Percy James’ Life After Russia

One of the youngest soldiers held by the Soviets in 1920 was Percy James. Percy trained as a typesetter and bookbinder before the war, but joined his local regiment, the Somerset Light Infantry before transferring to the Hampshires. He spent two years in India and unfortunately contracted Yellow Fever. Recovering in Jellalabad hospital, he created the most magnificent tapestry, celebrating Victory for the Allies with the flags of eight countries.

Travelling to Russia with the regiment, he ended up with Leonard Vining's group in Omsk, before sharing the ordeals as a prisoner-of-war in Moscow. After the prisoners' release, he was placed in quarantine in Finland and wrote home: Dearest Mother, Free at last, absolutely a free man and in the land of white bread and freedom. It's great after the terrible conditions of prison life, dirt and filth, now sleeping between clean sheets and beautiful food and smokes and I am glad to say I am none the worse off in health after my awful experiences...I do hope you are keeping well.

Returning to England, the army couldn't believe Percy had survived and suspected a Russian spy had stolen his papers, but his family confirmed his identity. Once he was demobilized, he settled in Bournemouth (where hundreds of his regimental comrades lived) with his wife and six children. He worked successfully in the publishing world until the Second World War when he volunteered for the Home Guard and the dangerous work of a munitions factory. Eventually, he emigrated to Canada where he continued to live a full and happy life with his family for many years. I am very thankful to his daughters Louise and Donna for providing the information about his later life and the photograph below of Percy in India.

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