King Edward’s School and the Great War

Memorial Roll of Honour 1914 - 1918


Tomson, James Wyndham

Captain ▪ 5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, Territorial Force

James Wyndham Tomson, born on 9th July 1879, was admitted to King Edward’s School in January 1893, along with his brother, Frank Emerson. He lived with his mother, Ellen, his father, James, a land agent, and his four siblings at ‘The Chalet’, Bunbury Lane, Kings Norton.

James was an extremely bright pupil, coming top of his class and winning the Class Prize in his penultimate year. This resulted in him gaining a place in the prestigious First Class for his final year under the direct tutelage of the Headmaster, the Reverend AR Vardy. James played in the 1st XV cricket team and was described as “a splendid field at point”. At Eton Fives he was “a decided superiority to his opponents”. After leaving School, James worked as a managing clerk with Baileys, Shaw & Gillet of London, before returning to Birmingham as a solicitor’s articled clerk. He later became a solicitor in his own right and practised in London.

James joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps in December 1914, and was posted to France on 26th February 1915 with the 1/5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, Territorial Force. He obtained his commission in March as Second Lieutenant, and was later promoted to Captain. He was killed at St. Quentin by a bullet to the head, sustained while he was dressing the wound of a Corporal of his Company, on 24th September 1918, aged thirty-nine.

A detailed record of his final moments survives in JD Hills, The Fifth Leicestershire - A Record Of The 1/5th Battalion The Leicestershire Regiment, T.F., During The War, 1914-1919:

“At the same time, Captain Tomson, finding his Company now consisted only of his signallers, runners, and batmen, and unable to find out where the rest had gone, determined to try and rush the machine guns which were keeping up such a steady fire close to his left flank. His little party forced their way through some wire and found themselves opposed by three guns. With a shout of “Come along Tigers, show them what you can do,” Captain Tomson led them straight at the enemy. Two of the gun teams were overcome, but the third could not be reached, and fired at them point blank. L/Cpl. Signaller J. Smith was wounded and fell, Captain Tomson, bending down to tie him up, was shot through the head. Only two men got away, leaving their leader, now dead, in a small shelter outside the trench. Smith, mortally wounded, refused to be taken away, saying “Leave me with Captain Tomson, I shall be all right” - and there he died next to his Company Commander. So perished the kindest hearted and bravest gentleman that ever commanded a Company in the Regiment. Calm, cheerful, with a friendly word for all, Captain Tomson was the father of his men, and a warm friend to his brother officers and N.C.O.’s.”

James was buried at Cerisy-Gailly Military Cemetery, Somme, France. He left his estate of £796 to his sister, Frances.