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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

John Warwick Huggins (1886-1915)

Information about John Warwick Huggins, teacher at Wheatley Hill, who was killed at the Second Battle of Ypres and is commemorated on Durham County Council War Memorial.


John Warwick Huggins was born on 2 June 1886 at Crosby Ravensworth, Westmorland. His parents were Isaac Huggins and Mary Jane Huggins (nee Warwick), and he was their youngest child. In 1891, when he was four, his father kept the Crown Hotel at Eamont Bridge in Westmorland, and had probably done so for about 13 years. Isaac died in 1893 and by 1901 Mary Jane was running the Central Hotel in Duke Street, Whitehaven, Cumberland. By 1911 Mary Jane had moved again and was in charge of the Albion Hotel in King Street, Whitehaven. Both the Crown and the Central still exist, and the Crown is described as a coaching inn dating back to 1770.

Durham Light Infantry in trenches, Second Battle of Ypres, 25 April 1915 (D/DLI 7/424/2(44))
In 1901 John was described as a 'school teacher' as was his older sister, Jessie Ann. Although at 21 she could justifiably give herself that description, in practice he was a pupil teacher at Whitehaven St. James' National School, the school that he had attended. In 1905 he applied to Bede College in Durham City to continue his training, and his reference from the vicar of Whitehaven St. Nicholas, Rev CBS Gillings, notes that John was a member of the Bible Class, and that Mr Gillings was convinced he would 'prove a most useful student'. The report of his two years at Bede College records that he was 'noisy, talkative, hardworking', but that he 'does not get enough out of his pupils'. While at Bede he was a member of the college company (B Company) of the 8th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry.

In the 1906/07 and 1907/08 seasons Jack (as he was known) Huggins played football for Sunderland AFC, initially as an amateur and then as a professional. He played as outside-left in 14 games, and scored two goals, one against Manchester United in October 1906, and one against Sheffield United in February 1907. In 1908/09 he also played professionally for Reading FC, then in the Southern League (effectively the Third Division of the Football League). He also played locally for Durham City and Wingate. In the summer months he played cricket for Sunderland, Wheatley Hill and Castle Eden.

His college report does not indicate where he began teaching, but in early 1909 he was employed at Swansea Road Council School, Reading in Berkshire (this may have been linked to his playing for Reading FC), and on 16 May he began work as a Certificated Assistant (Grade A) at Wheatley Hill Boys Secondary School. His name appears in the school log book infrequently, usually recording an absence for illness, however on 22 February 1911 the head teacher wrote 'On the classes resuming work this afternoon I found that Mr JW Huggins was absent and on enquiry learned that he had gone to play in a football match. I have received no official information that he had been granted leave of absence, neither has he spoken to me personally'. Mr Bowhill's annoyance radiates from the page, but no repercussions of this event are recorded. For 12 weeks in early 1913 John Huggins was absent with a fractured tibia (or shin bone) - possibly a football related injury. While at Wheatley Hill he started a school football team 'which carried all before them, and won cups and medals in everything in which they entered', though no record of the team's success appears in the school logbook.

On 18 September 1914 Mr Bowhill recorded that 'Mr JW Huggins went to Durham this morning to be medically examined, having volunteered for active service during the war', and a week later 'Mr JW Huggins has been absent the whole of the week, having taken up active service in connection with the war. [His] Class has consequently been under my own charge.' On 20 November Mr Bowhill noted that 'Mr Huggins has been on active service since the 19th of September the work has had to be carried on under very considerable difficulties.' Although the logbook records visits to the school of old boys who were serving in the forces and some deaths, the only mention of John Huggins occurs in January 1917 - 'Forwarded to District Clerk card recording Military service of Jno. W. Huggins who died of wounds whilst a prisoner of war in Germany.'

John Huggins rejoined the 8th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. The battalion was mobilised on 4 August 1914 and went to France on 20 April 1915. Within three days it was ordered into the front line to take part in the Second Battle of Ypres, and it was during this fighting that John Huggins was killed. He was reported missing in June 1915 and it was believed that he was a prisoner of war, but at the end of the year information from the Red Cross indicated that he had been killed in action and buried by German soldiers at Wallemolen, near Roulers. It seems likely that he was either killed or mortally wounded at the Gravenstafel Ridge, east of Ypres, on 25 April. Unfortunately John's service records do not appear to have survived. He is buried in Perth Cemetery, east of Ypres, his body having been moved from the German cemetery at Wallemolen after the war.


Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19 CD
Medal Rolls Index Cards
North East War Memorials Project website
Bede College students' record book, E/HB 234
Bede College register of applicants, E/HB 257
Wheatley Hill Boys Secondary School log book, E/E 90, pp.90,136,214,217,256,
1891 Census return, RG 12/4327,ff.69v,70r
1901 Census return, RG 13/4892
1911 Census return, RG 14/31494
Durham Advertiser, 11 February 1916, p.8(d)
Durham Advertiser, 11 June 1915, p.7(e)
Dykes, G and Lamming, D. (2000) All the Lads, 1884-2000, Sunderland AFC Sunderland AFC player profiles