Jim Paxton was born in late 1883 or early 1884, the fifth child of William Paxton and Sarah Pease. Jim’s grandfather Reuben was the first Paxton in Wing, having arrived from Waddesdon by the time he married as a minor in 1849.
William and Sarah had eight children at regular intervals from 1874 to 1892, relatively unremarkable, but their eldest daughter Sarah Ann (known as Annie) was born in St Georges East in London in 1874 so the family presumably lived there for a short time, and oddly enough ag lab William is not at home in either the 1881 or 1891 census. By 1901 Sarah is describing herself as a widow and husband William was not buried in Wing, so there is potentially a missing puzzle piece here – hopefully not one that might cast aspersions on Jim’s true parentage!
Jim married Polly Flavell from Leighton Buzzard in early 1910. They had had their first son together, Alfred Jim, in Leighton Buzzard the previous year, and a further son, Alfred, was born in Littleworth Wing on the day of the 1911 census. Jim gave his occupation as “carter on estate” – this was almost certainly Ascott Estate, working for the Rothschild family. He was a member of the National Deposit Friendly Society, being mentioned as such in the report of their annual meeting in 1916 published in the Bucks Herald.
Unfortunately for the young family Polly died in 1912. Between then and the outbreak of war in 1914 it appears that Jim may have remarried (there’s a marriage for a Jim Paxton to Elsie L Jeffs in Aylesbury in the second quarter of 1914 but I don’t have further details on this to be able to confirm it or rule it out – there wasn’t any children of this union either way). He also evidently joined the Worcestershire Regiment of the British Army and was either actively serving or a reservist – his entry in the National Roll of the Great War refers to him being immediately drafted, rather than volunteering, and the battalion he served with, the 2nd, was one of the regular battalions rather than one formed during the war. At least one other Wing man, James Bull, also served in the same battalion.
Private Jim Paxton, 7673 in 2nd Worcestershire Regiment, mobilised from Aldershot in Kent with his battalion (forming part of 5th Brigade in 2nd Division) and landed at Boulogne in France on 12 August 1914. The battalion then took part in the retreat from Mons and the Battle of the Marne. At this early stage they didn’t experience life in the trenches as it was only at the conclusion of the First Battle of the Aisne that both sides entrenched themselves to hold their ground. Jim was killed in action on 14 September 1914 which was the first full day of the Battle of the Aisne – the unit’s war dairies say they were heavily shelled from 6 a.m. with 11 killed and 56 wounded (four transport horses were also killed).Several sources (the National Roll of the Great War, Soldiers Died in the Great War, and the Roll of Honour on The Worcestershire Regiment website) give Jim’s rank as Lance Corporal so it appears he was promoted during his short time at the Front. He was awarded the 1914 Star, Victory Medal and General Service Medal – these were likely issued to his mother Sarah as it is her address of High Street Wing that appears on his medal card.
Although he was the first from Wing to be killed in the War, Jim’s death is not mentioned in surviving issues of the parish magazine. He is included amongst the lists of those serving in the January and February 1915 issues which is odd and may suggest that news of his death took some time to reach his family (or may simply be an error) – the issues from March to August that year all survive but with no mention of him which may mean his family did not know for at least a year that he had been killed.
Jim is recorded on Wing’s War Memorial as James Paxton. His birth, marriage and army records are all in the name Jim so I do not believe he was legally a James nor was he ever known as James according to census records, but it is possible that it was assumed that he was a James (or his mother Sarah wanted him recorded as a James for some reason) when the memorial was built.
Jim is also commemorated on the La Ferté-sous-Jouarre Memorial in France.