James William Earl

Date of birth: 1891
Place of birth: Not known
Service No.: Not known
Rank: Trimmer
Regiment / Division: HMHS Asturias
Service: Mercantile Marine
Died: 1917 aged 26 years
Death location: At sea

Life Before the War
James was born in 1891 to parents James and Elizabeth.  James senior was born in Southampton in 1860 and Elizabeth Ann was born in 1864 in Reading.

In the census of 1891 James was living with his parents and sister Florence, born 1889 in Southampton.  James senior’s occupation was given as General Labourer.

The 1901 census shows that James was living in Southampton with his mother, stepfather and a sister, Ellen L, born 1898 in Southampton.  His stepfather was John Knight, born 1861 in Southampton and died in 1916.  John married Elizabeth in 1900 in Southampton.

by the time of the census of 1911 James was living at 8 Queens Street, Southampton with his mother, stepfather, sister Ellen and two half-brothers – William T Knight, born 1905, and Joseph C Knight, born 1906. James’ occupation was a Dock Labourer.


War Service
James was killed on 21st March 1917 in the sinking of HMHS Asturias.  He was buried on 28th March 1917 at Southampton Old Cemetery, Grave NoP132-64.  Also buried there is Kate Katherine Knight and John Charles Knight – James’s stepfather.

James is also remembered on the The Tower Hill Memorial.

HMHS Asturias was built in 1907 as a cruise ship on the Southampton to Buenos Aires run.  When war broke out she was requisitioned by the Admiralty, converted and operated as a hospital ship and made regular crossings to France.  She also served in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Dardanelles Campaign returning wounded back to the United Kingdom.

In March 1917 after landing her wounded back to Avonmouth she was attacked by a German submarine and struck by a torpedo which blew off her stern killing 35 of her crew.  She was declared a total loss, her hull was put to use as a floating ammunition store at Plymouth for the rest of the war. Remarkably her hulk was repurchased by the Royal Mail Line in 1920 and rebuilt as a cruise liner, she was renamed Arcadian and operated on cruising in the Mediterranean and West Indies until 1930 and was finally scrapped  in 1933.

15 of her crew are buried in Southampton.

Researcher: Shaun Connolly
Published: 19th May 2015
Updated: Insert dates here

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