Private James Edwin (Jim) Yarnton, Royal Marine Light Infantry was born on the 14th of March 1895 in Deptford, South East London, the eldest son of James and Clara Yarnton (née Gifford), one of eight children. His father James was born in 1867 in Whitechapel and his mother Clara in 1869 in Deptford. The couple married in 1892 in West Ham. Their first child Clara was born in 1893.
By the time Jim was born the family had moved south of the river to Blackhorse Place Deptford where the family stayed till around 1902 when they moved a short distance away, to Evelyn Street.
By the time of the 1911 census the family had moved home again and were now at Grove Street. James and Clara now had a family of eight, all living at home. It’s significant that Clara gave birth to eight children and all eight survived. The survival of all of the children was sadly uncommon during this period in working class communities living in inner city areas of Britain. Jim was 16 years old and was a Tin Plate Worker, a skilled trade, like his father, grandfather and great grandfather before him.
Jim enlisted in the Royal Marines as a regular on the 19th January 1914, before the commencement of WW1. He kept an illustrated log book of all of his postings and trips. This log book traveled everywhere with him and ironically one of the first ships he was assigned to was the Laurentic. The first entry in his log book is the 16th of February 1915 and the last the 6th of December 1916, when the ship docked in Liverpool, on return from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The log book still exists, passed down to his nephew and namesake Jim Yarnton. The reason it survived for over 100 years is because Jim left it behind when he was posted to the Laurentic to guard the gold on board. The story goes that Jim had returned home, which by then was 26 Chudleigh Road Ladywell, and told his mother that he had a bolt of silk with his kit which was following him home from the Far East. Sadly Jim was sent away to his demise and his kit never reached home.
James Edwin Yarnton’s body was never recovered. He is commemorated on the Royal Marine memorial Chatham and on the gravestone of his parents and maternal grandparents, in Brockley & Ladywell Cemetery, Lewisham, London.
We are grateful to James E. Yarnton’s nephews Ian Morrison (for sharing personal recollections) and Jim Yarnton (for painstakingly scanning the log book and allowing us to include it in his story), and niece Paulette for providing photographs of his medals.
Thanks to Mike Guilfoyle, Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, for finding the gravestone and providing the photograph of James E. Yarnton’s memorial inscription.
Census Returns of England &Wales 1901 and 1911: The National Archives of the UK
Royal Marines Registers of Service. The National Archives of the UK. Series ADM 159.
General Register Office: England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes
Board of Guardian Records and Church of England Parish Registers. London Metropolitan Archives, London.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission – http://www.cwgc.org/