South Shields Local History Group

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Ford, James (RAMC)

James was born on 28 July 1890. In 1914 he lived at 92 Nora Street.  He married Margaret Durkin in 1914 they then lived at 192 Talbot Road.

James Ford (Ford family)

He worked at Harton Colliery until World War I and is recorded on the 1911 Census as a Datal worker (pitman).  He was unusually tall at the time and was over 6 feet. He was gold medallist for St John’s Ambulance service. 

St John Gold Medal

He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer during World War I as did his cousin Stephen Ford. 

Stephen Ford (Ford family)

He was posted to Salonika in Greece against the Turks.  He worked closely with Serbian soldiers and spoke highly of them as people and very brave fighters.  He could count to 10 in Serb and he also learned to speak some German.  When he was in Salonika he contacted malaria, as did many soldiers there.

Salonika Quinine July 1916 Malaria (IWM)

He was then posted to Flanders.

Passchendaele 1917 (IWM)

Stretcher bearers had one of the most dangerous jobs in the trenches , they were unarmed and nearly always in no man’s land collecting the dead and wounded and in constant danger from snipers, bombs, gas attack, barbed wire and mines.

Stretcher bearers Passchendaele August 1917 (Wikipedia)

The field hospitals being close to the front were often shelled.

Stretcher bearers (IWM)

The work of carrying the dead and wounded was physically exhausting and stretcher bearers also had a high incidence of shell shock.

Stretcher bearers exhausted (IWM)

One day he was nursing a young 16 year old German Catholic soldier who was crying for his mother James offered him his rosary beads and prayed for him he said “This boy is a catholic like me we should not be fighting these people, we are all the same”.


During the war he was gassed, shell shocked and had shrapnel in his legs he was awarded a full pension and never was able to work again.

After the war he was awarded the usual service medals. 

British Victory Medal

During the 1920s and 30s he was forced to attend medicals at Newcastle to assess his condition and his pension was often cut down to 40 or 50%.  He wrote eloquently and usually successfully to the King to get the pension returned back to the full amount.

James was a great musician and would play the piano, melodeon, violin, mouth organ or harp.  Unfortunately due to the “Means Test” any possession of any value had to be sold before you could claim any money and all his instruments had to be sold. His medals were also in and out of the pawn shop, from which they eventually never returned.

He was a beautiful and persuasive writer and would often help local people in drafting letters to fight for their cause, usually against the dreaded “Means Test”.

315 Stanhope Road

His skill as a medical orderly was much in demand and people would come to him for treatment rather than going to the local fee paying doctor, Doctor McHaffie.


His beloved wife Margaret died in 1942.  James then neglected his diet and health he died of a broken heart on August 21st, 1944 he was 54.  They are buried together in Harton cemetery.

Headstone James Ford

British Newspaper Archives
Terry Ford (Grandson)

Imperial War Museum
Terry Ford

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