First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Frederick James KING (1889–1915)

Frederick King

Frederick James King was born in Islip in 1889, the son of Henry King (born in Wendlebury, Oxfordshire in 1845) and his second wife Fanny Piddington (born in Cuddington, Buckinghamshire in 1856).

Frederick’s father Henry King was described as a butcher of Kidlington when he married his first wife Caroline Ashley of New Road, Oxford at St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 17 November 1874. They had the following children, who were Frederick’s half-brothers:

  • George Henry King, also known as Henry George King (born in Islip in 1875 and privately baptised there on 30 August)
  • Herbert Charles King (born in Islip on 24 May 1877 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church there on 19 June)
  • Frank John King (born in Kidlington in 1878 and baptised at St Mary’s Church there on 1 December).

Henry and his first wife evidently lived in Islip from 1875 to 1877, and then moved to Kidlington. Caroline King died in 1880 at the age of 34 and was buried at Kidlington on 10 May.

The 1881 census shows Frederick’s father Henry (35), described as a butcher and publican, living at the Black Bull in the Banbury Road, Kidlington with his three children Henry (5), Herbert (3), and Frank (2), and his housekeeper, 24-year-old Miss Fanny Piddington. Back in 1871 Fanny (16) had been living away from her parents with her two sisters Ann (19) and Emily (17) in Union Street, Amersham, and the three of them worked as laundresses. Fanny had an illegitimate child, Esther Piddington, born in Brill in 1875, who was brought up in Brill by Fanny’s parents (as were two other children who may also have been Fanny's).

On 11 August 1881 at St Nicholas’s Church, Islip, with a child already on the way, Henry’s father married his housekeeper Fanny Piddington, and they had the following children:

  • Mary Louisa King (born in Islip on 1 January 1882 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church there on on 12 February)
  • William David King (born in Islip on 14 September 1883 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church there on 9 December)
  • Sidney Richard King, known as Richard (born in Islip on 23 August 1885 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church there on 11 October)
  • Edward Thomas King (born in Islip on 3 August 1887 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church there on 11 September);
    died aged one, and buried in that churchyard on 7 May 1889
  • Frederick James King (born in Islip on 6 October 1889 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church there on 12 January 1890)
  • Frances Maud King (born in Islip on 11 June 1891 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church there on 9 August)
  • Walter King (born in Islip on 12 May 1893 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church there on 10 September)
  • Winifred Ethel King (born in Islip on 19 July 1895 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church there on 15 September).

Frederick’s father Henry King evidently moved back to Islip soon after his second marriage.

At the time of the 1891 census Frederick (1) was living at 12 Mill Street, Kidlington with his father Henry (45), who was described as a pork butcher, his mother Fanny (34) and his siblings Mary (9), William (7), Sidney (5), and Frederick (1). Two of his half-brothers were still living with them: Herbert (13), who was working as an assistant butcher, and Frank (12), who was at school. The family employed a 15-year-old servant girl.

Frederick’s father Henry King died at the age of 52 and was buried in Islip churchyard on 13 August 1897. He does not appear to have left his family well provided for, because by the time of the 1901 census Frederick’s mother Fanny (44) had moved to East Avenue in Oxford and was working at home as a laundress. Frederick (11) and five of her other children were living with her: William (18), who was a tram conductor; Sidney Richard (15), who was a butcher; and Frances (9), Walter (5), and Winifred (5), who were at school.

At the time of the 1911 census Frederick (27) was a cheesemonger's assistant, lodging at 87 Balham High Road, Balham. His mother Mrs Fanny King had moved up to All Saints' parish in Headington: she was still working as a laundress, and living at Highfield Farm (then owned by the Debron family and also known Debron’s Farm) with her youngest son Walter King (17), who was a grocer’s assistant, and (for the first time) her illegitimate daughter Miss Esther Piddington (35), who was a district midwife. (The March 1911 edition of the All Saints’ Church Magazine had announced that Miss Piddington, a fully-qualified midwife, was to begin work that month with the Headington & District Nursing Association.) Frederick's older brother William (27) was a married man, living with his wife and two children in Portslade-by-Sea and working as a wash-house engineer in a laundry; and his younger sisters Frances (19) and Winifred (15) were both working for a family at 13 Charlbury Road, North Oxford as a cook and under-nurse respectively.

Poppy In the First World War Frederick James King enlisted at Lambeth and served as a Driver in the 74th Brigade H.Q. of the Royal Field Artillery (Service No. 31126).

He died of wounds in France at the age of 26 on 19 October 1915 as a result of the explosion of a shell cap that his friend had brought into their billet as a souvenir.

Grave of Frederick King


He was buried at the Chocques Military Cemetery (I. G. 77). The photograph of his grave (left) was kindly supplied by British War Graves. The inscription reads:

31126 DRIVER
19TH OCTOBER 1915 AGE 26

[Emblem of Royal Field Artillery



This is one of the 40% of war graves that bears a personal message at the end (for which the family had to pay 3½d per letter).



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

On 22 November 1915, a month after his death, Driver William Knox of the Royal Artillery (Service No. 19976) wrote as follows to Frederick's mother Fanny King, giving his address as Sulhamstead House, near Theale, Berkshire (c/o Lady Watson):

Dear Mrs. King,
If I may take the liberty to address you so, just a few lines in answer to your letter, which I received this morning. I am at a loss as to how to commence my letter, but will do my best to give you the details of what occurred in France on that fateful day. I'm afraid I'm not much use at expressing sympathy, but believe me when I say that I feel your loss almost as much as yourself. To me Fred was a brother. I haven't any brothers but he was one to me. We had always been together for as we had to work in pairs you can realise how often we were together. Such being the case I cannot express my feelings in words. I did not get to hear of his death until a fortnight ago, when I received a letter from one of our chums out there. This chum had given into my keeping the day we were wounded, Fred's pay book and three five-franc notes it contained. On my arrival at Reading hospital I wrote a letter to yourself but on looking at the pay-book I found that it did not hold your address. I intended sending the pay-book to Fred through you. I next wrote to our chum at the front asking if he could give me Fred's home address trusting he might find an old letter of Fred's. When I received an answer about 9 or 10 days afterwards I was astounded to hear of my chum's death, and that his home address couldn't be got as all his belongings had been collected. I can never describe my feelings as I lay in my bed reading this fateful letter over and over again. On picking up the Times that morning, I found my chum's name amongst the 'died of wounds' list. I then sent the pay book and notes to our Adjutant at the front and last Saturday I received a letter from him in receipt of the pay-book and notes. Perhaps he has forwarded them to you by now. Now I will try to give you as near as possible, true facts concerning the accident. On Saturday, Oct 16th Fred and myself had been out with our Corporal and half a dozen others, gathering old wire, for the purpose of laying new communication lines. On our way we cam across two German shells that hadn't exploded. I unscrewed the top or the fuse cap as it is called, off the smallest of them, taking it back to our billet as a souvenir. What a souvenir! I have the consolation of knowing that if I had not taken it one of the others would have done so, but I cannot accept that consolation, for I feel that I am the sole cause of it all, therefore I will not attempt to hide behind any consolations. That night, Saturday Oct 16th, Fred and I were on the telephones all night and were entitled to a rest next day. On Sunday morning Oct 17th we were cleaning up our billet, and trying to make it a little more comfortable with some ammunition boxes as shelves. We were doing this before turning into bed for a sleep. Whilst we were busy the shell cap must have fallen from one of the boxes and the next thing I remember was Fred lying on top of me at the head of the stairs on to which we had scrambled. We were taken to different dressing stations with the result that I never saw my chum again. I asked at every hospital I was taken to if he were there, as I was expecting to meet him at one or other. I hadn't the slightest idea he had been wounded so badly. As regards my own wounds they weren't very serious. I had sixteen wounds in both legs but they are all healed now. My left ankle is still very weak but I can walk almost without a limp. I'm afraid that my nerves have suffered the worse although I did not know what nerves were before being wounded. Fred and I used to be out attending to our lines when the shells were falling thickest and we were in the open without any cover whatever but we never gave a thought to danger. Regarding Fred, I can tell you honestly Mrs. King, if it will be of any consolation to you, that he was one of the finest soldiers in our brigade. He always did his duty and if there was any extra work, he used to do the lion's share of it. During the months I knew him I never head him grumble, and the Lord knows we had plenty of cause to. But he always took things with a smile and I for one, curse the day I picked up that fuse cap. I hope you will forgive me for bringing this terrible loss to you, but I know I am not worth it. Why couldn't it be the reverse way, Fred here, and I out there? I suppose some people will call it fate, whilst the religious people will say it was God's will. Whichever it is, I only know it is cruel and unfair. He had a widowed mother and a girl who is waiting patiently for him whilst I hadn't a mother to break her heart over me. Mrs. King, I hope you will believe me when I say that I sympathise with you and those whom my chum's death has affected, from the bottom of my heart, and if there is anything I can ever do for you, I hope you will give me the pleasure of doing it. As regards your coming down here, I'm afraid it's rather awkward. This house is about two miles from the station and the only railway is a branch from Reading. Also there isn't any place at which you could put up. You might get a place at Theale, and I could visit you there but I'm afraid it would be a risky venture. If you intend doing so, let me know what day, and the time train you leave by then I could meet you at Theale station. I will close now hoping you will forgive me for writing such a long letter, and please do accept my sympathy and extend it to Fred's relations and his fiancée. Also hoping you will forgive me for being the innocent cause of this terrible catastrophe.
From one of your dear son's many chums, WILL KNOX.

This letter was kindly supplied by Roger King, the grandson of Frederick's brother Walter King.

All Saints' board


Frederick’s mother
  • Mrs Fanny King lived at 12 Manor Place, Holywell, Oxford after her son’s death.
Frederick’s siblings
  • William David King (born 1883), described as an engineer of 31 East Avenue, married Maud Ayers at Cowley St John Church on 26 August 1905 and they had three daughters: Violet Lily King (born in Headington in 1905/6) Doris Maud King (born in Oxford in 1908), and Frances King (born in Oxford in 1910).
  • Sidney Richard King (born 1885) was a butcher. At the time of the 1911 census when he was 25 he was boarding at 129 Brighton Road, Redhill, Surrey. He married Zoe Debron at Bounds Green, Haringay on 22 April 1912. They had probably met in Headington, as Zoe, who was six years his senior, was the daughter of the Debrons who owned Highfield Farm. Zoe's father Henry Debron, a pork butcher, had died at Highfield Farm on 8 July 1896, and Mrs Sarah Debron moved down to 144 Cowley Road but continued to run it until about 1913, when it was taken over by Sidney’s wife and her daughter, Mrs Zoe King.
  • Frances Maud King (born 1891) i married Albert Lawrence at Holywell Church on 30 April 1917.
  • Walter King (born 1893) married Emily Janes.
  • Winifred Ethel King (born 1895) is probably the Winifred E. King who married Augustus E. White in the Headington registration district in 1921.

See also
  • CWGC: King, Fredrick [sic] James
  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 24 November 1915, p. 6 ”Heroes of the War - University, City and County: Driver F. J. King, Highfield, R.F.A.” (shown above with kind permission of Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire History Centre)
  • Wikipedia: Royal Field Artillery

Back to All Saints’ Church, Highfield roll of honour

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website