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Whitham, James Percival (1907-1942) | by sherborneschoolarchives
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Whitham, James Percival (1907-1942)

Sherborne School, UK, Book of Remembrance for former pupils who died in the Second World War, 1939-1945.


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Credit: Sherborne School Archives, Abbey Road, Sherborne, Dorset, UK, DT9 3AP.


Details: James Percival Whitham (1907-1942), born 26 January 1907, son of Robert Percy Whitham (1873-1931) (East Indian Merchant) and Mary Adelaide Whitham (née Birch) (1870-1963) of Manchester.


Siblings: Minna Glendaye Whitham (1910-2002) & Mary Adelaide Norah Whitham (1912-2001)


Attended Beechmont School, Sevenoaks, Kent.


Attended Sherborne School (Abbeylands) May 1920-July 1925; 6th form; School Prefect; Head of House; 1st XI cricket (1925); 1st XV rugby football (1923, 1924, 1925); School Fives Colours (1924-25, Captain 1925); School Gym Colours (1923, 1924, 1925, Captain 1925); Sergeant in OTC; Drum Major; Senior Class Leader with Badge; Record holder for 100 yards, Broad Jump and Putting the Weight.


Pembroke College, Cambridge; University Athletics Team (awarded a half blue for putting the weight); would have played in the Varsity match if he had not broken his thigh just before the match.


Acting Branch Manager of the Sun Life Assurance of Canada in Hong Kong. Lived at 10, Shek O, Hong Kong.


Married to Beatrice Whitham of Grand Haven, Michigan. Father of Jonathan Glendaye Whitham (1941-1944). Beatrice and Jonathan were interned during WW2 at the Stanley Internment Camp in Hong Kong.


WW2, Lieutenant in the Middlesex Regiment, 1st Bn. (Service no. 221895), formerly of the HKVDC.


Captured by the Japanese on 25 December 1941. On 27 September 1942 left Hong Kong , with 1,816 British POWs and 700 Japanese troops on the Japanese freighter SS Lisbon Maru, bound for Japan. Drowned on 1/2 October 1942, aged 35, after the SS Lisbon Maru was torpedoed by the USS Grouper, American submarine, 6 miles from Tung Fusham Island.


Commemorated at:

Sai Wan Memorial, China, Column 13,-jame...


Sherborne School: War Memorial Staircase; Book of Remembrance; Abbeylands roll of honour.


Obituary, 'The Shirburnian', Michaelmas 1946: 'James Whitham was taken prisoner at Singapore while serving in the Middlesex Regiment and he died when the "Lisbon Marn", which was taking P.O.W's from Hong Kong to Japan was torpedoed by an American submarine in October 1942. He had an outstanding career at Sherborne, being head of Abbeylands in 1925 and a member of both the cricket and football teams. In his last two years he dominated the School Athletics and held three School records - the 100 yards, the long jump and the putting the weight. At Cambridge he was awarded a half blue for putting the weight and would have got his rugger blue also had he not broken his thigh just before the Varsity match. As a full back he will long be remembered by those who played with him. After leaving Cambridge, he went out East, so we saw only too little of this loyal and well-beloved Shirburnian.'


Tony Banham, 'The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru: Britain’s Forgotten Wartime Tragedy' (Hong Kong University Press, 2006), p.95: ‘Robert Wright: “It was then that I heard someone calling my name. It proved to be Lieutenant Whitham who, completely naked, was hanging on to a flimsy piece of wood.” Wright swam off to find a lifebelt for Whitham, who had been wounded in the legs in the Hong Kong fighting, passing Sergeant Green and other man hanging onto a floating latrine from the deck. When he returned, there was no sign of Whitham…’

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Taken on August 1, 2013