First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

James Frederick DURHAM (1896–1916)

Some of this information is repeated under the entry for James’s brother John William Durham, who also died in the war

James Durham

James Frederick Durham (whose first two names were at some point switched from Frederick James) was born in Headington in 1896, the son of George Edward Durham (born in Headington in 1866 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 4 December) and Polly Escott, otherwise known as Mary (born in Melksham, Wiltshire in about 1862). Polly was working as a housekeeper at 5 Norham Road in north Oxford when she met James’s father, who was then a general labourer.

James’s parents were married at New Road Baptist Chapel on 3 August 1891, and had eight children, of whom the following were still alive in 1911:

  • John William Durham (born in Headington on 2 April 1894)
  • Ernest George Durham (born in Headington in 1895, reg. second quarter)
  • (Frederick) James Durham (born in Headington in 1896, birth reg. third quarter)
  • Ebenezer William Durham (born in Headington on 12 September 1900; later took Escott as a second middle name)
  • Amy Ella Sophia Durham (born in Headington in 1901, reg. fourth quarter).

At the time of the 1901 census James (4) was living in Lime Walk with his father George (35), who was a general labourer, his mother Mary (38), and his siblings John (6), Ernest (5), and Ebenezer (six months).

By 1911 the family were living at 31 Holyoake Road (whose address was then 16 Western Road; the west side of this road was in Highfield parish). James’s father (45) was now a builder’s merchant’s porter. James’s two older brothers were at work: John (17) was a tobacconist’s porter and Ernest (15) was a grocer’s porter. Ebenezer (10) and Amy (9) were at school. James himself (14) had probably just left school and was described as having “no employment”. By 1916, he was employed as a printer, and was a member of the Sons of Temperance and connected with Headington Baptist Church.

James’s mother Mary (Polly) Durham died at the age of 50 in 1914 (first quarter, Headington Registration District), and so was spared from seeing all four of her sons serve, and two die, in the First World War.

Grave of James Durham

Poppy By March 1915 James Durham, along with his two older brothers John and Ernest, had volunteered to serve in the First World War. He fought as a Private in the 2nd/4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Service No. 4250). He was killed in France at the age of 19 or 20 on 13 July 1916 when a trench-mortar bomb fired by the enemy caught the whole platoon of D company as they slept in their trench.

He is buried in the Pont-du-Hem Military Cemetery at La Gorgue (I.B18), and is remembered on the Roll of Honour of All Saints’ Church, Highfield.



Left: Photograph of James Frederick Durham’s grave at the hamlet of Pont-du-Hem, France, kindly supplied by Fiona Smalley, his great-niece. The inscription reads:

[Emblem of the
Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry]

13TH JULY 1916

Just three months later, on 11 October 1916, his eldest brother John William Durham died of wounds in France at the age of 22.

Durham brothersThe eldest three Durham brothers, John, Ernest, and James, on active service in 1915. Only Ernest survived

War service of the two surviving brothers

Ernest George Durham
Ernest (the second Durham brother who had been working a baker) had also enlisted as a volunteer right at the start of the war on 21 September 1914. He served in the Royal Marine Light Infantry in Greece, and was discharged as invalided on 9 February 1917.

Ebenezer William Escott Durham
On 17 September 1918, less than two months before the end of the war and just after his 18th birthday, Ebenezer (the fourth and youngest Durham brother, who had been working as a porter) joined the navy as a ship’s cook and served on the Calypso.

All Saints' board


James’s father
  • George Edward Durham is listed at 36 Stapleton Road (“Charlbury Cottage”, formerly numbered 14) from 1926 to 1936. He died at that address at the age of 71 on 16 February 1937, and his daughter Amy was his executor.
James’s siblings
  • John William Durham (born 1894) was also killed in the First World War: see separate page
  • Ebenezer William Escott Durham (born 1900) remained in the Royal Navy after the war. He passed educationally for Petty Officer on 6 March 1923, and for Leading Cook on 30 April 1925. He re-engaged in the Navy on 25 January 1929. On 17 November 1933 he was awarded the RN Long Service and Good Conduct Medal while serving on the Pembroke. In 1926 in the Weymouth registration district he married Olive Daisy A. Stevens. Their son Kenneth W. Durham was born in Weymouth in 1930. They were living at 11 Turton Street, Weymouth at the time of their deaths (Olive on 10 December 1973, and Ebenezer on 24 February 1981).

See also

Back to All Saints’ Church, Highfield roll of honour

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website