No.G/17575, Private, James ORBELL
Aged 40

2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
formerly 3229, East Kent Yeomanry
Killed in Action on Saturday, 9th September 1916

James Orbell was born in Denston (Risbridge Q3-1876 4A:480), baptised in St Nicholas, Denston on 1st October 1876, son of Joseph Hicks and Alice Emma ORBELL (née FIRMIN).

His father (born 1839 in Pentlow, Essex) died in 1878 and his mother continued at the farm (250 acres, employing 8 men and 4 boys)

1881 census...Aged 4, he was at Church Farm, Denston with his widowed mother Alice [37] born Colney Engaine, Essex ; sisters Annie Maud [15] and Lucy Marian [9]; brothers Joseph Ernest [14] and Benjamin [6]. All the children except Annie were born in Denston

Later in 1881 his mother married Joseph Rouse HICKS.

1891 census...Aged 14 he was still at Church Farm with his stepfather Joseph HICK [50] farmer born Belchamp St Paul, Essex; his mother, half brothers Joseph HICKS [9] and Charles HICKS [6] both born in Denston; brother Benjamin (mechanic fitter in iron foundry).

His mother was admitted to the Asylum in London Bethlem in December 1895 with suicidal tendencies. The family address was given as Chantry Farm, Denston. She died at Woodbridge Asylum in 1901 and is buried in Denston.

1901 census... Aged 25, farmer's son, he was at Church Farm with his stepfather, half brothers Joseph R and Charles F HICKS.

His step father appears to have died in 1910

1911 census... Not found so far in this census. In the Army's "Personal Effects" report his legatees were his three brothers and his half brothers and sisters which would seem to indicate that he never married.

His cousin Douglas ORBELL was killed in 1918 in France see here

Courtesy of dcmmedals.co.uk we have the following (they have his South Africa medals for sale- as of May 2017 for £1,250)

Interesting Queen's South Africa medal with 6 clasps, to City of London Imperial Volunteers, with Natal Rebellion medal 1906.
Clasps - Cape Colony, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Wittebergen, Belfast, South Africa 1902. Clasp "1906" on Natal medal.

to - 813 Dvr. J. Orbell, C.I.V. (on QSA) and Tpr., Transvaal Mtd. Rifles. on Natal 1906. All correct on rolls; unusual to see "South Africa 1902" without SA 1901 after a run of battle bars - reflects recipient's two separate periods of active service in S. Africa.

An interesting recipient : Orbell was a farmer, born at Denston near Newmarket in 1876, and was serving in the 2nd Essex Rifle Vols. when he enlisted into the City of London Imperial Volunteers - about which there is a great deal of online and other information. All were greatly celebrated at the time, made Freemen of the City of London for their services and treated to a grand banquet at The Guildhall when they returned!
Orbell served in the 2nd Mounted Infantry Company - which saw a lot of action and drew a great deal of praise from local commanders. A set of service papers survives for his second tour of service in SA - after returning home with CIV when they had completed their tour, Orbell re-enlisted in Dec. 1901 and served with 120th (Younghusband's Horse) of 26th Battn., Imperial Yoemanry, and served to Sept. 1902.

The medal rolls make interesting reading - they confirm service/clasps with CIV and while his Imp. Yeo roll clearly states no entitlement to KSA (name crossed out on KSA roll, as are most others on the Younghusband's Horse roll) Orbell also turns up on the Field Intelligence Dept. medal roll in rank of "Guide" which refers to his CIV service and mentions service with Montmorency's Scouts. This roll DOES show entitlement to KSA but his entry is marked "Ret'd. 11.11.13" [i.e. medal returned to mint, 11.11.13]. This squares with his actual dates of service (none in 1901) and his clasps.

It is almost certain that he is the Pte. James Orbell of Denston who was killed in action on the Somme in September 1916 (same family background); his cousin was also killed in action.

He enlisted at Ipswich on 4th December 1901 in the Imperial Yeomanry, #18063, having served in the C.I.V.- City (of London) Imperial Volunteers. He gave his age as 24 years 11 months, born Denston, a farmer, unmarried. He was 5 feet 4.5 inches (163.8 cm) tall, weighed 126 lbs (57.3 kg) and chest 34" to 36" (86.4 to 91.4 cm), brown eyes, dark brown hair, Church of England.
He gave his next of kin as mother Alice Hicks, Church Farm, Denston, brothers Benjamin, Ernest and Arthur. He was discharged on 3rd September 1902, having served in South Africa from 8th February 1920 to 27th August 1902. Documentation for his next period of Army service (Natal Rebellion) has not been found. He dioes appear to be back in the Army, not being found in the 1911 census.

For the Great War he enlisted in Canterbury.
The battalion war diary :- High Wood (right) Sept 9th..Draft of 4 OR joined. the 3rd Bde was relieved in the morning by the 2nd Bde and the 10th Glosters (1st Bde) came up from Becourt Wood in support. The Germans were very active all day with their artillery. Orders were received that the 2nd Bde with one battn each of the 1st and 2nd Bde would attack and capture the German trench in HIGH WOOD and to the east.
At 4:45 pm in conjunction with the 1st Northants on our left and the 2nd KRRC on our right the battalion advanced to the attack, our objective being a portion of the trench WOOD LANE. In spite of very heavy artillery and M.G. fire the attacking line which consisted of "C" and "D" Coys advanced steadily and in splendid order, closely followed by "A" Coy, which was to form form an outpost line in front and "B" Coy which was to consolidate. "D" Coy secured its objective with few losses. "C" Coy on the left was less fortunate, suffering rather heavily form M Gun fire from HIGH WOOD. It entered the enemy trench however with little difficulty. "A" Coy pushed through and advanced some distance in front of the captured line, accounting for several of the enemy who had run back.
On our right the 60th Rifles gained their objective but the Northants on our left were driven back by intense fire. This left our flank exposed and a defensive flank was dug, connecting the capture line with the original front line. By dark, consolidation was well under way. Several prisoners were captured and one Machine gun which was secured by the battalion Scout Sergeant. Our casualties were :-
Officers killed 6, wounded 4, other ranks 43 killed, 146 wounded, 59 Missing, 4 wounded and missing.

CWGC has 100 killed, 64 with no known grave and most of the rest buried in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery.
James' original grave was found as shown below and he was re-interred in Caterpillar Valley

photo Rodney Gibson

photo: Rodeny Gibson
Site of one of the New Zealand memorials, this was the cemetery from which the New Zealand Unknown Warrior was recovered
and returned to New Zealand

James Orbell is buried in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval grave 9:D:23

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details

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