b. 10/12/1889 Portsmouth, Hampshire. d. 29/08/1966 Southsea, Hampshire.
James Ockendon (1889-1966) was born at 56 Alfred Street, Landport, Portsmouth, Hampshire on 10th December 1889. His father, Alfred Robert Ockendon, a general labourer, married Mary Anne Elizabeth Verrall in 1881. They had five children: Alfred (1881), Alice (1883), William (1886), Elizabeth (1888) and James (1889).
James was educated at St Agatha’s School, Portsmouth and was employed by Messrs GS Chalcroft & Son (Men’s Outfitters) of Portsmouth as a shop porter. He enlisted in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers at Portsmouth on 22nd May 1909 and trained in Ireland. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion at Naas, County Kildare on 3rd September 1909 and transferred to the 1st Battalion at Aldershot on 5th March 1910. He served in India and was at Ahmednuggur, Deccan in 1911. He landed at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915 and was appointed unpaid Lance Corporal on 21st June. James received a relatively minor gunshot wound to the forehead on 5th July and was treated at 3rd Light Horse Field Ambulance, returning to the unit on 12th July. He picked splinters out for years after. Promotions followed rapidly – acting Corporal on 29th August, Corporal on 1st November and Acting Sergeant on 9th December.
He was evacuated to Egypt on 8th January 1916 and moved to France on 16th March. He was promoted to Sergeant on 3rd May 1916. He was awarded the MM on 6th/7th August 1917 for his actions southwest of Wijdendrift, Belgium – the Battalion was relieved another when the enemy fired a heavy barrage causing many casualties and much confusion with many men becoming separated. He rallied the survivors and led them forward again.
James married Caroline Ann Green at St Luke’s, Southsea on 20th August 1917. She was working in a stay factory in 1911. They lived in a variety of addresses in Southsea and Portsmouth. They had four children – Eileen (born 1919), Irene Ruby May (born 1920), James Richard Alfred (born 1922) and Betty Doreen (born 1924).
On 4th October 1917 east of Langemarck, Belgium, Sergeant Ockendon was acting as company sergeant-major. Seeing the platoon on the right held up by an enemy machine-gun, he immediately rushed the gun and captured it, killing the crew. He then led a section to the attack on a farm, where under very heavy fire he rushed forward and called on the garrison to surrender. As the enemy continued to fire on him he opened fire, killing four, whereupon the remaining 16 surrendered.
The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 5th December 1917. He received an illuminated address from Portsmouth Corporation and a silver casket from the Hampshire Telegraph & Post newspaper on 18th December. He was also awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre. He returned to Britain via Rouen and reported to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley on 7th February 1918. He was discharged in April 1918 unfit for further service due to being heavily gassed.
Post war James worked as a crane driver in HM Dockyard Portsmouth until aged 60 when he became a cleaner at No 3 Training Battalion RAOC at Hilsea. Despite being employed, in 1928 he was assessed as 100% disabled by the Ministry of Pensions and was granted a life pension. He attended the VC Garden Party in 1920, VC Dinner at the House of Lords in 1929, the Victory Dinner at The Dorchester, London in 1946, the VC Centenary Celebrations in 1956, and the VC & GC Association Reunions at the Café Royal, London in 1960, 1962 and 1964. He was a Life Member of the Portsmouth British Legion Club and also belonged in the 29th Division Association. James served in the Home Guard in the Second World War.
James died at his home at 5 Yorke Street, Southsea on 29th August 1966 and was cremated at Portchester Crematorium. His ashes were interred there at the North Border Post, Plot 20 and his name is in the Book of Remembrance. In addition to his VC and MM, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and Belgian Croix de Guerre. His medals are held by the Ockendon family.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: HELD BY HIS SON JAMES .
BURIAL PLACE: PORTCHESTER CREMATORIUM, HAMPSHIRE. ASHES IN PLOT 20.
James Ockendon's medals which are held by his son, also called James as of 2014.
War Illustrated, 1st December 1917
War Illustrated, 5th January 1918
Portsmouth (courtesy of Steve Lee)