card is oddly missing from Ancestry’s database. The (rather poor quality) scan below was instead obtained directly from the National Archives: