Escomb is a village to the west of Bishop Auckland, east of Witton Park and south of the River Wear in south west County Durham. At the turn of the 19/20 century, coal mining was the major source of employment, as it was in virtually every village in Durham. The George Pit was the nearest colliery and men from Escomb and Witton Park would work there.
ESCOMB WAR MEMORIAL
Escomb War Memorial was unveiled Sunday 2 October 1921 by Lord Gainford and dedicated by The Rev. Lord Thurlow, Vicar of Auckland and Rural Dean. Originally, 15 men were commemorated and 2 more men were added later, namely E. Blades & R. Lee.
A local press report reads:
“ESCOMB WAR MEMORIAL
Lord Gainford on Sunday afternoon unveiled at Escomb Churchyard the cross erected as a memorial of fifteen men from the parish who fell in the war. There was a procession from the old Saxon church to the new church where the service was conducted by the Rev. W. Hodgson (vicar); the Rev. W. Wallace, Wesleyan Minister, taking part. The Rev. Lord Thurlow, Vicar of Auckland and Rural Dean, preached on the subject of, “Living Stones” with special reference to the Saxon Church of the parish, perhaps the most perfect example remaining of early Christian architecture, yet strangely enough, composed of great stones brought from the neighbouring Roman camp on the other side of the river. One stone, he remarked, was inscribed the name of the Sixth Legion, “Lega VI”, a famous regiment which took an honourable part in the defence of the empire when Britain was a Roman province and Binchester a frontier fortress. Could those stones speak, he felt sure they would tell of the pride with which they marked the lads of Escomb go forth early two thousand years later to serve in another famous regiment, the 6th DLI. Lord Gainford having uncovered the memorial, congratulated the village on the fact that out of a population of 700, no fewer than 88 joined the forces and served in the war. The Rev. R. Laidler offered prayer and the memorial was dedicated by the Rural Dean. As a memento of the occasion, Lord Gainford was presented by the Vicar with a volume of Whittier’s poems. Mr. Hambling, secretary of the memorial committee, announced that £453 had been raised for the fund of which £250 has been spent on gold medals for the men who had returned, the remainder being set apart for the memorial to meet the cost of which £50 was still required.”
ESCOMB WAR MEMORIAL:
In addition to those below, another soldier 14515 Private John T. Hadley, 6th Battalion, The East Yorkshire Regiment, has been researched. His photo appeared in a local newspaper, probably the Illustrated Chronicle.
|NAME||REGIMENT||DATE OF DEATH||CEMETERY|
|BAILEY G.B.||2/7 MANCHESTER REGIMENT||17/08/1917||COXYDE MC|
|BIGGS J.E.||ROYAL ENGINEERS (RAILWAYS)||19/03/1918||ESCOMB|
|BLADES E.||1/7 WEST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT||21/11/1917||ETAPLES MC|
|DIXON G.||15/DLI||18/10/1916||CAMBRIN CHURCHYARD CEMETERY|
|ETHERINGTON J.J.||10/CAMERONIANS||15/09/1916||THIEPVAL MEMORIAL|
|GIBBON R.J.||1/6 DLI||01/10/1916||THIEPVAL MEMORIAL|
|GREAVISON W.||1/6 DLI||14/04/1917||ARRAS MEMORIAL|
|HUGHES J.E.||7/EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT||15/11/1915||LIJSSENHOEK|
|HEWITT G.||ROYAL ARTILLERY (23TMB)||20/07/1916||PEAKE WOOD FRICOURT|
|HEWITT I.W.||1/6 DLI||15/09/1916||THIEPVAL MEMORIAL|
|INGRAM G.||10/CAMERONIANS||07/06/1916||VERMELLES BC|
|JAMES H.||ROYAL ARMY SERVICE CORPS (58DivMTCoy)||24/03/1919||TOURNAI CC|
|LEE R.||2/EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||02/09/1918||ORCHARD DUMP ARLEUX-EN-GOHELLE|
|NEVISON J.||2/DLI||21/09/1914||LA FERTE-SOUS-JOUARRE MEMORIAL|
|RACE H.B.||2/DLI||22/10/1917||ARRAS MEMORIAL|
|SCALES J.||ROYAL MARINES Medical Unit||14/11/1916||HAMEL MC BEAUMONT-HAMEL|
|TAGUE W.||14/DLI||28/09/1915||LOOS MEMORIAL|
REFERENCES & NOTES
 Darlington & Stockton Times Saturday 8 October 1921, Source: NE War Memorials Project
Thanks to Helen Morton, Bob Dixon, Dale Daniel and Howard Chadwick
ESCOMB CEMETERY BURIALS
There are 8 soldiers with Commonwealth War Grave Commission (CWGC) headstones from the First World War buried in Escomb cemetery, 7 of whom are commemorated either on Escomb or Witton Park War Memorials. Also, Reverend John Francis Krajicek (1877-1918), the Roman Catholic priest of St. Chad’s, Witton Park, who was instrumental in securing houses in Witton Park for Belgian refugees from the town of Aarschot, is buried there (details below).
Those with CWGC headstones are:
- BIGGS John Elliott, Sapper 194252, Royal Engineers (Escomb WM)
- BOWES Thomas William, Private 14709, 15/DLI (Witton Park WM)
- CAMPION John, Private 356625, 10/King’s Liverpool Regiment (Witton Park WM)
- CASSON John George, Private 96074, 3/DLI (Witton Park WM)
- CHADWICK James Private 125542, Machine Gun Company (Witton Park WM)
- MARTINDALE John W.P. Private 4229, 7/Highland Light Infantry (Witton Park WM)
- SWINBANK Joseph Driver 14569 14/DLI (Witton Park WM)
The 8th is:
- BELLERBY Robert Private 27708, East Yorkshire Regiment. 10 April 1919, aged 22, he died of pneumonia at the military barracks at Mullingar, Ireland. In 1911, his family lived at Etherley Moor then they moved to Eldon Lane. He is not commemorated on either Eldon, Eldon Lane, Escomb or Witton Park War Memorials.
There are 4 soldiers commemorated on Witton Park WM who we believe to be buried in Escomb cemetery. It is known that 38660 Private Joseph H. Humble, 4/East Yorkshire Regiment is buried there and we have submitted an application to the CWGC for a headstone. We believe that the following 3 “returned servicemen” lie in Escomb cemetery:
- SELBY George E., Private 31451, Army Veterinary Corps who died 3 November 1919
- MOORE James, Sergeant 48896, RGA who died in 1920 (Q2)
- PLUMMER Ernest, Private 433377, 11/DLI who died in 1920 (Q2)
If this can be verified, then we will apply for CWGC headstones in due course.
JOHN FRANCIS KRAJICEK 1877 – 1918
Reverend John Francis Krajicek, the Roman Catholic priest of St. Chad’s, Witton Park was born in London of parents born in Moravia, then a region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The area is now part of the Czech Republic. In 1867, the Krajicek family emigrated to Britain, settling in London. The family background was very ordinary, his father Josef worked as a cooper, his siblings were employed in trades such as printing, plumbing and clothing manufacture.
John attended St. Cuthbert’s College, Ushaw near Durham City which was the principle Roman Catholic seminary for the training of Catholic priests in the north of England, more recently known as Ushaw College. In 1903, John was ordained to the priesthood and by 1911, he was an assistant priest at Stella-on-Tyne living with the Very Reverend H.C. Wrennell.
By the beginning of the Great War, in 1914, aged 38, he was priest at St. Chad’s. Rev. J.F. Krajicek was instrumental in securing houses in Witton Park for Belgian refugees from the town of Aarschot.
Reverend J. F. Krajicek lost 2 nephews, killed in action:
- S/817 Lance Corporal Joseph Vincent Krajicek, 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade was killed in action 30 July 1915, aged 19. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium. His parents, Joseph and Alice lived at 15 Brixham Road, Canning Town, London.
- B/200667 Lance Corporal Sigmund John Krajicek, 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade was killed in action 11 April 1917 aged 20. He is buried at London Cemetery, Neuville-Vitasse, France. His parents Sigmond and Elizabeth lived at 15 Priscilla Road, Bow, London.
Rev. J.F. Krajicek witnessed the end of the war but 1 month later he was dead. Aged 42, he succumbed to pneumonia, 10 December 1918, as the pandemic known as “Spanish Flu” swept through Britain and Europe. He is buried in Escomb Cemetery.
John Francis Krajicek was born 1877 in London, the son of Josef and Franziska (nee Zednicek). Josef (1837-1906) and Frances (1843-1910) were from Moravia in what is now the eastern Czech Republic but in the 19th century was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Josef and Frances departed Dietkowitz, Profonitz, Mahren in 1867, destination England. There were 8 children, 2 died in infancy:
- Alexander Paul born 13 January 1868 died 27 June 1868, Hanover Square, London
- Josef born 13 December 1868, Soho, London
- Sophia born 1870, Soho
- Sigmond born 3 May 1872, Soho
- Frances born 1874 died 28 July 1875, Edmonton
- John Francis born 1877
- Mary Frances born 27 January 1878, Soho
- Ludwig born 26 August 1882, Soho
In 1871, the Krajicek family lived at St. James, Westminster, London where 34 years old Josef worked as a, “cooper”. By 1891, the family were at 26 Priscilla Road, Bow & Bromley, London and 54 years old Josef was in the same occupation. Josef junior, now 23 years old was a printer, Sophia, 21, was a tailoress, Sigmund, 19, was a plumber and 13 years old Mary and 9 years old Ludwig were both at school. At this time, 14 years old John Krajicek was at St. Cuthbert’s College, Ushaw near Durham City described as a, “Student of Rudiment”. This was the principle Roman Catholic seminary for the training of Catholic priests in the north of England, more recently known as Ushaw College. He was still a student there 10 years later.
By 1901, the Krajicek family still lived at the same property in Priscilla Road and 64 years old Josef still worked as a cooper, 23 years old Mary was a machinist and 18 years old Ludwig’s employment is undecipherable.
19 July 1903, John F. Krajicek was ordained to the priesthood at St. Cuthbert’s College
By 1911, John, now 34, was the “Rev John Krajicek, assistant RC Priest” living with the Very Rev. Henry Canon Wrennall MA at Stella Rectory, Stella-on-Tyne.
The War Years 1914-1918
By 1914, the Rev. J.F. Krajicek was the priest at St. Chad’s R.C. Church, Witton Park, County Durham.
Sadly, the headstone of Rev. John F. Krajicek has collapsed and is in a poor state of repair.