Private 2286 2/6th Battalion Devonshire Regiment
21st July 1897 – 14th April 1915
Jack (John) Haysom was born in Barnstaple, his baptism record at Holy Trinity Church in Barnstaple states he was born on the 21st July 1897, the son of Richard and Ellen Haysom of 35 Litchdon Street.
His father Richard was born in Hampshire and had moved to Barnstaple by the time the 1881 census was taken. He married Ellen Hobbs in 1884 at Fremington Parish Church. Richard was listed as a house decorator and picture framer at various addresses in Barnstaple on the census records after 1881. Richard and Ellen had several children including Jack they were Nellie, (George deceased 1889), Alice, William, Frederick, Elizabeth, May, George and Charles.
On the 1901 census the family was living in Litchdon Street, in the 1906 Kelly’s Directory Richard was listed as a plumber at 69 Boutport Street and by the time of the 1911 census the family were living at 71 Boutport Street.
In this last census Jack who was aged 14 was listed as being at school, he attended the Ashleigh Road Council School.
A North Devon Journal Article on the 10th September 1914 states as follows:-
“Mr R Haysom, painter and decorator of the Square Barnstaple has 3 sons in the 6th Battalion Devon Regiment, William B, Jack and Fred Haysom; and all have volunteered for foreign service. The two remaining sons are members of Barnstaple Boy Scouts.”
Jack became a Private in the 2/6th Battalion (Territorials) of the Devonshire Regiment which was formed in Barnstaple in September 1914 and subsequently was sent to India.
When the war broke out in India the country was in a state of political unrest. Before the war started the Germans had spent a lot of time trying to stir up anti-British feeling in India. The feeling was that if Britain was involved in a crisis elsewhere in the world then the Indian separatists would use this time as an opportunity to fight their cause. However when war was declared on the 4th August 1914 India rallied to the cause, many influential people in India at the time then felt that the cause for Indian independence would be advanced by helping out the British Government however they could.
On the 22nd September 1914 the Indian Government agreed to send 32 British and 20 Indian regular army battalions to Europe in exchange for 43 territorial force battalions of which the newly formed 2nd/6th Battalion Devonshire Regiment was one.
Jack Haysom’s name appears in this list of local soldiers in the 6th Devons which was printed in the North Devon Journal in October 1914.
On the 12th December 1914 the battalion sailed for India and came under orders of 6th (Poona) Divisional Area at Bombay where they stayed until moving to 7th (Meerut) Divisional Area in 1916.
Another soldier in the 2/6th Battalion, Vernon Carr Boyle, recorded his wartime experiences in what are a remarkable collection of watercolours and sketches of India and Mesopotamia. These have been put on exhibition this year, entitled From Devon to Dujailah (click on link for details) at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, to mark the centenary of the Battle of Dujailah, part of the campaign to free the besieged British and Indian garrison at Kut in Mesopotamia. Although little-remembered today, the Battle was the worst day of the First World War for North Devon. The Sixth Battalion the Devonshire Regiment suffered 300 casualties on that day. From 1924 Barnstaple remembered the losses of “Dujailah Day” with a church service, and the survivors met up every year until at least 1953.
However Jack Haysom was not to see service in Mesopotamia. The next information in the North Devon Journal was in the edition dated the 22nd April 1915 which has a notice of his death from enteric fever. There was also an article giving details of his death in the same paper which reads as follows:-
“DEATH OF A BARUM SOLDIER IN INDIA”
“The sad news reached Barnstaple on Monday of the death in India of Signaller Jack Haysom, 2/6th Devons, third son of Mr and Mrs R Haysom, The Square, Barnstaple. Captain Crewe who is with the Regiment, cabled to the Mayor of Barnstaple (Councillor F A Jewell) informing him of the sad occurrence. The pathetic news was at once conveyed by the Mayor to the bereaved parents and family, with whom the greatest sympathy is expressed. The deceased wrote home recently stating that he had a sore throat. Enteric fever, however supervened, and he passed away after a fortnight’s illness.
Signaller Haysom, who was nearly 19 years of age, before enlisting, early in the War, worked as a tailor with Mr C Hobbs of Bickington. He was a keen footballer and during the period that his Regiment was billeted in Barnstaple, played for H Company in the Inter-Company League games. He was an “old boy” of the Ashleigh Road Council School and sang in the Barnstaple Parish Church Choir for a period of two years. He was of a bright and happy disposition, and was very popular in the Regiment. His death will be deeply regretted by his many friends and acquaintances in Barnstaple. A brother Corporal Bob Haysom is serving in the same company, whilst Private Fred Haysom another brother is at Lahore with the 1/6th Devons.
Even more tragically, according to Jack’s baptism and the 1911 Census, he would actually have only been 17 years of age when he died.
Enteric or Typhoid fever was spread by contaminated food or water and caused many deaths and illness during the Great War period. Vaccination against typhoid had hardly begun and was not in general use.
Jack Haysom’s name is on the Kirkee War Memorial in the Kirkee War Cemetery, Mumbai (Bombay). The 1914-1918 Memorial at Kirkee commemorates nearly 2000 soldiers who served and died in India during this war.
There are 629 First World War servicemen buried in the cemetery in unmarked graves in the grassed area between the Memorial and the Cross of Sacrifice, whose names are included on the memorial; many of the other soldiers listed on the Memorial are buried in civil cemeteries elsewhere in India.
Ancestry Library Edition – Census records (available free online in the Local Studies Centre and in any Devon library)
British Newspaper Archive – North Devon Journal (available free online in the Local Studies Centre)
findmypast – school admission books; parish baptism registers (available free online in the Local Studies Centre)