A Gotham Cuckoo far from home

Gunner J. W. James died as a Prisoner of War on the infamous Burma Railway while serving his country with 155th Lanarkshire Yeomanry Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery. He died on 9th May 1943 aged only 25. His family live in Gotham and his Grandson, Simon, is the publican of the Star Inn.
CrossWhy do I tell this story? Well, unbeknown to me, Andrew Vickers, Chairman of the Memorial Hall Trustees, has for some years been investigating the lives and deaths of all the men and women on the Gotham War Memorial roll of honour. As part of this project Andrew has been visiting and photographing each of the graves of those men and women from Gotham who died in the First and Second World Wars. When he heard I was going to North Thailand over Christmas he asked me if I would lay a cross of remembrance on Gunner James’s grave, as this was one of the graves that he had not been able to visit. Andrew has been leaving a small cross at each grave or memorial with the wonderful words ‘A Gotham Cuckoo far from Home’. I was pleased to travel to The Commonwealth War Graves cemetery at Kanchanaburi, about 200 km west of Bangkok and complete this task. The cemetery is close to where the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai was built, though today there is only a metal bridge, and that is not at the same place as the original. A trip to the nearby museum brings home the feats that these men accomplished under the most diabolical conditions. Over 6,900 British, Dutch, Australian and Americans are buried in the cemetery.I also laid a cross from the Royal British Legion and another from the people of Gotham. It was an occasion that was very emotional and very sad. I was struck that the cemetery was so beautifully maintained and visited by so many people from all over the world, and therefore understood Rupert Brooke’s words: “There is some corner of a foreign field that is forever England”.Should anyone be traveling to Burma, Egypt, Germany, France or Norway. I am sure Andrew would be very pleased to hear from you especially if you would be prepared to visit a War Grave cemetery and complete the same task.

Andrew is passionate about his project and about the responsibility he bears in continuing the daily running of our village war memorial, which is the Memorial Hall and Recreation Ground. These are there for the villagers of Gotham to enjoy their lives: lives bought for them by the sacrifice of those on the roll. These brave people gave their lives so that we may be free and we should never forget them.

Trevor Vennett-Smith