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Local Heroes - Your streets were their streets Local Heroes - Your streets were their streets

The names of 197 local men who lost their lives in World War I are
inscribed on the bells of the Memorial Community Church in Plaistow. They are our local heroes

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James Robert Laws

Durham Light Infantry
Wallington, Norfolk - 1886
France and Flanders - 14 April 1917
Killed in action
Served in
Durham Light Infantry
96 Cumberland Rd, Plaistow

James' story

Many thanks to Jean Ffrench in Canberra, Australia, for this information:

James Robert Laws enlisted in Stratford, London on 1 Dec 1915 for the duration of the war, aged 30. His occupation was slater and tiler. His wife was Gertrude Edith Crandle, spinster, married Holy Trinity Church, Canning Town (?) on 4 Sep 1909; and they had two sons named Ronald James born 2 Feb 1911 and Edward Robert born 22 Aug 1914, both at Canning Town. They lived at 96 Cumberland Rd, Plaistow.

He was born in the parish of Yarmouth. He was 5ft 6 and 3/4in and weighed 148 pounds. He embarked for France with the Exp Force on 6 Oct 1916. He was killed in action in France on 14 Apr 1917. His army number was 325639. James was with the 89th Training Reserve Battalion, then the 1/9 Batt, Durham Light Infantry. He was a Private. His widow was “awarded a pension” of 22/11 a week.

He is also commemorated on the Port of London Authority Roll of Honour.

His parents were Robert James and Elizabeth Laws of 19 Selby Rd, Plaistow. His brothers were John Wm Laws, age 24, of 55 Alexandra St, Canning Town; and Arthur Laws, 22 of 19 Selby Rd, Plaistow. His sisters were Martha, Sallie, Dora, Laura, Bella, Florrie (married).

In 1917 his widow, Gertrude was living at 17 Egham Rd, Plaistow. Gertrude was living with her two sons at 6 Albert Rd, Devonport when she completed a declaration about the living relatives of James Laws, presumably some time after 1917.

Mr J T Peters of 5 Albert Rd, Devonport advised the Infantry Record Office (IRO) on 16 Dec 1921 of the death of Gertrude and her two children from “drowning through a boating accident”. James’ medals then became the property of Gertrude’s next of kin. The IRO wrote to her brother, Mr H E Crandle, c/o the British Coaling .., Port Said. Perhaps he did not reply, as there is no further correspondence.

More information regarding the sad death of Gertrude, Ronald and Edward Laws:

James Laws’  wife Gertrude aged 37 and sons Ronald 9, and Edward 6, together with Gertrude’s cousin Arthur Peters, 31, drowned in the River Tavy in July 1920.

 The Western Morning News for July 1920 reported the accidental death of the four persons. In summary, John Thomas Peters took a party of nine up the River Tavy (Tamar) in his 20ft motor boat (with a 6ft beam) on a picnic. On the way back they hit a submerged tree trunk which tore a hole in the bottom of the boat and four people drowned.

 John Peters’ wife Elizabeth was unconscious, but recovered following application of “artificial respiration” by John, an “old naval sick berth steward”. The other three that did not drown were Miss Rothery, Miss Waller, and William Nicholls – a young apprentice of Arthur Peters.

The newspaper report on the Coroner’s enquiry indicated that John Thomas Peters was a naval pensioner, and that he lived at 23 Garden-shed, Devonport.
Charles Reeves, the gamekeeper in the employ of the river-owner Lord Sexton of Buckland Abbey, advised that there was a “tree with spurs on it in the bed of the river” which had been there for 25 years, near a 5ft deep pool. In his view, the boat had been travelling too fast, and hit the tree at speed, which caused a large hole in the boat.

John Neal McCloud, shipwright-lieut-com RN (retired) gave his view that people should not be allowed to go past a certain point in the river because it was dangerous, with the deep pool which caused a 10 or 12 knot current at the turn of the tide.

The Coroner (Mr R Robinson Rodd sen) recognised that people wanted to go to a particular local beauty spot and that motor boats obviously were faster than row boats. He recommended that the submerged tree should be removed.

The 1911 census record for James Laws and his family reads:

At 15 Ingal Road Plaistow, West Ham, London:
 LAWS, James Robert Head aged 25 born 1886, Slater And Roof Tiler, born at Wallington, Norfolk
 LAWS, Gertrude Edith Wife, Married 1 yr, one living child, aged 27, born 1884 at Minster, Kent
 LAWS, Ronald James Son aged one month, born 1911 at West Ham, Essex.

Service Number
Robert James
Gertrude Edith
Arras Memorial, France
  • LAWS family 1911

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