First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

John William DURHAM (1894–1916)

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

John Durham

John William Durham was born in Headington in 1894, the son of George Edward Durham (born in Headington in the first quarter of 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 John’s father, who was then a general labourer.

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

The 1901 census shows the family living in Lime Walk with John (6), Ernest (5), James (4), and Ebenezer (6 months). John’s father was working as a bricklayer’s labourer.

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). John’s father (45) was now a builder’s merchant’s porter and John himself (17) was a tobacconist’s porter. His brother Ernest (15) was a grocer’s porter, James (14) had no employment yet, and. Ebenezer (10) and Amy (9) were at school.

John’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.

John Durham's grave

Poppy By March 1915 John William Durham, along with his two younger brothers Ernest and James, had volunteered to serve in the First World War. James was killed in France at the age of 19 or 20 on 13 July 1916

John served as a Private in the 2nd/4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Service No. 4288). He died of wounds in France at the age of 22 on 11 October 1916, just three months after his brother was killed.

He is buried in the Merville Communal Cemetery (I. A. 22) and is remembered on the Roll of Honour of All Saints’ Church, Highfield.



Left: Photograph of John William Durham’s grave at Merville, France, kindly supplied by Fiona Smalley, his great-niece. The inscription reads:

[Emblem of the
Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry]]


Durham brothersThe three eldest 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

John’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.
Johns’s siblings
  • (Frederick) James Durham (born 1896) was also killed in the First World War: see
    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