BIGGS John 1877 – 1918

JOHN BIGGS 1877 – 1918

194252 Sapper John Elliott Biggs, Royal Engineers (Railways) died 19 March 1918, aged 40.  He is buried at Bishop Auckland (Escomb) Cemetery[1] and commemorated on the Escomb war memorial.

Family Details

John Elliott Biggs was born 1877,[2] at Escomb, the son of Thomas and Mary Biggs.  There were at least 8 children:[3]

  • George bc.1865 at Allenheads, Northumberland
  • William bc.1866 at Allenheads, Northumberland
  • Abigail bc.1868 at Escomb
  • Susanna bc.1871 at Escomb
  • Thomas bc.1874 at Escomb
  • Robert bc.1876 at Escomb
  • John born 1877 at Escomb
  • Albert bc. 1882 at Escomb

In 1881, the family lived at Bridge Row, Escomb where Thomas worked as a coal miner.[4]  By 1891, the family lived at Escomb Lane.  Thomas, aged 52 worked as a coal miner, William was a County Council clerk, Thomas was a butcher’s assistant, Robert was a County Council clerk and 14 years old John was a grocer’s assistant.[5]  By 1901, the family lived at Bridge Row, Escomb and 62 years old Thomas was now working as a cartman, Thomas as a quarryman, 23 years old John as a Railway Clerk and Albert as a cabinet maker.[6]

26 August 1903, John E. Biggs married Emma Hambling at St. John’s church, Escomb.[7]  By 1911, John and Emma Biggs lived at Gateshead where 33 years old John worked as a, “Railway Timekeeper”.[8]  John and Emma lived at Askew Road, Gateshead.[9]  John and Emma had 1 child, who John would never see, named John Elliott born 18 July 1918.  Emma returned home to live at Escomb, with her mother[10] then lived at Jackson’s Cottage, Etherley Road[11] and Etherley Grange, Bishop Auckland.[12]

Military Details

9 November 1915, aged 38, John Elliott Biggs enlisted at Gateshead into the Royal Engineers, Railway Operating Division and was given the service number 194252 and was placed on the Army Reserve.[13]  22 August 1916, Sapper J.E. Biggs was mobilized and posted to the RE Longmoor Camp.  He served “At Home” for the total period.  Including the Army Reserve, he served 2 years 131 days.  He was qualified as a signalman (proficient) remustered to Clerk (Skilled), with effect from 21 March 1917.[14]

Royal Engineers cap badge

19 March 1918, Sapper John E. Biggs died at Frensham Hill Military Hospital, Farnham, Surrey.  The Medical Report stated:[15]

“No.194252, Spr. J.E. Biggs was admitted to Hospital on 27th February 1918 and was found to be suffering from cancer of the intestines.  After consultation with the Consulting Physician and Consulting Surgeon, Aldershot Command, it was decided that the disease must soon be fatal and that an operation was the only chance of prolonging his life.  On March 19th an operation was performed but the patient died very soon after the operation was finished.

Full information was given to the Coroner, who decided that under the circumstances an Inquest was not necessary”

Awards and Medals

Sapper J.E. Biggs was entitled to the Victory and British War medals.[16]

Effects and Pension

Sapper J.E. Biggs’ wife Emma received his effects[17] and pension.  By September 1918, Emma lived with her mother, Mrs. Hamblin at George Pit, Escomb.[18]


Sapper J.E. Biggs is buried at grave reference C.11, Bishop Auckland (Escomb) Cemetery.  His headstone bears the epitaph:

Safe Home

Organised by his wife, Emma

Sapper J.E. Biggs’ headstone


JOHN BIGGS 1877 – 1918

194252 Sapper John Elliott Biggs, Royal Engineers (Railways) died from cancer of the intestines 19 March 1918 while on active service, aged 40.  He is buried at Bishop Auckland (Escomb) Cemetery.  Joh was born 1877 at Escomb and worked as a railway clerk.  He enlisted November 1915 at Gateshead where he and his wife were living and was mobilized August 1916.  He served “at home” in the UK for the duration of his service before suffering his fatal illness.  He left a widow and a child he was never to see. 


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.248 Auckland 1877 Q2

[3] 1881 & 1891 census

[4] 1881 census

[5] 1891 census

[6] 1901 census

[7] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.229 Auckland 1903 Q3 and Army Form B.2065 Particulars of Marriage

[8] 1911 census

[9] Army Form B.2065

[10] Dependant’s Pension card index

[11] Army Form W.5080 Next of Kin

[12] CWGC

[13] Army Form B.2065 and Statement of the Services

[14] Trade and special qualifications form and letter dated 20 April 1917

[15] Medical Report dated 17 April 1918 by W. Rowney, Lieut. Colonel i/c Military Hospital

[16] Note: To date, I have not found if they were ever claimed

[17] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929 Record No.673015

[18] Dependants Pension card index