NEVISON John 1894 – 1914

JOHN NEVISON 1894 – 1914

11653 Private John Nevison, 2nd Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 21 September 1914, aged 20.  He is commemorated on the La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial to the Missing, Seine-et-Marne, France[1] and the Escomb war memorial.

Family Details

John Nevison was born 1894,[2] the son of Sarah Ann Nevison.  There were possibly 5 children, all born at Bishop Auckland:[3]

  • Thomas bc.1880
  • Henry bc.1888 
  • John born 1893
  • William bc.1896
  • Mary E. bc. 1901

There is no mention of the father and all children carried the Nevison surname.  In 1901, 43 years old Sarah and her 4 children, lived with her widowed mother 65 years old Ellen Nevison at 29 North Bondgate, Bishop Auckland.[4] By 1911, 75 years old Ellen and 53 years old Sarah Ann Nevison lived at Escomb.[5]  At this time, John’s older brother Thomas was married with 3 children, living and working in Bishop Auckland.  Henry was living at South Church, Bishop Auckland, a boarder with the Siddle family. [6]

The Nevison’s were a well-established Bishop Auckland family.  Ellen was from Butterknowle and her husband George was born in Bishop Auckland about 1837.  George and Ellen had at least 5 children – Sarah bc.1859, John bc.1861, Mary bc.1863, Joshua bc.1865 and George bc.1867 all born at Bishop Auckland.  In 1881, George was employed as a, “Cartman” and the family lived at South Terrace, Bishop Auckland.[7]  By 1891, they lived at West Road, Bishop Auckland and 54 years old George was a still employed as a cartman.[8]  George died in 1899.[9]

In June 1912, John Nevison lived at Escomb[10]and was employed as a grocer by a Mr. Gallons.[11]  By August 1915, John’s mother, 64 years old Sarah Ann Nevison lived at 4 New Row, Escomb.[12]  By March 1916, she  lived at Woodside, Witton Park.

John’s younger brother was a casualty of the Second World War.  Serving as 16194 Private William Nevison, 6th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry, he was killed in action, 22 May 1914, aged 43.  He is buried at Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France.

Military Details

11 June 1912: John Nevison aged 17 years 11 months enlisted into the Territorial Force, his local battalion being the 6th Bn., the Durham Light Infantry. He stood 5’5” tall, had good vision and satisfactory physical development and was considered fit for the Territorial Force.[13]  He was given the service number 1726.[14]

DLI Cap Badge

28 July – 11 August 1912: He suffered from scabies.

1913: Private J. Nevison attended the annual territorial training camp. [15]

28 October 1913: John Nevison enlisted at Bishop Auckland, was given the new service number 11653 and was attached to the Durham Light Infantry depot.  His given age was 19 years 5 months old.  His trade was a grocers’ assistant.  He stood 5’6½” tall, weighed 121 lbs., of good physical development, had a fair complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair.[16]  His next of kin was given as:

  • Mother: Sarah Ann Nevison, 1 Quay (?) Escomb
  • Brother:  Thomas Nevison, 24 Frederick Street, Bishop Auckland

21 February 1914: He was posted to the 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry (2/DLI) and served with “D” Company.[17]  2/DLI was a Regular Army battalion which landed at St. Nazaire, France, 10 September 1914.  It came under the orders of the 18th Brigade, 6th Division.  At this time, the 18th Brigade consisted of the following units:[18]

  • 1st Bn., the West Yorkshire Regiment
  • 2nd Bn., the Durham Light Infantry
  • 2nd Bn., Sherwood Foresters 

The 6th Division landed in France to re-inforce the hard pressed British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Aisne front before the whole BEF moved into Flanders to spend the war on the Western Front. 

The Battle of the Marne [19]

By the beginning of September 1914, the German Army had swept through much of Belgium and north eastern France and was fast approaching Paris.  By 3 September, the British and French forces had been retreating south west for over 2 weeks, German victory was a definite possibility.  The Allied Commander General Joffre, prepared to launch a major counter offensive.  As night fell on 5 September, the men of the BEF began to halt and their gruelling retreat was at an end (approx. 40km south east of Paris).  For the next 2 days British I, II and III Corps advanced north eastwards encountering only minor resistance from German forces which had reached the limit of their advance and were now carrying out a tactical retreat.

8 September, British infantry brigades advancing towards the Marne came under heavy machine gun and artillery fire from German units in La Ferte-sous-Jouarre and on the north bank of the river where they had formed a bridgehead.  The British withdrew, began bombarding the German positions and by mid-afternoon had entered the town in force. 

10 September, the Germans were now in full retreat to the north and east, hotly pursued by the British and French forces and by 12 September occupied defensive positions on the high ground overlooking the banks of the River Aisne.  

The Battle of the Marne halted the month-long advance of the German forces and marked the beginning of trench warfare as Allied and German forces entrenched during and after the Battle of the Aisne in mid-September.  By November, battle lines had been drawn that would remain virtually unchanged for almost 4 years.  The BEF suffered almost 13,000 casualties of whom 7,000 had been killed during the Battle of the Marne.

The 18th Infantry Brigade, 6th Division including 2/DLI took part in actions on the Aisne Heights 20 September 1914.  2/DLI and Private J. Nevison landed in France 8 September 1914 and took part in the first engagement only to be killed in action, 21 September 1914.[20] 

The battalion war diary reports the following:[21]

8 September: the battalion landed at St. Nazaire, France.

15 September: marched 25 miles to billets at Chateau Thiery.

16 September: marched to Tigny (18 miles)

17 September: marched to Chacrise.

18 September: marched to Braine to Bourge halting at midnight then onto Dhuizel.

19 September: took over the trenches at TROYON.

20 September:

“At about 1pm, owing to the battalion on the right giving way, reported to be caused by a white flag incident, our right flank was enfiladed by a German machine gun and suffered loss until the battalion in reserve re-occupied the trenches on the right flank.  One company and a half on the left flank, left their trenches and advanced and suffered loss until they returned to their trenches.  Casualties killed, Major Mander, Capt. Hare, 2nd Lt Stanuel, 2nd Lt Marshall, Major Robb (died of wounds), wounded Lieut. Twist, Lieut. Grey-Wilson, 2 Lt Gale, 2 Lt Wearing, 2 Lt Baker, Lt & Adjutant Godsal was wounded by shrapnel in the morning, NCOs and men killed 36, wounded 92.”

25 September: Relieved in trenches by 2nd Brigade and marched to Pargnan.

Further details are provided.[22] The Sherwood Foresters attacked on the right and retook trenches but companies of 2/DLI were exposed to artillery, machine gun and rifle fire from their right.  After this attack developed on the right Major A.K. Robb ordered his company out of the trenches and took them forward.  Captain Hare followed with half of Blake’s company.  Parke, who had his machine guns in Robb’s trenches took them forward also. They were hit by fire from the right and retired back to their trenches.  Robb was hit when he was out in front.  Two men were helping him back when all 3 were hit.  8757 Private J. Warwick and 7544 Private J. Howson were involved in rescue work.  Lieut. Twist and Major Robb were brought back.  Private Maughan was also rescued.  Another helping was 6742 Private G.W. Harrington.  On arriving back in England, Private Warwick wrote to his wife and described the incident:

“It was on Sunday at six o’clock that I was shot down.  I volunteered to bring Major Robb from in front of the German trenches.  He was shot down when we made the bayonet charge and he was lying 40 yards in front of the Germans, who were waiting for anyone who attempted to rescue him.  I do not know what made me do it but I went out to bring him back.  I got him on his feet and started to run with him.  A poor young chap belonging to Bishop Auckland called Nevison rushed to help me.  We got within 50 yards of our trenches, when all were shot down.  He was shot through the brain so they told me and I also believe our major died shortly afterwards.”[23]    

Private Warwick was recommended for the Victoria Cross.  He received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his gallantry.  Later research confirms that between 19 and 25 September 1914, 2/DLI lost 5 Officers and 57 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds including 5 Officers and 10 ORs on the 20 September and 45 ORs on the 21 September.[24] Private J. Nevison is among those recorded as being killed in action on the 21st, although it may have been the 20th when Major Robb is listed as being killed in action (rather than died of wounds as the war diary reports).    Major A.K. Robb, 2/DLI is buried at Vendresse British Cemetery, France.[25]

Awards and Medals

Private J. Nevison was awarded the 1914 Star with clasp, the Victory and British War medals.[26]

Medal Roll card index

Pension and Effects

Private J. Nevison’s pension was received by his mother, Sarah Ann

Commemorations [27]

Private J. Nevison has no known grave.  He is commemorated on the La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial to the Missing.  It commemorates 3,740 officers and men of the BEF who fell at the battles of Mons, Le Cateau, the Marne and the Aisne between the end of August and early October 1914 and have no known graves.


JOHN NEVISON 1894 – 1914

11653 Private John Nevison, 2nd Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 21 September 1914, aged 20.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial to the Missing, Seine-et-Marne, France along with 3,740 other officer and men.  John was born about 1894 at Bishop Auckland before moving to Escomb.  He worked as a grocer.  Aged 17, he joined the Territorial Force then the Regular Army at 19, enlisting into the 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry.  Aged 20, he entered France 8 September 1914 and was killed in action 13 days later, 21 September 1914.  He was part of an attempt to rescue his wounded commanding officer Major A.K. Robb, who subsequently died of wounds.  One of his co-rescuers, Private J. Warwick, who was also wounded during the incident, was awarded the DCM for gallantry.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.201 Auckland 1893 Q3 Note: Army Form E.501, John Nevison’s attestation papers dated 11 June 1912 indicated that he was 17 years 11 months and another form dated October 1913 indicate that he was 19 years 5 months old.  These details infer that he was born about May 1894 rather than mid 1893 as recorded by the Birth Index.    

[3] 1891 & 1901 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] 1911 census Note: John, William and Mary have not been traced

[7] 1881 census

[8] 1891 census

[9] England & Wales Death Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.111 Auckland 1899 Q1

[10] Army Form E.501 dated 11 June 1912

[11] 1911 census summary books record “Gallons Ltd.” occupying a lock-up shop at Church Street, Crook and other premises at Sunderland, South Shields, Winlaton.

[12] Army Form W.5080

[13] Medical Inspection Report – examined 31 July 1912

[14] Statement of the Services

[15] Statement of the Services

[16] Army Form E.501 & B.178 Medical History

[17] Army Form B.2090A Field Service


[19] CWGC

[20] CWGC & SDGW both record 21 September 1914 as the date of his death but it could have been 20 September

[21] 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry War Diary for August & September 1914 National Archives reference WO-95-1617-1

[22] “The Steel of the DLI: The 2nd Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry at War 1914-1918” 2009 John Sheen p.42-45

[23] Steel p.44

[24] Soldiers Died in the Great War Note: ODGW includes information under DLI (any) and the 5 officers reported in the War Diary are all accounted for.

[25] CWGC

[26] Medal Roll card index, Rolls dated 20 February 1918 & 1 April 1920

[27] CWGC