Name & Rank: Private James William Crooks
Regimental Number: G/1811 607758
Birth date & Location: 26 March, 1893 in Woking, Surrey.
Parents: James and Emily Crooks
Family Profile: James and Emily Crooks lived in Crondall, Hampshire. His father, was a Carter when he was born, transporting produce from agriculturally rich Surrey and Hampshire into urban areas, most likely London. By 1911 James had followed his father into agricultural labor, but James senior was now “in charge of cattle” while the younger was “Under Carter Farm.” James was one of seven siblings, and in 1911, Emily (13), Ethel (11), Florence (10), Charles (7), Arthur (4), and baby Dorothy (1) all lived together on a farm in Hampshire. Agricultural laborers endured notoriously difficult economic conditions throughout the Victorian and into the Edwardian Era, and James likely grew up in poverty.
Service Record: James Crooks enlisted in the 8th Queen’s on 4 September, 1914 for three years. The records detailing Crooks’ service have been lost, but his service with the 8th Queen’s is confirmed through two pieces of evidence: his medal roll index card and a bronze and plaque commemorating his service in the 8th. The medal roll index card indicates that Crooks was entitled to receive a British War Medal and a 1918 Victory Medal, two awards that together indicate that Crooks was present in the British Army in 1918 when the Entente triumphed over the Central Powers. This record, however, only indicates that Crooks served in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, not the 8th Battalion in particular.
The plaque, pictured above, is made of bronze and wood. The bent bronze, cut into the shape of a shield, is engraved with the Paschal Lamb, the regimental symbol of the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, and the name “J. Crooks, 8th Queen’s, R.W.S. 24th Division.” The bronze shield is framed with the salient battles of the 8th’s service: “Ypres,” “Messines,” “Vimy Ridge,” “Somme,” “Loos,” “Lens,” “Le Verguir,” and “Cambrai.” The origins and story of the plaque are unknown. Who made it, when and why it was given or presented to James Crooks, remain a mystery. However, a duplicate plaque dedicated a different individual is in the possession of the Severin family, the descendants of the 1919 Mayor of Le Verguier. This might indicate that these plaques were distributed to the veterans of the battalion, perhaps during the 1919 memorial ceremony in Le Verguier.
The plaque confirms that James Crooks (Just “J” on the plaque) served with the 8th Battalion specifically. The comprehensive musters of the 8th Battalion of the Queen’s have been lost, either through archival negligence, or more likely, destroyed during Nazi aerial bombardment of London during the Second World War. Because of this, the Peirs team often needs to use unconventional historical methods, to reconstruct the roll of individuals who served with the 8th Queen’s from 1914-1918. Peirs team member, Lizzie Hobbs, found the plaque for sale on a British Military Antiques auction website. The author purchased it and Crooks’ plaque is currently in his personal possession, and he intends to donate it to the Special Collections and College Archives at the Musselman Library upon graduation, where it will supplement the Jack Peirs collection as a material connection to the men Jack commanded in the 8th from 1914-18. The James Crooks plaque is one of the few material connections the project maintains with the thousands of other men who served with Jack Peirs in the 8th Battalion. Although we know relatively little about James Crooks, because of our unique material connection to him, he is one of the most important individual soldiers who served with Jack Peirs.
Death date & Location: 4 December, 1933 in Crondall, Hampshire. Buried in All Saints Churchyard.
Crooks, James. (Queen’s) Royal West Surrey Regiment. G/1811, 6077587. British Army World War I Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, The Western Front Association, 2015, 15-005, United Kingdom. https://www-fold3-com.ezpro.cc.gettysburg.edu/image/323443834
Surrey History Centre; Woking, Surrey, England; Surrey Electoral Registers; Reference: CC802/69/3.
Class: RG13; Piece: 1101; Folio: 57; Page: 8, Ancestry.com. 1901 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.
Class: RG14; Piece: 6235; Schedule Number: 34, Ancestry.com. 1911 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 2c; Page: 260, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2007.
Find A Grave. Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi. Ancestry.com. UK and Ireland, Find A Grave Index, 1300s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.