Date of birth: 1881
Date of death: 8.3.1917
Regiment: King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Married to Caroline Durham Née Hinchcliffe
Service number: 201286 (3611)
On 14th November 1914, along with many work colleagues from Parkhill Colliery, John Durham enlisted in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, joining the 4th Reserve Battalion.
This battalion was initially formed to provide replacements for the first line battalion. Later the battalion became the 2/4th Battalion, KOYLI and was brigaded with similar Territorial units in 2/3rd Brigade, West Riding Division. On 13th January 1917, Private John Durham and the 2/4th KOYLI, along with the 2/5th KOYLI, left Wellingborough by train for Southampton, from where they sailed for France. Landing at Le Havre, the 2/4th KOYLI, along with the 2/5th KOYLI, formed part of the 187th Brigade, 62nd Division.
There followed a month of railway construction work and trench familiarisation exercises. However, on the 20th February 1917, the 187th Brigade went into the line. At this time the weather was very bad and ground conditions atrocious such that, relief from the front line was taking place after 48 hours.
With the German Army was now showing signs of retiring from this section of the line, the brigade began a forward movement, towards Puisieux and Beauregard Dovecot. On 25th February, the 2/4th KOYLI was in support of an attack by 2/5th KOYLI, east of Serre. The enemy artillery was at this time causing problems for the forward battalion and three companies from the 2/4th KOYLI, were ordered forward. Progress became very difficult due to heavy enemy shelling, and the two KOYLI battalions were ordered to hold the line they had gained. On being relieved the following evening, the two KOYLI battalions returned to Mailly-Maillett. After a week spent cleaning equipment and refitting at Oldham Camp, the 2/4th KOYLI battalion moved forward to the Bois d’Hollande, on the Miraumont Road. The following day, the 6th March, the battalion moved into the dug-outs near Miraumont and then into the front line, early on 8th March. Their orders were to establish a new line in advance of the present line and hold with six detached posts. In establishing the posts, particularly on the left, the battalion met some opposition. The 2/4th KOYLI were relieved on 9th March, having incurred eleven casualties.
Private John Durham of 2/4th KOYLI, having received shell wounds to the head and chest, was taken to the 4th Casualty Clearing Station, near the village of Varennes. However, he died from his wounds on the 8th March 1917and was buried in the Varennes Military Cemetery. This cemetery now contains 1219 graves from the First World War.
John Durham was the son of Alice Durham, spinster and daughter of Thomas Durham, landlord of the Queen Hotel, Outwood. He was baptised on the 17th April 1881, at St Mary Magdalene Church, Outwood, near Wakefield. His mother, Alice Durham married Joseph Smith, a joiner, on 12th March 1883, at Outwood. However, in 1891, John Durham, a schoolboy, was living with his grandparents at St Johns, Wakefield. His stepfather, Joseph Smith, died in March 1900 and on the census the following year, John Durham is shown living at the home of his widowed mother, Alice Smith and his extended family, at Bread Baker Lane.
On leaving school, John obtained work in the local coal mines, sometimes working as a coal hurrier. In 1902, at the age of 21 years, John Durham married Caroline Hinchcliffe, the daughter of John and Sarah Hinchcliffe of Hatfield Row, Outwood. Shortly afterwards, Sarah Elizabeth, the first of their six children, was born.
In August 1914, when war was declared, John Durham was employed as a face worker at Parkhill Colliery near Wakefield. At this time John and his family were living at Hatfield Row, Outwood.