When James Travers Blount-Dinwiddie was born in Dumfries on 25th April 1891, he appeared the typical middle class boy. His father, also James, was a writer to Her Majesty's Signet, as a Scottish solicitor. Despite his death when his son was just a few years old, the family remained comfortable. Mother Agnes moved the family - James, his elder brother John, and sisters Marjory and Agnes - to Guernsey where she was recorded on the census as 'living on her own means'.


While they were in Guernsey James attended Elizabeth College in St. Peter Port. A good student, he earned three scholarships to Pembroke College, Oxford where he followed in his father's footsteps by taking law honours in 1912. While there, he was a member of the Officer Training Corps and was highly active in college sports, representing Pembroke at football and cricket, as well as being captain of the Boat Club.

When he left university, he didn't go into the law but instead moved to South Africa, joining the Transvaal Scottish Regiment of the army. Drawing on his education and experience in the OTC, he was commissioned as Lieutenant in July 1913. It was with this unit that he began the First World War, landing at Luderitzbucht in German South West Africa (now Namibia) in September 1914. This was one of the three targets for a British invasion of GSWA, notable for its wireless station which could protect shipping once in British hands.

Blount-Dinwiddie didn't spend long in Africa, however, before he came back to England in December 1914 to be transferred to the Border Regiment. The 1st battalion landed at Avonmouth from Burma on 18th January 1915 and underwent retraining before sailing again from Avonmouth on on 17th March, this time bound for the Gallipoli offensive. After stops in Malta and Alexandria, they spent 10 days at Mudros on the Greek island of Imbros before taking part in the Gallipoli landings on 25th April.


Image result for james blount-dinwiddie ww1"For Blount-Dinwiddie this was not just any day, but was also his 24th birthday. There would be no celebrations though as they landed at X Beach on Cape Helles alongside the Royal Irish Fusiliers, his A Company fighting their way 1000 yards onto the ridge to the north east of the beach. He was young, yet his had been a life which had prepared him for this moment, training him throughout his public school and Oxford education for national duty.

After consolidating their position, the 1st Borders attacked again on 28th April as part of the First Battle of Kritihia. Although they were supported by naval bombardment, Blount-Dinwiddie's A Company came under heavy fire and he was injured, being evacuated off of the peninsula.

In many ways the two months recovery were probably a lucky early escape from the fighting, although he returned again to Gallipoli at the end of June. In August he was promoted to the rank of Captain, but soon after he was once again injured on 21st August, while leading his company up Hill 70. Although no records of his wounds survive, they were certainly very serious as he was evacuated to the Empire Hospital in London, where he died on 13th September.

As he died in England, his body was transported for burial to Amberley in Gloucestershire. The family connection with Gloucestershire is not clear, although his younger sister Agnes was also buried here in 1974. His headstone carries two epitaphs, both typical of First World War graves. The first is biblical, the famous John 15:13 quote 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends' and the other patriotic, being the iconic 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori'.

In many ways, James Blount-Dinwiddie was an archetype of his generation. His epitaphs demonstrate this, at least perceived, commitment to both faith and nation, typical for a man raised in the muscular Christianity of the British public school system. He went from school, to university, to the army, barely ever removed from British institutions and their focus on fulfilling duty and serving the empire. His was a life of service, like so many other middle class men, who were raised in the late-Victorian and Edwardian periods.

Like many others, it was also - and unfortunately - only through conflict that he saw the fabled empire. The stories of exotic lands were brought to life through war, from his initial service in South Africa, to journeys by ship through Malta and Egypt to fight on behalf of the British Empire. James Blount-Dinwiddie lived the whole of his short life in the shadow of an empire whose value was impressed on him since childhood.

It is impossible to know what he thought, or if he believed such a life of service to be worthwhile, yet he is indicative of a generation's experience for whom the empire was a priority and commitment to it was a responsibility.

Kathryn

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