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James George Courtice

(died 1939), Colonel

Sitter in 2 portraits

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James George Courtice, by Elliott & Fry - NPG x99646

James George Courtice

by Elliott & Fry
half-plate glass negative, 22 July 1950
NPG x99646

James George Courtice, by Elliott & Fry - NPG x99647

James George Courtice

by Elliott & Fry
half-plate glass negative, 22 July 1950
NPG x99647

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Richard Courtice

03 March 2019, 11:46

James George Courtice was my Grandfather, though I never knew him. Shortly before he died, my father wrote an account of the life James George as he knew it.

James George Courtice

Educated largely in France. Where and why I don’t know, but I don’t think he ever got on well with his father. Wanted the Army, but father vehemently against it.
Sent (rather against his will) to London University to read science.
After a year or so, ‘ran away’ and joined up as a private soldier. He served about eighteen months,(achieving Lance Corporal, which normally took a minimum of five years) before furious father traced him and bought him out - willy nilly, as he was still just under age.
Schoolmastered in London for a few years, when in about 1900, the War Office (being short of officers) brought in a Late Direct Entry scheme.
James George was off like a shot, being commissioned into the RA in 1900 and transferring to Ordnance some five years later (In the Gunners, promotion to Captain took some fifteen years. so it was no place to stay if you wanted to get on.)
Foreign service included India (Gunner subaltern) then West Africa, the White Man’s Grave (Ordnance Capt).
Home service included, most importantly, Stirling, during which posting he met the Sandeman girls and married Olive.
WW1. Served throughout in France. By the end was a Brevet Colonel with a DSO and four Mentions in Despatches. (For the uninitiated, Brevet rank was/is an official wheeze to save the government money. The recipient gets the kudos (which to him makes up for everything), does the job and takes the responsibility of the rank, but is not paid the proper rate, on the thin excuse that his Regiment/Corps has no room on its establishment for another whatever. James George was probably being paid as a Major. The Brevet business appears as far back as 1869 - tightwaddery in governments is nothing new!
Retired in 1919 to take the job of running the mill at Higher Walton (near Walton-le-Dale, nearish to Preston) for Gus Gatti (an old mate), living the Life of Riley in Bannister Hall, a mile or so outside Higher Walton.
A really splendid existence. Large house, with the noisy bits (children, dogs, servants etc) kept behind green baize doors. French ‘Bonne’ to look after the children Large garden with fulltime gardeners. Over 500 acres of rough shooting traversed by a stream into which we children could (and did) fall.
No car, but a horse-and-trap. The coachman, Rigby by name, shook everyone by buying a wireless set - a cats whisker type crystal set. I can remember him v kindly letting us listen in for about a minute or so each, Very keen hearing was required.

James George was strongly into farm birds - Chickens. Twelve Rhode Island Reds of impeccable breeding, each with a coloured ring on one leg for reference. The laying performance of each bird was most carefully monitored. The laying boxes had one- way doors, so the bird after laying had to cackle until one of us six children [two daughters, two sons and two nephews lived in that household] came to let it out and, most importantly, to write on the egg the date and the layer. Every evening, James George would enter the day’s results in his ledger. As I recall it, Red Left was a real goer, and one year broke a Poultry Society record. Red Right, poor dear, keeled over one day for no apparent reason, and I can recall her corpse being sent off in a shoe-box for a post mortem.
When Gus Gatti died, his son took over and James George (sadly) had to go - back to real life!
We moved to Malvern, - Eastnor House, Malvern link - taking with us the chickens and the asparagus bed - I can recall seeing the roots being carefully unpacked from a series of tea chests. )Sadly, neither lot flourished in the new rather more cramped milieu, and had to go fairly soon.) .
James George then got a job with Horrocks & Crewdson of Manchester (Cotton etc). He lived in digs** in Manchester returning to Malvern as and when. He was also required to travel widely, particularly in South America. It was during these travels that he taught himself languages, speaking eventually some seven.
In 1931 he left Horrocks and took over and expanded the coaching establishment in Guildford. The first thing he had to do was to complete the degree course he had escaped from some thirty something years earlier.This he did in record time which gave him a quotable BSc (London) as a qualification for teaching others.
He retired from coaching in 1938. Seeing WW2 as inevitable, he pestered the War Office and everywhere else for a proper war job. As he was in his sixties, he had little luck. Finally he was taken on by the Admiralty to board neutral ships at sea to check for contraband, as part of the coming blockade of Germany. He was pleased as punch over this but, as it happened, he died two months before WW2 started.

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