James Green (see photo, left) was my Great Uncle. When I was a small boy in the 1940s, and on into my teenage years, I regularly had contact with Uncle Jim whenever he visited his older brother Joseph, who was my maternal grandfather. Both men were not given to idle chatter, but they clearly derived much brotherly companionship while seated on each side of the coal fire burning in the old-fashioned black iron fireplace. I knew that my grandfather did not serve in the First World War, as he was in his late thirties in 1914. But I was quite unaware at the time that Uncle Jim had served in the army during the conflict.
The recent revival of interest in the history of the First World War, particularly the personal stories, reminded me that I had inherited a collection of family photographs from my mother. I recalled that there were three pictures of Uncle Jim in uniform, but just what role he had was a mystery until I located the photos and took a close look at them.
It is clear that he wore what has proven to be the uniform of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). Uncle Jim was a devout Baptist, and the discovery that he served with the RAMC entirely suited the gentle and caring man I knew him to be. I do not know whether this indicated that he was a conscientious objector, or whether he was able to opt for a non-combatant role due to his age (he was 34 in 1914). My mother never said anything to me to clarify his role and activities while serving with the Corps. But I know that serving in the RAMC was not a soft option for many, when they were required to venture unarmed into the front line and no man’s land to treat the wounded and recover the dead.
Uncle Jim was a life-long bachelor, who worked in the cotton mills of Oldham after the war. Like many who have served in combat areas, he never to my knowledge expressed any thoughts or opinions based on his experiences. How I wish I had been old enough to ask questions. I wonder now if he would have revealed any details of his personal First World War.
James Green (1881-1952), RAMC, is the relative of Ray Oliver, M.Eng. Electrical Engineering (1975).