Driver James William Orton

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Driver. Royal Army Service Corps. 398 (Airborne) Composite Company. No. T/4623236.

A rather fuzzy newspaper image of a man's face, from 1944. He is smiling.

Driver James William Orton

Early life:

James William Orton was born on 10th April 1912 in Middlesborough, to James William Orton and Elizabeth Orton nee Waterfield who had married the previous year. They do not appear to have had any other children.
Not much is known about his early life. I have found his father on the 1921 census living with his parents and siblings and working as a locomotive fireman, however although it says he was married, his wife and son are not at the property. I have possibly found nine year old James living with aunties but do not have enough information to confirm, and his mother was not with him.

Early adulthood:

By 1934 James started appearing on the electoral rolls in Keighley. From 1934-1936 he lived with a family named Hillary at 29 Rawling Street. Thereafter he lived at 2 Broomhill Drive with an Ethel Ashcroft and Robert Atkinson. On the 1939 Register of England and Wales he was working as a warehouseman in woolcombing. I have not found his father on the 1939 Register. Sadly his mother was a patient at North Riding Mental Hospital (later Clifton Hospital in York).

James William Orton shown on the 1939 Register

During the second quarter of 1940 James married Kathleen Tallant, and they had a daughter, Margaret who was born in early 1941.

Military life:

James was with 398 (Airborne) Composite Company, who had become an Airborne unit of 6th Airborne Division in late September 1943, when redesignated from the Royal Marine Divisional Composite Company RASC (Royal Army Service Corps).

The Division landed by air via parachute and glider in the early hours of 6th June to capture the bridges across the River Orne and Caen Canal between Caen and the sea. It achieved these objectives including what later became known as “Pegasus Bridge” at Bénouville during the night. The Division held its ground for a week following D-Day and later advanced east along the coast capturing Pont Audemar on the River Lisle on 26th August. The Division was in continuous action from 6th June to 26th August, though sustained heavy losses.

Keighley News 1st July 1944:

Mrs. K. Orton, of 24, Rawling Street, Ingrow, Keighley, has received news that her husband, Driver James William Orton, of the sixth Airborne Division, was killed while in action over France. He had been in the Army four years. Prior to enlistment he was employed by the Colonial Combing Company, Keighley. He leaves a widow and one child.

James is buried at Ranville War Cemetery in Normandy. Grave 6, row E plot IA. The inscription on his headstone reads:

“Let perpetual light shine upon him and may he rest peace. Amen.”

Information Sources:

England and Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
1921 Census of England and Wales
1939 England and Wales Register
The Keighley News, 1st July 1944
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
UK, Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945
6th Airborne Division - British Friends of Normandy

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