James Aveline Cadwallader Keenan
Died 27th March 1916
James was born in the last quarter of 1891 at Atcham, Shrewsbury. James was the first child of James Aveline Keenan who was born in Church Stretton and his wife Florence who was born in Wistanstow. By 1901 James and Florence had three children: James Aveline Cadwallader aged 9, Grace Kathleen aged 7 and Bernard Donald aged 3 and were living at Oakwood, a farm sited south of Little Stretton on the east side of the A49.
Oakwood Farm April 2018 undergoing total renovation.
Ten years later in 1911 the family lived in Little Stretton where James Snr was working as a grocery shop assistant. James Jnr was 19 and his parents had another son in addition to Bernard Donald; Robert Leonard, who was then 9.
James Jnr had attended Ludlow Grammar School and on the 1911 census he is recorded as being an assistant teacher at a Shrewsbury school. However he later moved from this school as, prior to enlisting in the autumn of 1914 at Shrewsbury at the age of 22, he was an assistant teacher at the boys’ school in Bishop’s Castle. James was drafted into the 7th Battalion of The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, a unit which had the unfortunate record of suffering more casualties than the other elements of the KSLI.
He was killed on 27 March 1916 and the war diary of that period records:
The 7th KSLI was in trenches to the right of the Ypres-Comines on 27.3.16. The 3rd Division exploded several mines under the German lines at St Eloi and then the 9th Brigade moved forward and captured the first and second line. The 7th KSLI trenches came under shell fire.
Map courtesy of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The shell fire killed James as his commanding officer recorded when he wrote to James’ parents:
… your brave son, I know you will be glad to hear, died with no pain at all. Indeed he was killed instantaneously by a shell.
The Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News reported in the 15 April 1916 edition:
On Saturday Mr J, Keenan, Ragleth View, Little Stretton, received the tragic news that his eldest son, L-C JAC Keenan KSLI had fallen in action (photo) He was 24 and was a great favourite in the district and also at Bishop?s Castle where before enlisting he was assistant schoolmaster at the Boys? School. The bereaved parents have received numerous expressions of sympathy bearing striking testimony to the esteem in which the deceased was held. A large congregation assembled at Little Stretton Church on Thursday where a memorial service in honour of the fallen soldier was held .L-C Keenan was a member of the village choir for many years and at one time took the place of his father as organist. The bereaved parents and relations were present at the service which was fully choral, Miss Tillard presiding at the organ. Rev.CJ Bryant (Church Stretton) read the prayers and Rev. H Hastings (Brampton Brian) formerly headmaster of Ludlow Grammar read the lesson, Rev SB Jones (Church Stretton) gave an impressive address from the words; a good soldier Jesus Christ ? Throughout the long months in training and in the trenches he was absolutely devoted to his home. On one occasion he had walked all the way from Shrewsbury in order to be present at the 8 o’clock Sunday morning service. Several members of the Volunteer Training Corps in uniform were present.
James is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres as well as the war memorials at Little Stretton, Church Stretton and Bishop’s Castle.
James Snr and Florence lost two sons and the depth of the grief they felt is difficult to imagine.