First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Harry Dan GODFREY (1895–1917)

Harry Dan Godfrey

Harry Dan Godfrey was born Harry Dan McKenzie at Pimlico in London in 1895. He was the illegitimate son of Martha Wood McKenzie (born in Lossiemouth in Scotland in 1861 and baptised there on 29 April). His father was almost certainly Henry (or Harry) Thomas Godfrey (born in Old Headington in 1865 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 26 March).

Martha McKenzie had her son baptised as Harry Dan McKenzie at St Clement's Church, Oxford on 1 March 1896. She implied that she was married, and that her husband Harry McKenzie was a Private in the Coldstream Guards: she was in fact describing Harry Godfrey, who served in the 2nd Battalion of that regiment.

Harry’s parents Martha Wood McKenzie and Harry Thomas Godfrey are hard to find in the 1901 census and may have been abroad with the army; but Harry’s paternal grandparents remained rooted in Old Headington.

At the time of the 1901 census Harry Dan McKenzie (5) was staying in Old High Street with his grandparents: Henry Godfrey (70) was a carrier and Sarah Godfrey (67) was a home laundress, helped by her single daughter Harriet  (25). They described Harry as their nephew, but he was evidently their illegitimate grandson and may have been living with them permanently.

Within two years of the census, Harry’s grandparents were dead: Sarah Godfrey (68) was buried in Headington Cemetery on 18 June 1902, and Henry Godfrey (74) on 11 April 1903.

On 10 December 1902 at St John's Church in Islington, when Harry was aged seven, his parents Henry Thomas Godfrey and Martha Wood McKenzie were married, and they had one more child:

  • Dan Godfrey (born at Aldershot, Hampshire on 9 May 1904).

Harry Dan McKenzie, who was seven years old at the time of his parents' wedding, henceforth became known as Harry Dan Godfrey, but he did not go to live with them.

Harry’s parents had settled in Headington by 1910, when his father Harry Thomas Godfrey is listed in Kelly’s Directory as a “jobmaster & cab proprietor, Highfield Livery stables”.

At the time of the 1911 census Harry Dan Godfrey, as he was now known, who was aged 15 and an apprentice to a builder, was still living in Old Headington, this time with his aunt and uncle Harriet and James Bateman, and their three young children at Pangbourne House in Old High Street. (Harry’s father’s sister, Elizabeth Harriet Godfrey, had married the bricklayer James Henry Bateman at St Andrew’s Church on 10 February 1906.).

Harry's parents were on the other side of the London Road in Highfield parish at the present 99 Lime Walk (“Woodbine Cottage”, then numbered  59), and Harry’s brother Dan (6) was with them. His father Henry Thomas Godfrey (44) volunteered to serve in the First World War in September 1915 (when his address was still Woodbine Cottage), and was sent to France.

Poppy In the First World War Harry Dan Godfrey served in the the Royal Fusiliers, first in the 17th Battalion (S.) and then as a Serjeant in the 11th Battalion (Service No. 51841). He was killed in action at the Somme in France at the age of 21 on 17 February 1917.

He was buried at the Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt, and his war grave there has the added words “A LIFE LAID DOWN IS A LIFE GAINED / REST IN PEACE”. (Only 40% of war headstones bear an inscription such as this near their base: the main inscription was free, but families had to pay 3½d per letter for a personal message.)

He is remembered on the Roll of Honour of All Saints’ Church, Highfield.

In Oxford in the Great War, p. 84, Malcolm Graham quotes from a letter sent by Harry Dan Godfrey to his mother just two days before he was killed:

Just a line to let you know I am still quite well and am using the advantage of a green envelope to let you have a little news. Please let Aunt Harriett know I received her parcel quite safely and the cake and cocoa was a treat (it always is in the line) as rations are not so plentiful and we know what it is to crave for water even in this cold weather … tomorrow 16.2.17 we are off up the line for another large “Stunt” on a very large scale, one whole Division going over the top in an attack. My Company is in the front wave, so don't be surprised the next time I write I am on my way to “Blighty”.


All Saints' board

Harry’s parents
  • Mrs Martha Wood Godfrey died at the age of 70 at Woodbine Cottage in Lime Walk, and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 2 September 1931.
  • Harry Thomas Godfrey died at the age of 74 at the house of his younger son Dan (77 Old High Street) and was buried with his wife on 7 June 1939.
Harry’s brother
  • Dan Godfrey (born 1904) was still living at 77 Old High Street in 1952.

See also

Back to All Saints’ Church, Highfield roll of honour

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website