James Whitman

James Whitman, Service Details Unknown

Born on 4th April 1898 in Hudnall
Died on 1st April 1962 in Little Gaddesden

Family and Home 1, 2, 3, 4

James (Jim) Whitman was born in Hudnall, then in the Parish of Edlesborough, the third of the 4 children of Joseph Whitman and Susan née Liberty. He was baptised at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 29th May 1898. His father Joseph Whitman was a Carpenter’s Machinist and subsequently a Carpenter on the Ashridge Estate.

Jim had 3 siblings. His eldest brother Frank was born on 8th March 1890 but died aged 3. James, therefore, never knew him. His brother Arthur Whitman was born on 13th June 1895 and his sister May on 24th April 1900.

By March 1901, the Census shows the Whitman family living at No 13 Little Gaddesden. Their father Joseph Whitman was a Carpentering Machinist. Arthur Whitman was 5 years old, James, 2 and May 11 months old.

Education 5

On 18th April 1901, James Whitman started at Little Gaddesden School as an Infant, just 3 years old.

In common with many of the older boys, James spent some time working in the Harvest fields. For this reason, in September 1909, he and Donald White (Goodman) returned to school a fortnight late after the Harvest Holiday. James was then 11 years old and Donald aged 12.

The 1911 Census shows the family living at 40 Little Gaddesden. Joseph Whitman is shown as a Carpenter on the Ashridge Estate. Arthur Whitman, 15, is then a Telegraph Messenger working for the Post Office while James, 12, and May, 10 were at school.

On 2nd May 1911, James Whitman, aged 13 sat his Labour Examination which would have enabled him to leave school and go to work. However, he did not pass it. He could have tried again in October 1911, but did not. James therefore left school on his 14th Birthday, 4th April 1912.

Joining the Little Gaddesden Scout Troop 6

James Whitman, then aged 13, and his older brother 16 year old Arthur Whitman joined the Little Gaddesden Scout Troop at its start, October 26th 1911. Arthur was Patrol Leader of the Peewit Patrol and Jim a member of the Lion Patrol, Patrol Leader Frank (Henry F) Johnson. The Scouts first met in the Reading Room at John o’Gaddesden’s House. However, meetings soon moved to the Armoury, at 27 Little Gaddesden, the home of their Scout Master, Harry Temple, who was assisted by 17 year old Bernard Phillips. Miss Bridget Talbot was the Scouts’ President and Mr Humphrey Talbot their Treasurer.

Other members of the Lion Patrol who served in the First World War were: Stanley Austin, Sidney Bellamy, Edward Bunn, Kenneth Edge, Gerald Green and George Pinnock.

Scouts in the other Patrols who served were: Albert Basford, Philip Collier, Donald Goodman, Francis Green, Arthur Halsey, Bernard Halsey, Percy Hobbs, Arthur Pinnock, Archie Wells and Frank Whitman.

“Bright Boy Scouts – Clever Performance at Little Gaddesden – High Approval” 6

According to the hand written ‘Little Gaddesden Scout Diary 1912 – 1922’ kept by their President, Miss Bridget Talbot, the Little Gaddesden Scouts gave a concert/variety entertainment at the school in early February 1912, assisted by Scoutmaster Temple and other supporters. The extract below is from a press cutting reporting the event, pasted into the Scout Diary. The cutting is undated and unattributed but is probably from the local “Gazette”.

Perhaps the one item in the programme which overtopped the others for novelty and excellence of execution was the Kirkby Malzeard sword dance by six members of the Troop (B. Phillips, F. Johnson, A. Whitman, J. Whitman, A. Halsey and A. Basford) with Scoutmaster H Temple as the singer of the introductory verses and violin-player for the dance itself. Its intricate movements were performed with admirable precision and, at the end of the dance, the holding up of the “nut” or star formed by the interlaced swords was greeted with the most enthusiastic applause by the spectators, who would gladly have seen the whole performance again.

Military Service 7, 8

James Whitman is named on the original Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour. However, no unit is listed for him, nor has it been possible to find any military record containing sufficient detail to prove that it is his. Absent Voter Lists 1918 – 1921 for Little Gaddesden do not name him either. In November 1917, when his mother Susan wrote to her husband, the letter stated “Jim is getting on all right on the engine but so black“. That suggests that he was working on the Estate and living at home and had not yet been called up.

Brother Arthur Killed in Action 9, 10

Jim’s brother Arthur Whitman was a pre-War Territorial Volunteer in the 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment who was called up on the outbreak of War and went to France on 5th November 1914. On 31st July 1917 the men of the 1st Herts Battalion were heavily engaged on the opening day of the Third Battle of Ypres, losing over 450 men during their assault on St. Julien. Two of the 1st Herts men lost that day were Jim’s brother Lance Serjeant Arthur Whitman and his first cousin Private George Hoar, both of whom are commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”

James Whitman is named on the Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. His unit is not shown on the original Roll, nor has it been possible to add it to the Centenary Revision of the Roll. Also listed on the Rolls are his brother Arthur Whitman, R.I.P., his father Joseph Whitman and eight of his first cousins. Seven cousins were grandchildren of James and Eliza Whitman: Donald W Goodman, Edward Hoar, George Hoar R.I.P., Richard Hoar, Samuel Oakins R.I.P., Stephen Oakins and Francis Whitman. The eighth cousin, George Liberty, was the son of his mother’s older brother George Liberty.

Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver

Marriage and Children 1, 2, 3, 4, 11, 12, 13

From 1920, Jim is shown with his parents on Electoral Registers at 40 Little Gaddesden. By June 1921 he was working as a General Labourer for Mr Murray-Smith at Robin Hood House. Then, on 23rd February 1922 he married Edith Mary Fielding at Farnham in Surrey, after which they lived with his parents and his sister May at No 40.

Jim and Edith’s daughter Phyllis was born there on 30th August 1923 and their son Arthur Stephen, named after his Uncle Arthur Whitman, on 20th January 1926. Jim’s occupation is recorded as a Farmer on his daughter’s baptism record. However, by the time his son was baptised on 20th February 1926, Jim was a Laundryman, having opened a laundry at No 40.

Laundry Proprietor and Farm Manager 4, 14

During the 1930s, Jim’s laundry moved to Hudnall Lane, on the site now occupied by housing in The Lye. He is shown in the 1939 Register as a Laundry Proprietor of Yew Tree Laundry, Hudnall Lane. His wife Edith had “Unpaid Domestic Duties”, his sister May, who lived with them, was a Laundry Hand and Phyllis was at school. An entry, believed to be Arthur, is still closed. 

Apparently the laundry did not last long at Hudnall and in the 1940s and 1950s Jim worked as Farm Manager at Church Farm, Little Gaddesden.

Photo of Jim Whitman, Best Man to Seth Janes 3rd Jan 1942
Best Man at the Wedding of Seth Janes and Edna Saunders 3rd January 1942. Photo courtesy of Wendy Forster.

Death 15, 16, 17

James Whitman, by then of 8 Ashridge Cottages, Little Gaddesden, died on 1st April 1962, three days before his 64th Birthday. Then on 5th April he was buried in the new churchyard of St Peter and Paul’s Church Little Gaddesden. The Burial Register entry notes “Certified under the Burial Laws Amendment Act by E.A. Roberts, Methodist Minister”.

Jim’s widow Edith and his sister May continued to live at 8 Ashridge Cottages until their deaths.  May died, aged 77, on 19th April 1978. Then, after cremation at Amersham, her ashes were interred in Little Gaddesden churchyard on 28th April 1978.

Edith died aged 80 on 29th June 1980. On 5th July 1980, she was then buried with Jim. Jim, Edith and May are all commemorated on the same headstone.


1. https://www.findmypast.co.uk England & Wales births 1837-2006 Transcriptions

2. Little Gaddesden Baptism Register 1813 – 1947

3. https://www.findmypast.co.uk 1901 – 1921 England, Wales & Scotland Census Transcriptions 

4. https://www.ancestry.co.uk The 1939 Register

5. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906 and 1906 – 1934

6. The Little Gaddesden Scout Diary 1912 – 1922, HALS, Hertford, Acc 3131

7. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Little Gaddesden

8. Copy of Sue Whitman’s letter to her husband Joe Whitman, November 1917, courtesy of Caroline Hughes

9. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/914036/whitman,-arthur/

10. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1614314/hoar,-george/

11. https://www.findmypast.co.uk Electoral Registers 1832 – 1932

12. https://www.findmypast.co.uk England & Wales marriages 1837-2005 Transcriptions

13.https://www.ancestry.co.uk Andrew Whitman’s Family Tree for James ‘Jim’ Whitman

14. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge

15. https://www.findmypast.co.uk England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007

16. Little Gaddesden Burial Register

17. https://www.ancestry.co.uk National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations) 1858 – 1995

Do you have any questions about the information recorded here? Or do you have any further information that you can share with us about those from Little Gaddesden who died or fought for their country? In either case, please contact Jane Dickson at war-remembrance@littlegaddesdenchurch.org.uk.

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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson