Pte James Leslie Bellingham (1925 – 1944)

James Leslie Bellingham was born on 10 April 1925 in Headington, Oxfordshire. He was the eldest of three children of William Bellingham, a cabinet maker, and his wife, Florence Sarah Chesterman. In 1939 the family lived at 19 Swaffield Road in Sevenoaks but subsequently moved to Mill House in Wrotham Heath. James had begun training as a horticulturist, and before joining the Army, he became engaged to Audrey Hartnup of Sealcroft Cottages in Seal.

James initially served with the Buffs (East Kent Regiment) but was transferred into the 1/6th East Surrey Regiment on 18 November 1943. In 1944 the East Surreys fought through Italy, first at Cassino (where James was possibly injured), and then in Forli during November. In the latter, the East Surreys found themselves tasked with taking a series of buildings at the local airfield in a surprise night attack which started shortly before midnight on the 7th. During the action, they met fierce resistance from enemy machine gunners, and it seems James was the ordinary rank who is recorded in the War Diary as being killed in action during the small hours of the 8th.

The attack succeeded, and afterwards, James was buried in the Meldola War Cemetery.