James Banfield

No / Rank: Z/4591 Signaller
Born: Tintern, Mon.
H.M.S. Viking
Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Date Died: 05.07.1918, Aged 19

Son of Shadrach and Mary Banfield of Commercial Road, Upper Machen.

James Banfield, a clerk prior to his engagement, enlisted in October 1917 and after service on training vessels joined the crew of H.M.S. Viking on May 1st 1918. Viking was a Tribal Class ocean going destroyer, although it served in the Dover Patrol during the Great War. Viking, launched in 1909, was armed with one 6-inch gun, two 4-inch guns and two torpedo tubes. It was the only six funnelled ship in the British Navy.

HMS Viking (copyright Imperial War Museum - reproduced with permission ref. Q21923)

The records show that Signaller Banfield was ‘Lost Overboard’ on 22nd June 1918 although he was officially declared deceased on 5th July.

A letter, published in the Weekly Argus of 13th July 1918, from Leading Signaller E.W. Griffiths to Mr and Mrs Banfield explains the circumstances of the accident, which happened in “very heavy weather in the English Channel.”

“I will not try to console you with the fact that your son lost his life by accident while ‘doing his bit’ as I know how futile that would be, having lost my own father by accidental drowning at sea……….My greatest regret is that nobody saw him go overboard or else an attempt would have been made to save him had he floated, which is highly improbable. He came on the bridge for duty at 5 pm. At 5.30 he asked my permission to go and get a bucket for washing his clothes. I let him go down from the bridge at 5.45 which was the last time I saw him…………At about 6.10 pm a man picked up a bucket, which was jammed under the guard rail. We do no know how it got there. We can only assume that ‘Taff’ (as he was affectionately known to us all) reached the deck and a big sea came over him taking him overboard before he had a chance to cling to anything. He probably never knew he went overboard as the suction from the propellers probably drew him under……It greatly upset me as of course, he worked under me. He was just getting used to the ways of the Navy at sea and seemed quite happy. He was only talking to me that evening of what a good time he would spend on his first leave from the Navy and what he would tell you all. He was a very willing lad and a hard worker always trying his hardest to please……………assuring you and all his friends of our deep sympathy in your loss.

E.W.G.Signaller James Banfield’s body was recovered from the sea some days after being lost overboard and was buried at the Terlincthun cemetery, Wimille, near Calais. James Banfield is also commemorated on the Pontywaun County School and the Moriah Baptist Church memorials.

‘Gone not from memory nor from love, but to his fathers home above’