Oxford Jewish Community






Oxford Jewish Casualties in the Great War

by Harold Pollins

Published in The Bulletin of the Military Historical Society, vol. 65, pp. 92-101, November 2014

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In the Oxford synagogue there is a plaque commemorating Jews of Oxford who died on service in the First World War. It contains no names, a lack explained by the late Professor David M. Lewis in his The Jews of Oxford. Late in 1919 the secretary for residents suggested there should be a war memorial, a proposal taken up by the secretary of the Jewish students’ society, the Adler Society, who appealed for information about dead members of the university. Lewis comments: ’the response was evidently unsatisfactory, and the plaque which eventually resulted had no list of names’.  He then goes on, stating, ‘My own incomplete figures suggest a death-roll of ten or twelve’, and gives three names. Two were university members, briefly mentioned earlier in the book: Robert Sebag-Montefiore and F. W. Haldinstein. The third was Victor Zacharias-Jessel, a son of Joel Zacharias, well-known in Oxford. Joel Zacharias was very active, both in the Jewish community and in the general community. He was a member of the Volunteers (the precursor of the Territorial Army) retiring in 1885 as a Colour Sergeant, and an Alderman, and of course was known as the owner of the mackintosh shop in Cornmarket, at the corner of Ship Street, Zack’s for Macs.[i]

Lewis’s statement, that he estimated a death-roll in the war of ‘ten or twelve’ is a strange observation, for this reason. Later in the book he describes ‘a grand service’ held in 1931, primarily to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Adolf Neubauer, a significant scholar who opened up the Hebrew manuscripts and other material in the Bodleian Library. In an endnote Lewis states that his description of the celebration was based, in part, ‘on the printed order of service’.[ii]  Yet that order of service includes this section: ‘Then shall be read the names of THE MEMBERS OF THE CONGREGATION WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES FOR KING AND COUNTRY IN THE GREAT WAR’. There follow 24 names, in chronological order of death; 22 are of members of colleges, and two are of Oxford residents.[iii] I do not know how he missed that list. A curious lapse by someone whom I knew to be a meticulous scholar.

Moreover, there was in fact a memorial, in 1924, which included the same names as in 1931. In March 1924 a memorial to Oxford Jews who died in uniform in the war was unveiled in special ceremony at Oxford synagogue. There was  a Tablet which consisted of a copper plaque overlaid with silver containing the 24 names which were identical with those of 1931. This was to be attached permanently to the Reading Desk in the synagogue.[iv] But over the years it appears to have been mislaid.

There are a few initial errors in what I shall call the ‘1931 list’, four omissions and some minor typos. Two brothers, who both attended University College, and became barristers, and were both killed in action, may also be mentioned as being of Jewish origin, but can be dismissed. They were 2Lt Herbert Walter Goldberg 3rd attached 1st Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey), 31st July 1915, and 2Lt Frederick William Goldberg 3rd Queen’s Royal Regiment, attached 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, killed 3 November 1916. Their Jewish name is interesting but their parents married in church, their mother was not Jewish and one of the brothers was also married in church. Moreover, their father became a Roman Catholic.[v] Their headstones carry crosses. I have not included them in my list below. The four other omissions are 2Lt Cyril John Gedalje Joseph, who died 13th October 1914 ‘as the result of a pistol accident’.[vi]  The second omission was that of 2Lt Percy Howard Byng (his father’s name was originally Binswanger), who died of illness in what is now Iraq on 25th September 1916. The third was Pte Wilfred Henry Styer, who also died as a result of a gun accident on 3rd November 1916, just a few days before he was to be commissioned in the Royal Fusiliers. He was born in 1888 and had attended Lincoln College.[vii]  The last omission was of Lt John Edward Raphael who died on 11th June 1917.

There are errors in dates of death. Lt A. H. Herbertson died 15th May 1917, not 16th;  2Lt E. J. Solomon died 2nd August 1917, not 3rd; he was also in the South Lancashire Regiment, not the Lancashire Regiment; Lt Leslie Imroth died 7th November 1918, not 11th. The dates are taken from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.  2Lt C. A. W. Crichton is wrongly spelled as Crighton.   While Lewis writes of one Oxford resident who was killed, Victor Zacharias-Jessel, there was in fact another, Harry Mitchell Davidson. Both are in the 1931 list and they were indeed cousins, Davidson’s mother being a sister of Zacharias-Jessel’s father. They died within a month of each other in May and April 1917. Davidson’s father was active in the Jewish community, being at one time Treasurer and, later, Warden. It should be stated that the resident Jewish population of Oxford was very small, consisting of a handful of families.[viii]

In the remainder of this article I shall list only the 28 names (the 24 in the 1931 list plus the four otherwise omitted but not the two Goldberg brothers) in the date order of their death, together with any other information about them. It will be noted that not all of them actually came into residence, but I follow the usage in the 1931 list of including those who were accepted as undergraduates but who instead joined the army. Such men were also included in such college war memorials  as I have seen and are also in the Oxford University Roll of Service (eds. E. S. Craig and  W. M. Gibson) 1920: The names of some who, after being accepted for admission to their College, lost their lives in the War before being actually matriculated, have been included in the Roll’. This Roll has been particularly useful in providing dates of joining the army and locations of their deaths.

2Lt JOSEPH, Cyril John Gedalje, Clifton and Balliol 1913, 21 London, died 13 October 1914, aged 19. Died at the residence of his mother ‘as the result of a pistol accident’: JC, 23 October 1914, p. 8. Although he is treated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as a war casualty he does not appear as such in the Balliol College War Memorial Book https://flickr.com/photos/balliolarchivist/sets/72157625232059789 [accessed 8th June 2014]. Buried at Willesden Jewish Cemetery His German-born father, Moritz Gedalje Joseph, had been a diamond merchant. He was a member of the rugby XV: Balliol College Register, 1913-14, p. 339 at https://www.flickr.com/photos/balliolarchivist/5103910485/in/set-72157625215890252 [accessed 12th June 2014].

2Lt CRICHTON, Cyril Alfred William, Marlborough and Exeter College 1912, 3 London, mobilised August 1914, died 10 March 1915, at Neuve Chappelle, aged 21. Buried at Le  Touret Military Cemetery. The regiment was part of the 7th (Meerut Division, Charwal Bde.) This one is a curiosity. The Jewish elements consist of his father, a West End jeweller and silversmith, whose original surname was Solomon. He changed it to Crichton by Deed Poll in 1886 (JC, 29th October 1886, p. 2). He married Fannie Emma C. Mitchell on 27th August 1891 (Morning Post, 31st August 1891). She was presumably non-Jewish but must have been a convert as they were married in the Central Synagogue. Her husband remained a seatholder at the Central Synagogue, London.[ix] The notice of the son’s death in action was published in the JC, 19th March 1915, p. 29, which stated that he was an only son, and that he received his commission in June 1913, no doubt in the Territorial Army. He is commemorated in the British Jewry Book of Honour (1922, reprinted 1987) and also at the Hoop Lane Jewish cemetery. Nevertheless his headstone bears a cross not a Star of David.  His body was not discovered until 1925  when (according to the CWGC website of the cemetery) ‘The grave of one Officer of the London Regiment was brought in in 1925 from a position on the Estaires-La Bassee road.’ The Exeter College Roll of Honour, p. 43, refers to a private memorial on the site in his honour. Exeter College, Oxford, Roll of Honour, 1914-1918, compiled by Robin Malpass, 2009, pp. 42-3. Available at https://exetercollegewargraves.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/roll-of-honour-09.pdf [accessed 18 February 2018]

2Lt HENRIQUES, Philip Bridges Gutterez, Eton and New College 1913, 8 King’s Royal Rifle Corps, joined 15th August 1914, Died of  Wounds received at Ypres, 24 June 1915, aged 20. Buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery (no religious symbol on headstone.) The only child of Mr and Mrs Philip Henriques, and grandson of Sir George Faudel-Phillips, bart. His father was Deputy-General of Finance, at the Ministry of Munitions. De Ruvigny, The Roll of Honour a Biographical Record of all members of His Majesty’s Naval and Military Forces who have Fallen in the War.

2Lt SOLOMON, Kenneth Maurice Halgren, St John’s College 1911, 11 Gloucestershire attached 4 Worcestershire, joined 6th August 1914, Died of Wounds received on 22nd August 1915 at Suvla Bay, 18 September 1915, aged 26. Buried at Willesden Jewish Cemetery. Born Sydney, Australia.

Capt SEBAG-MONTEFIORE, Robert Montefiore, Clifton College and Balliol 1901, MA (Oxon.), Royal East Kent Yeomanry (Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles), Died of Wounds, received on 23 1915 at Gallipoli, on 19 November 1915, aged 33. Buried at Alexandria (Chatby) Jewish Cemetery No. 3. Barrister. An Elder of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, Hon. Sec. of the Education Aid Society, representative for West Hartlepool on the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Member of Council of Jews’ College. Active in the Conservative Party, stood unsuccessfully for South-west Bethnal Green in 1907 and similarly for Hull in 1910. Commissioned in Royal East Kent Yeomanry in 1904. Member of the London County Council and as an associate of Toynbee Hall: JC, 26 November 1915, pp. 8, 14, obituary and tribute. Also JC, 28 November 1915, p. 14.  ‘The death of Capt. Robert Sebag-Montefiore came as a great blow to the residents of Rochester. All the flags at the clubs and public buildings have been at half-mast during the week.’  De Ruvigny, The Roll of Honour. One of the memorials to him was the re-naming of Vallance Road School, Tower Hamlets, as Robert Montefiore School, a school then run by the LCC of which he was a member.

Capt LANGDON, Wilfred Max, Rugby, University of Munich, and New College, 1907, First Class Honours in  History School 1911, 10th Cheshire, joined September 1914, died at Vimy Ridge 21 May 1916, aged 27. Buried at Ecroivres Military Cemetery. Barrister. Father Edward Henry Langdon, Shipping Merchant, born Manchester. Resident of Toynbee Hall November 1911 to May 1913 where he studied social conditions including decasualisation of labour. Called to the Bar 1913. Joined the Public Schools Bn (Middlesex Regt) in September 1914 as Pte, commissioned December 1914 in Cheshire Regiment. According to his orderly, in the face of a German attack ‘he stood on the parapet and shouted “Come on lads, do your best; they are coming”.  De Ruvigny. The Roll of Honour.

Lt VAN DEN BERGH, James Henry, Brasenose College, 1913, 6th London Brigade Royal Field Artillery, joined 29 August 1914, died 21st May 1916, at Vimy Ridge, aged 23. Initially posted as missing. Commissioned 20th August 1914, to France 16th March 1915. Father Henry born The Netherlands, 1853, moved to London to work in family margarine business which merged with Lever Brothers to form Unilever. James Henry’s brother Seymour (see below) also died. Father was member of the Executive Committee of the National Arts Collection Fund and Van den Bergh family donated objects and paintings to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in memory of the two brothers. Parish tributes to the war dead of Broadwater Down, Royal Tunbridge Wells [Former kentfallen.com website accessed 25th May 2014].

2Lt LEWIS, Lance Will, Repton and Brasenose College, 1911, BA (Oxon.), 7th Kings’ Royal Rifle Corps attached 165th Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), joined 5th August 1914, died 9th August 1916, aged 24 at Guillemont. Buried  Guillemont Road Cemetery.  Only son of David Leopold Lewis,  a General Import and Export Merchant. Graduated 1914. Joined the Honourable Artillery Company 4 August 1914.  De Ruvigny, Roll of Honour.

2Lt BYNG, Percy Howard, Harrow and Exeter College, 44 Battery Royal Field Artillery, died of illness contracted during service 25th September 1916, aged 24. Buried Asmara War Cemetery, Iraq. Entered service April 1915. Father Max Byng (originally Binswanger) born abroad. Father was brother of Gustav Byng (Binswanger) founder of the General Electric Co. Max Byng was an Electrical Engineer. Percy Howard was a cousin of the two deceased sons of Gustav Byng, 2Lt Harry Gustav Byng, Border Regiment, 18th May 1915, and Lt Leonard Gustav Byng MC, Grenadier Guards, 24th August 1918. Exeter College, Oxford, Roll of Honour, 1914-1918, pp. 36-7.

3518 Pte [Cadet] STYER, Wilfred Henry, Lincoln College, 1906, BA (Oxon). 28th London (Artists’ Rifles), died 3rd November 1916 at Blandugue as a result of a gun accident.  Aged 28. Buried Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery.  Enlisted 6th August 1914 (London Gazette, 1st January 1915, p. 132) and commissioned in the 19th (County of London) bn London Regiment (St. Pancras).  This is his regiment according to the University Roll of Service . However, on 17th February 1915 he was sentenced by a General Court Martial to be dismissed from the service. He joined  subsequently the Artists’ Rifles, a unit which also trained potential officers, but died on active service a few days before he was due to be commissioned in the Royal Fusiliers (JC, 17th November 1916, p. 12). He was born in Holland of British parents. An only son. Father Walter Barnett Styer, Solicitor, as was son.  Father active in Hambro’ Synagogue. Was Financial Representative there for 25 years, until 1927 (JC, 27th May 1927, p. 20.) At the 1911 Census his mother and three sisters refused to give any information ‘until the franchise is granted’.

Appointed 2Lt in Jewish Lads’ Brigade, Gravel Lane Company: JC, 5th November 1909, p. 17. In 1910 Lt Deal Street Company of JLB: JC, 22nd July 1910, p. 10.

Capt HALDINSTEIN, Frank Woolf, Norwich Grammar School and Christ Church, 1912, BA (Oxon.), 8th Signal Company, Royal Engineers, joined September 1914, died  7th March 1917 at Bray sur Somme, aged 22. Buried Bray Military Cemetery. At a memorial service in Norwich synagogue there was reference to ‘the pathetic circumstances in which Capt. Haldinstein’s life was forfeited in his brave endeavour to render assistance to a brother officer who had been wounded’: JC, 30th March 1917, p. 15. Son of Alfred Haldinstein JP, head of a Norwich shoe and leather company and President of the Norwich Jewish congregation. In 1914 he edited Oxford Prayers. A Prayer Book printed for the use of the Oxford University Hebrew Congregation, Oxford Clarendon Press. He ‘conducted Sunday afternoon religion classes for the children of the town section’.[x] He was also active among the East End Jews. The 1931 list describes him as ‘Student [ie Fellow] of Christ Church’. But Judith Curthoys, Archivist of Christ Church, tells me that he was a Scholar not a Student. See also https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/cathedral/war-memorials/captain-frank-woolf-haldinstein [accessed 12th December 2023].

Lt ZACHARIAS-JESSEL, Victor Albert Villiers, (listed as JESSEL in 1931 list), Citizen of Oxford, Madgalen College School, 7th attached 15th Durham Light Infantry, 6th April 1917, aged 21. Arras Memorial. Youngest son of late Councillor J. Zacharias-Jessel, JP, well-known as a public figure in Oxford, and active in the Jewish community. He was instrumental in obtaining facilities for Jewish burial in Oxford, as part of the municipal cemetery. The soldier was a grandson of well-known Philip Frankenstein of Manchester and nephew of Neville Laski KC. Enlisted at outbreak of war aged 18.

Cousin of Harry Mitchell DAVIDSON, below, who was killed a month later.

2Lt PLATNAUER, Leonard Maurice, MC, South African College (later re-named the University of Cape Town) and Brasenose College, 1913, joined August 1914,  16th West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Bradford Pals), 3rd May 1917, Arras Memorial. Aged 23. Born in Cape Town. Elected a Rhodes Scholar but obtained permission from the Rhodes Trustees to postpone his admission to Oxford so that he could serve with the forces. Corporal with the Cape Peninsular Rifles until the end of the South West Africa campaign, went to England and was commissioned in the West Yorkshire Regiment in January 1916. The Star (Johannesburg), 5 April 1918.[xi]

Pte DAVIDSON, Harry Mitchell, Citizen of Oxford, Wesleyan Boys’ School, Oxford, 7th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, 9 May 1917, aged 34. Buried Doiran Military Cemetery, Greece. His father was Russian-born Daniel, married to a sister of Councillor Zacharias, and was a shopkeeper, the designation changing from Census to Census. At the 1911 Census it was a General Store. The father had been Treasurer of the Jewish community in 1897 and was Warden in 1919. Harry Davidson married  Mary Edith Barrett at the Register Office, Headington, in 1907 and subsequently opened a draper’s shop. Although she was obviously not Jewish Daniel Davidson was one of the witnesses at the wedding. He had joined the army a year before his death.[xii]

Capt. GOLLIN, Edgar Bearman, Clifton and New College, 1914, 13th King’s (Liverpool Regiment), Died of Wounds received in action between Monchy and Guenappe, 14th May 1917, aged 20. Buried Duisans British Cemetery. Born Liverpool. Joined at outbreak of war, and was already commissioned by October 1914 (JC, 23rd October 1914, p. 18). Father Lionel a General Produce Broker at the 1911 Census, member of the Committee of the Old Hebrew Congregation, Liverpool, and President of the Liverpool Jewish Board of Guardians,  JC, 25th May 1917, p.14, tribute to Edgar Gollin.

Lt HERBERTSON, Andrew Hunter, Magdalen College School and Balliol, 1912, BA (Oxon), 7th King’s Royal Rifle Corp. 2Lt KRRC December 1914, wounded October 1915, Killed in Action 16th May 1917. Commemorated on Arras Memorial. At Dragon School, Oxford, 1902-7, Exhibition at Magdalen College School: Memorials of Old Boys and Masters of the Dragon School, Oxford Who fell in the Great War, 1922; Keith Collman, Great War Portraits, 2009.  His father was Andrew John Herbertson, Professor of Geography in the University of Oxford. JC, 8 June 1917, p. 15: ‘The son of a Scottish father and a lady of mixed Jewish blood, the romance of his mother’s remote connections early stirred his imagination, and led him when quite a mere youth to identify himself actively within the Jewish community. To carry out this purpose, he submitted to the blood ordeal [sc circumcision] and became a proselyte to the Jewish faith’. Ibid., p.16, he intended to work among East End Jewry.

Lt RAPHAEL, John Edward, Streatham School, Merchant Taylor’s, and St John’s College, 1901, Born 30th April 1882, in Brussels. Another curiosity, similar to Crichton, above.  Father Albert, member of the Stock Exchange. 2Lt West Riding Regt, joined September 1914, transferred to 18th King’s Royal Rifle Corps which had been raised in Gidea Park, Essex, by his cousin Sir Herbert Raphael bart. In October 1915 he was appointed ADC to Major-General Sir Sydney Lawford, 41st Division, and was in France from May 1916. Wounded 7th June 1917, died of wounds received at the Messines Ridge, 11th June 1917. Buried Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery [cross on headstone]. Barrister, and contested Croydon as a Liberal. Particularly well-known as a sportsman, especially at cricket and rugby union. Had been captain of cricket at Merchant Taylor’s, at Oxford he played in the university XI and the rugby XV, 1903-6.  Played for Surrey County XI for four seasons and was captain in 1904 and also captain of the university XI. He was also president of Oxford University Swimming Club in 1904. Most important he was a Rugby international player, being capped nine times for England, the JC (14 February 1902 , p. 11) on noting the selection of a Jewish athlete to represent England in an international Rugby match, called it unique as he was also a cricketer of real promise.  He was also vice-president of the Jewish Athletic Association. See Dr Ruvigny, Roll of Honour; JC, 29 June 1917, p. 17; for a discussion see https://www.greatwarforum.org/  [search accessed 3rd June 2014]. The curiosity arises from the fact that his mother was probably not Jewish (she was born in Pembrokeshire, a county with no Jewish communities), and the soldier is commemorated in St Jude’s parish church, Hampstead Garden Suburb, see http://stjudeonthehill.com/guide-to-st-judes [accessed 18th February 2018, as of March 2023 no longer active]. That church’s website (accessed 3rd June 2014) had previously stated that the mother was a Theosophist. However, the church’s connection may have arisen from the friendship of the vicar with J.E. Raphael which began at school. Yet his family endowed a Jewish ward at the London Hospital. (The JC, 4 June 1920 p. 18, quotes a speech at a London Hospital occasion in which it was said, ‘The Jewish wards were endowed  by the Raphael family’. In fact there was also a Rothschild ward.)

2Lt HURSTBOURNE, Walter Hirsch [HIRSCHBEIN], City of London School and St John’s College. 1906, Royal Field Artillery, 23rd June 1917. While still an undergraduate published, in the Jewish World, June 1907, ‘The Jews of Oxford: their Ancient Influence’. Journalist. Joined Inns of Court OTC June 1915. Commissioned RFA December 1915 (JC, 17th December 1915, p.21). Father Isaac Jacob Hirschbein, Shochet to Jewish Board of Schechita. Tribute in The Times, 7th July 1917, quoted in JC, 13 July 1917, p.14. ‘Most of those who belonged to the younger generation in Fleet Street knew Hurstbourne, and all who knew him loved him. He was a staunch, sympathetic, generous friend. He had a keen sense of humour, a fluent tongue, and a great gift for repartee … It is doubtful if anybody ever began to read one of his articles and left it unfinished. Hurstbourne was widely read, especially in English literature. Kipling and Meredith were his heroes … He also had a great love for the poetry of Swinburne. Much of his leisure was spent in picture galleries.’  Also de Ruvigny, Roll of Honour.

2Lt COBURN, Charles [originally COHEN], St Paul’s School and Merton College, 1902, BA, BCL. 18 King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 31st July 1917. Aged 32. Commemorated on Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. Solicitor as was his father who was born in Bristol. JC, 18 September 1914, p. 1, marriage on 17 September at the Liberal Synagogue of Charles, youngest son of Mr and Mrs Henry I. Cohen to Dorothy Lindo Henry, only daughter of Mr and Mrs A. Lindo Henry.  Original name of father Henry Moses Isaacs. Change of name in 1868 noted in The Times, 30th April 1868 and  JC, 19th August 1910, p. 23 (in article ‘Jewish Name Changes’). The  JC stated that it became Henry James Coburn, and in several JC editions he is referred to as H. J. Coburn. But be was mostly Henry Isaacs Coburn. An older brother, Arthur, born 1881, was also at Merton and became a barrister.

2Lt SOLOMON, Edmund John, Exeter College, 1912, 1 bn attached 8 bn South Lancashire Regiment, died 2nd August 1917 at Ypres, buried Belgian Battery Corner Cemetery. Born 31st January 1894. Father John Maurice Solomon, Barrister. Joined the Inns of Court OTC then joined the Royal Navy on 22nd May 1915 but resigned his commission on 12th August 1915. Then joined the army. Exeter College, Oxford, Roll of Honour, 1914-1918, pp. 100-101. The National Archives, Royal Navy Officers’ Service Records, 1756-1931, sv. Edmund John Solomon; Royal Marine Medal Roll 1914-1920, p. 42.

2Lt BOWMAN, Claude Herbert, Scholar-elect of Exeter College, 4th Bn Oxford  & Bucks Light Infantry, joined 19 December 1916, died 16th August 1917 at Battle of Langmarck. Aged 20. Tyne Cot Memorial.  Entered service 19th December 1916 (according to Exeter College, Roll of Honour, p. 31, but JC, 31st August 1917, p. 13, says he joined the 2nd Artists’ Rifles Officers’ Training  Corps in 1915.) Son of L.G. Bowman, Headmaster of the Jews’ Free School, London. Tributes in JC, 7th September 1917, p. 12. From Rev Louis Morris CF:  ‘I knew he was going into action: on the previous day I was with him. Through his kindness I was able to meet the Jewish boys in his brigade … I well recall the treacherously  stormy night when Claude trudged through the mud-fields and the miry roads of a much-battered area in order to arrange with me to meet the boys in the forward area for service the following noon … He wished, as you know, to transfer to the new Jewish Unit; and if possible to have charge of a Company composed of old Jews’ Free School boys.’    Tribute from Pte Henry J. Nathan Bucks Bn:  He was in same brigade as Bowman who was wounded. He attended the service conducted by Rev Morris. Nathan had been wounded three times.

Lt MONTAGU, Richard Headley, Rugby and Balliol, 1901, solicitor, 8th Hampshire Regiment, died 21st September 1917 on the Menin Road. Aged 35. Tyne Cot Memorial. Commissioned in 8th Hampshire January 1915, to France July 1917. Father Hyman Montagu, Solicitor, and one time Hon. Sec of Jews’ College. Became a partner in his father’s firm. JC, 5th October 1917, p. 10. Tribute. Balliol College War Memorial Book.

Capt VAN DEN BERGH, Seymour Jacob Henry, Clifton and Balliol 1909, BA (Oxon), Middlesex Hussars, 27th October 1917, buried Beersheba War Cemetery. Aged 27.  At Balliol he was a prominent member of the rugby XV and was capain 1912-13. Began to read for the bar after going down in 1913. Eight months before outbreak of war joined the Duke of Cambridge’s Own Hussars (Middlesex Yeomanry). Mobilised on 4th August 1914 but he developed enteric fever and was unable to join his unit until November 1915. Service in Egypt and Salonika, then to Palestine. His squadron was attacked by the Turks in overwhelming numbers and after repeated attacks only two men survived. He was gazetted Captain a few weeks after his death. His family presented a cup to his college for the use of the rugby XV. See VAN DEN BERGH, James, above, for further details and references.

Lt DE PASS, William Hugh David, Wellington College and Corpus Christi College, 1911, 6th  attached 13th Middlesex, joined August 1914, Missing believed killed as a prisoner, at Pouzeau-Chaulne on  25th March 1918, buried Fouquescourt British Cemetery, Aged 25. Only son of Charles (a member of the London Stock Exchange) and Mable Kate de Pass. He was at Corpus Christi College on outbreak of war and applied for commission in the University Officers’ Training Corps. This did not materialise so he joined the Public Schools bn and after six months received a commission in the Middlesex Regiment. Went to France in April 1916 and was wounded at Guillemont in August 1916. Killed in action 25th March 1918. Before the war had been active in the Victoria Working Boys’ Club, a Jewish club in the East End of London. JC, 12th April 1918, p. 10. Tribute.

Lt ABRAHAMS, Arthur Charles Lionel, 3rd Coldstream Guards, King’s Scholarship, Westminster School 1911, Scholarship to Christ Church 1915, but joined army instead, died 13th April 1918, Ploegsteert Memorial. Aged 20. Had been Sergt in school OTC. Father Sir Lionel Abrahams KCB, Financial Secretary to the Council of India. Died in 1919 aged 50. It was said that he never recovered from the death of his only son (only child) and he had failing health. JC, 28 June 1918, p. 14 Tribute to A. C. L. Abrahams. This is quoted in the Christ Church memorial: https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/cathedral/war-memorials/lieutenant-arthur-charles-lionel-abrahams [accessed 12th December 2023].

Capt LOWY, Walter Albert, 13th attached 10th bn Hampshire Regiment, Wellington College and Balliol, 1911, 3rd September 1918, buried Karasouli Military Cemetery. Aged 26. Father Lionel, Stockbroker. Grandfather was Rev  Dr Albert Lowy, 2nd Minister of the West London Synagogue. Joined Inns of Court OTC at outbreak of war and was commissioned in 10th Hampshire on 13th November 1914. Wounded in Salonika in December 1915. On 2nd September 1918 he was dangerously wounded ‘in an engagement in the Struma Valley, while directing stretcher-bearers to the aid of a man in his company who had been wounded’. Died the next day. Balliol College War Memorial Book. JC, 20th September 1918, p.  8: Tribute. From his minister [Rev Morris Joseph]: ‘I remember that, on the occasion of my last visit to the Oxford congregation, we spent the Sabbath together. And we conversed long and eagerly on Jewish matters, in which he displayed an extraordinary interest’.

Capt SAMUEL, Wilfrid Gilbert, 6th Suffolk att Beds, Ipswich School and Balliol, 1909, 21st September 1918, buried Unicorn Cemetery, Vendhuile. Aged 28. Father Gilbert, Mother Dame Louise Gilbert, nephew of Sir Herbert Samuel. Played Association Football and law tennis for his college. Commissioned in Suffolk Regiment June 1915, to France in June 1918. Balliol College War Memorial Book; Balliol College Register; De Ruvigny.

Lt IMROTH, Leslie, King Edward VII School, Johannesburg and New College, 11th Hampshire Regiment, joined 27th December 1915. Father Gustav, a minor ‘Randlord’ in the diamond industry. Died of Wounds 7th November 1918 which had been received on 30th November 1917. Buried  in Johannesburg (Braamfontein) cemetery, Jewish grave.


A number of features are worth noting. First, as expected, the students were generally from middle-class families and often had British-born parents. A few had been in the Territorial Army before the war and were mobilised at its start; others joined very soon after the outbreak. As was typical of the period, several were engaged in social work in the East End of London, being associated with boys’ clubs, the Jewish Lads’ Brigade, or with Toynbee Hall. Some had arranged to do so after their war service. Although one has less information about their degree of commitment to their religion, it seems that several were quite involved with it. The comment often made in tributes to them that some excellent young men, were now lost, who could have become leaders of the Jewish community, is a most apt conclusion about a lost generation.


Footnotes (↵ returns to main text)

  • [i] David M. Lewis, The Jews of Oxford, Oxford Jewish Congregation, 1992, p. 56. The original name of the family was Zacharias, and was changed to Zacharias-Jessel. But sometimes, as in the 1931 list, the surname became simply Jessel.

  • [ii] Ibid., p. 120, n.11.

  • [iii] Order of Service on the occasion of the reception of two scrolls of the Law from the Canterbury Jewish Congregation; of the unveiling of tablets to mark the sites of the Oxford Synagogue and Cemetery during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; and the scene of the martyrdom of Haggai the proselyte at Osney 12 April 1222; and of the celebration of the centenary of the birth of Adolf Neubauer, Ph.D. Hon. M.A. , Sub-Librarian of the Bodleian Library, Reader in Rabbinics in the University and Honorary Fellow of Exeter College, The historian of the Jews of Oxford Born 11 March 1831 Died 6 April 1907, Oxford University Press, 1931, pp.19-20.

  • [iv] Jewish Chronicle (henceforth JC), 14th March 1924, p. 28.

  • [v] JC, 9th May 1925, p. 10. Obituary of Leopold Goldberg. The parents’ marriage certificate of 1865 says that the bride and groom were ‘of full age’, yet the bride was born in 1851. The first child was born in 1867 when she was 16 and she died in 1888 aged 37.

  • [vi] JC, 23rd October 1914, p.8 CWGC spelled his name Gedaliah as is also in Willesden Jewish Cemetery where he is buried. The 1931 list contains only initials, but I shall give the full names.

  • [vii] Styer had also been an officer of the Jewish Lads’ Brigade: JC, 5th November 1909, p. 17, and subsequently. For an obituary, see 17th November 1916, p. 12.

  • [viii] Styer had also been an officer of the Jewish Lads’ Brigade: JC, 5th November 1909, p. 17, and subsequently. For an obituary, see 17th November 1916, p. 12.

  • [ix] For details of the relevant website go to https://www.jewishgen.org/databases/UK/seatholders.htm. To effect a search (using the blue arrow towards the foot of the page), one needs to register with JewishGen.

  • [x] Lewis,op.cit., p. 52.

  • [xi] I am grateful to Saul Issroff for supplying this reference.

  • [xii] Oxford Times, 26 May 1917.

Oxford Jewish Community home page

List of JCR-UK Articles by Harold Pollins

Page created: 3 December 2014
Latest amendment, update or revision: 1 July 2018



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