Lieutenant David Thomas Emyr James, R.N.R. was born Tyrhedyn (Fern house) High Street, St. Dogmaels, Pembrokeshire, Wales on the 6th of March 1885. He was the first of Captain David and Annie James’ three children.
We do not know when David began his career at sea but we do know that on the 6th of July 1905 he was awarded a Certificate of Competency as Second Mate of a Foreign-Going Ship. His service record tells us his period of service in the Royal Naval Reserve commenced in October 1913 and he was a Sub-Lieutenant (proby) from the 1st of October 1913 according to the British Navy Lists.
David married Annie Williams in West Derby in 1914. and the couple lived in Sefton Park, Liverpool.
It is not known exactly when David T. E. James joined the crew of the Laurentic but the British Navy Lists show him as Sub-Lieutenant on the Laurentic in April 1915. He was promoted to Lieutenant on the 1st of October 1915.
On the 1st of November, 1916, while the Laurentic was anchored at Halifax, Nova Scotia, David T. E. James was discharged to the Armed Merchant Cruiser H.M.S. Armadale Castle, for passage (destination not known). He returned to the Laurentic on the 5th of November.
After Laurentic had struck the two mines that would eventually sink her, on the evening of 25th January, 1917, Lieutenant James, who was Officer Of The Watch at the time, went to assist Commander Rodgers, Lieutenants McNeill, Morgan, Walker and Engineer Lieutenants Carlisle, Neale and Stewart, to get away boats No.’s 9, 7, 5 and 3. He himself managed to get into the second to last lifeboat to leave the sinking Laurentic, with Lieutenant McNeill (the Executive Officer) after he had missed his own boat. Lieutenants James and McNeill later died, probably from exposure. His body was never recovered.
On 25th January 1918 David’s brother Lance-Corporal John Lloyd James was awarded a Military Medal for gallantry on the field of battle. In July 1918 he was seriously incapacitated after being gassed.
David Thomas Emyr James is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon and the Crymych war memorial, Pembrokeshire
British Navy Lists. This database includes multiple volumes of the Navy List, the Royal Navy’s official published list of officers. Published regularly since 1814.
Peter Threlfall, World War 1 historian
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891, 1911. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK
Birth and death records uk: http://www.gro.gov.uk