John Thomas TOMPKINS (1894–1915)
John Thomas Tompkins (known as Jack) was born in Heythrop in 1894. His parents were Thomas Tompkins (born in Chalford near Enstone in 1860) and Mary Ann Belcher (born in Oxford in 1859/60). His parents were married at Heythrop Church on 15 October 1892, when they were both 32 years old: Thomas signed his name with a cross, but Mary could write and was the daughter of an auctioneer. They had five children:
- John Thomas Tompkins (born in Heythrop in 1894, registered second quarter, and baptised at the church there on 1 July 1894)
- Henry Vincent Tompkins (born in Water Eaton in 1896, registered second quarter, and baptised at Kidlington Church on 19 July 1896)
- Grace Mary Tompkins (born in Water Eaton on 14 December 1898 and baptised at Kidlington Church on 29 January 1899)
- Twin: George Edward Tompkins (born in Wheatley in 1903, registered third quarter)
- Twin: Reginald Frank Tompkins (born in Wheatley in 1903, registered third quarter).
Jack’s father was a cowman on a farm. The family was living at Castle Farm Cottage in Heythrop when Jack was born in 1894, but had moved to Water Eaton by 1896.
By the time of the 1901 census they were living at Magpie Cottage in Little Tew, and Jack was then six years old. Two years later when his twin brothers were born, they were evidently living in Wheatley.
The 1911 census shows that they had moved yet again, and were living at Great Rollright. Jack (16) was now working as an under carter on a farm, and his younger brother Harry (14) had left home and was lodging with his aunt, Miss Emma Belcher, in Oxford, where he was working as a dentist’s page boy.
Given the way that Jack’s family moved around, it seems likely that his father next moved to Sunningwell to find agricultural work, especially as it was near near to his mother’s family home in Oxford. They were definitely there by 1915.
In December 1914 the following advertisement appeared in the Oxford Times:
Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars: Recruits
A Third Draft of Officers and Men having left for active service abroad, the Regiment is open to recruit 50 MORE MEN, who must be able to RIDE & SHOOT.
Regimental Headquarters, Yeomanry House, Oxford.
Jack may well have responded to this, as he started his training with the Hussars in the following month.
In the First World War John Thomas Tompkins volunteered to join the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars as a Private (Service No. 2440). Seven weeks into his training in Oxford, he contracted pneumonia and on 18 March 1915 died at the age of 20 in the 3rd Southern General Hospital in Oxford. He had a full military funeral, and was buried at Botley Cemetery (Grave II. 11).
He is remembered on the war memorial in St Leonard’s Church at Sunningwell.
Right: Photograph of John Thomas Tompkins’s grave in Oxford. The text reads:
[Emblem of the Queen’s Own
J. T. TOMPKINS
Q.O. OXFORDSHIRE HUSSARS
18TH MARCH 1915 AGE 20
HE ANSWERED THE CALL
OF HIS KING AND COUNTRY
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).
The photographs of Botley Cemetery (above) and Tompkins’s grave (right) were kindly supplied by British War Graves
Above: The branch of the 3rd Southern General Hospital where Tompkins died was likely to have been the Examination Schools in the High Street, where most non-officers were sent. (There was also an annexe in the Cowley Road, but this was in the Headington registration district, and the death of Tompkins was registered in the Oxford district.)
Jack Tompkins’s parents
They had moved back from Sunningwell to Water Eaton by about 1920 (according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission), but ended up in Oxford. They may have been living with one of their children, as they have no listing of their own in Kelly’s Directory:
- Mary A. Tompkins (Mrs Thomas Tompkins) died at the age of 80 in the Oxford district (registered first quarter of 1940)
- Thomas Tompkins died at the age of 80 in the Oxford district (registered first quarter of 1940); he must have died within a couple of months after his wife
- CWGC: Tompkins, John Thomas
- Wikipedia: Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars
- Oxford Journal Illustrated, 24 March 1915, p. 2: two large photographs of Tompkins’ funeral captioned “Placing the coffin in the hearse” and “Men of the Q.O.O.H. following the hearse”
- Oxford Journal Illustrated, 31 March 1915: under “Images of local casualties”, captioned “Trooper J. TOMPKINS, Sunningwell, Q.O.O.H.—Died of pneumonia” (shown above with kind permission of Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire History Centre)