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David James (politician)

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David Pelham James, MBE, DSC (25 December 1919 – 15 December 1986) was a British Conservative Party politician, author and adventurer. Eldest son of Sir Archibald James and Bridget James Miller (née Guthrie). On the 20th May 1950, he married Jaquetta Mary Theresa (née Digby) (28 October 1928 - ), youngest daughter of Edward Kenelm Digby, 11th Baron Digby and sister of Pamela Churchill Harriman. They had six children, four sons and two daughters, born between 1951 and 1962. In 1979 he changed his name to David Guthrie-James to mark the connection between Clan Guthrie and his family home Torosay Castle on the Isle of Mull.

After leaving Eton, he went up to Balliol College, Oxford to read Geography but, in his quest for adventure, he left in 1938, before completing his studies, to sail round the world "before the mast" in the 4-masted barque Viking, based out of the Swedish port of Mariehamn. On his return he joined the RNVR, serving as a Lieutenant in command of Motor Gun Boats operating out of Felixstowe. In the early hours of Sunday the 28th of February 1943, his then vessel MGB 79, was sunk in action off the Hook of Holland. Lt. James and 3 of his crew were rescued from the water by a German trawler and were taken prisoner. He was sent to Marlag, the naval PoW Camp near Westertimke, from which he escaped twice, the second time successfully. A self-penned account of his 11 months in (and out of) the camp was published in the UK as Prisoner's Progress (William Blackwood 1947) and in the US under the title Escaper's Progress (W. W. Norton 1955). A review at the time described the work as "one of the better escape books". In 1978, when the book was re-published in the UK in paperback as Escaper's Progress (Corgi), his original account of the escape, as prepared for Naval Intelligence was included as an appendix, having become de-classified.

After the war, James embarked on a number of polar expeditions and, as a result, was chosen to act as Polar Advisor to director Charles Frend for the 1948 production of Scott of the Antarctic, during which he appeared as John Mills' 'body double' in a number of long shots in the snow. Never one to miss a book opportunity, James wrote Scott of the Antarctic: The Film and Its Production which was published by Lon Convoy [1], followed a year later, in 1949, by That Frozen Land - The story of a year in the Antarctic.

James was asked by George G. Harrap and Co. to co-edit, with J Lennox Kerr, a book of wartime stories and experiences of RNVR members entitled Wavy Navy - By Some Who Served.[2] (1950), and was then chosen by the widow of Lord Roberts of Kandahar to write her late husband's biography, published by Hollis & Carter under the title Lord Roberts (1954).

In 1957 James wrote a book entitled Outward Bound[3], with a foreword by the Duke of Edinburgh, about the organisation of the same name and in 1960 co-edited, with The Field editor Wilson Stephens, In Praise of Fox Hunting, a series of essays by contributors such as Dick Francis, Jimmy Edwards and BBC show jumping commentator Dorian Williams.

In 1962, weeks before the birth of his youngest son Kenelm, he featured on This Is Your Life, having been ambushed at Victoria Station by Eamonn Andrews and his red book, getting off the train from his home town of Haywards Heath.

Although born into a Church of England family, he was a director of Catholic publishing house Burns & Oates, having been received into the church whilst a PoW.

He was Member of Parliament for Brighton Kemptown from 1959 to 1964, when he lost, after a record 7 recounts, by just 7 votes to Labour's Dennis Hobden (the first Labour MP for a Sussex constituency). James was subsequently elected as MP for North Dorset in 1970 and he served as member for that seat until his retirement in 1979, when he was succeeded by Sir Nicholas Baker.

Always a firm believer in the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, he co-founded the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau with naturalist Sir Peter Scott in 1962. In the 1964 election when he lost his Brighton seat, the narrowness of the result led to speculation that his stance on this 'issue' had been used against him by his political opponents, and may have proved decisive.

Subsequent to his death, his friend John Robson started work on his biography which was published under the title One Man In His Time (Spellmount Ltd. 1998).

Notes and references


Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Howard Johnson
Member of Parliament for Brighton Kemptown
Succeeded by
Dennis Hobden
Preceded by
Sir Richard Glyn
Member of Parliament for North Dorset
Succeeded by
Sir Nicholas Baker

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