Poppy

First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Bertie Frederick George JEFFS (1895–1916)

(Jeffs is also remembered on the St Andrew’s Church Roll of Honour and thus appears twice in the “tour”)

Bertie Jeffs

Bertie Jeffs killed

Bertie Frederick George Jeffs was born in Headington on 15 July 1895. He was the son of Francis Henry Jeffs (born on 4 May 1868 at Woolwich and baptised at St Mary Magdalene Church there on 26 July) and Amelia Elizabeth Jacob (born in Headington in 1866 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 29 July).

His parents were married at St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington on 28 December 1890 and had four children:

  • An unnamed child (probably stillborn, buried in Headington Cemetery on 11 January 1892)
  • Francis Ernest Arthur Jeffs (born in Headington on 18 January 1894 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 25 March)
  • Bertie Frederick George Jeffs (born in Headington on 15 July 1895 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 2 August)
  • Mollie Edith Nellie Jeffs (born at Windmill Road, Headington in 1896):
    died aged 14 weeks and buried at Headington Cemetery on 6 January 1897).

Bertie’s father Francis Jeffs was running a grocer’s shop in the Pits in Quarry at the time of his wedding, and he and his wife began their married life over the shop: the 1891 census shows them living there with Francis’s sister Maud (14). By early 1894 they had moved into St Andrew’s parish, and Bertie’s father was working as a railway porter. When Bertie himself was baptised in 1895, his father was described as a labourer.

The 1901 census shows Bertie (5) living at 39 Windmill Road (then numbered 12), which was on the east side of the road and so fell in Headington Quarry parish, with his father Francis (32), was now a painter’s labourer, his mother Amelia (35), and his older brother Francis (7). Ay the head of the household was Mrs Jeffs’s widowed mother, Mrs Alice Jacob (58), who took in laundry.

125 Windmill Road

By the time of the 1911 census the family had moved to 125 Windmill Road (then “Elm View”), left, which again was in Holy Trinity parish.

Bertie (aged 15) was apprenticed to a general blacksmith, and the fact that he appears on the St Andrew’s war memorial as well as the Quarry one suggests that he may have worked for the Stow brothers in Old High Street.

Bertie’s father was still a builder’s house painter, and his older brother Francis was an apprentice motor engineer.

Bertie Jeffs

Poppy In the First World War, Bertie Jeffs (19) volunteered to serve immediately in 1914 and joined the 11th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps (Service No. 3023).

He entered France on 8 August 1915. On 5 July 1916 a photograph of Jeffs on the right of a group of Oxford soldiers in a village in France (right) appeared in the Oxford Journal Illustrated. He rose to the rank of Corporal.

He died on 10 October 1916 at the age of 21 when he was flying as as observer/gunner with the pilot Flight Sergeant Ernest Haxton and their FE2b (6992) aeroplane was shot down in flames in an air battle over France.

His father and elder brother Francis were also serving in France at the time of his death.

Until 2017 Bertie Jeffs had no known grave and was commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial. That year British military researchers Tom Tulloch-Marshall and Jonathan Porter submitted a case to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission explaining that Bertie was buried as what was claimed to be an “Unknown RFC Officer” beside his pilot sergeant Ernest Haxton in Douchy-les-Ayette British Cemetery, and finally in 2021 the identification was confirmed by the CWGC and the Air Historical Branch of the Ministry of Defence. A rededication ceremony will take place at Douchy-les-Ayette British Cemetery in France on Tuesday 28 September 2021 at 10.30am.


Postscript

Quarry memorial

Bertie’s parents
  • Francis Jeffs moved with his wife Amelia to New Headington village in about 1920, and they lived at 5 New High Street. He died there at the age of 63 and was buried in Headington Cemetery on 18 November 1931: he was described in the burial register as being a painter.
  • Amelia Jeffs died at 5 New High Street at the age of 75 and was buried with her husband on 30 June 1941.
Bertie’s brother
  • Francis Ernest Arthur Jeffs (born 1894) became a motor mechanic. He married Edith Joy Edwards of New High Street at Holy Trinity Church on 5 April 1920, and the birth of their daughter Pauline Betty Jeffs was registered in the Headington district in the first quarter of 1929. The family was living on the Marston Road in Oxford in 1939, and Francis was a lorry driver. Their daughter Pauline never married: she lived at 65 Ferry Road, Marston, and died in Oxford at the age of 86 on 5 October 2015.

See also
  • CWGC: Jeffs, Bertie Frederick George
  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 5 July 1915, p. 4: Photograph of a group of Oxford soldiers in a village in France, including B. G. Jeffs of Headington (detail shown above left)
  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 15 November 1916, “Heroes of the War”: photograph of Bertie Jeffs of Headington, who was then missing, believed killed; and 11 April 1917, p. 6,“Heroes of the War”: photograph after he was confirmed dead (both shown above with kind permission of Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire History Centre)
  • Oxford Chronicle of 30 March 1917, p. 7: Obituary of Bertie Jeffs, with photograph
  • National Archives: Medal card of Bertie Jeffs
  • Wikipedia: Royal Flying Corps

Back to Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry roll of honour

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website