Line, John Young Alexander

John Young Alexander Line was born in 1896 in Stone, Staffordshire, England. He was the only child of the Rev. John Russell Line and Emily his wife.

The father, John Russell Line, was born in Daventry into a family of boot and shoe manufacturers. His father William lived next door to brother John in New Street, Daventry. The children of both families must have grown up together. John Russell was educated in Downing College, Cambridge and, after gaining his degree, became a curate in Greenwich. In the summer of 1890 he married Emily Young in Lambeth. Emily, the daughter of a solicitor, was born in London. However the Young family seat was at Cleish Castle, Kinross, Scotland. Emily had several siblings all of whom were boys.

John Russell’s ministry took him to various parts of the UK. However, by the time their son was born the family was living in Christ Church vicarage, Stone. They were still there in 1911. The census record shows that John Young Alexander was 15 years old and in school at the time. He was educated at Oundle School and from there went on to Downing College, Cambridge – just as his father had done.

I am very grateful to Jenny Ulph, the archivist at Downing College, for her insight into what happened next.

Following the declaration of war, the grounds and buildings of all the colleges in Cambridge were placed at the disposal of the War Office. Downing College, along with King’s, was chosen to house the influx of nurses to staff the newly established First Eastern General Hospital. The Michaelmas 1914 issue of the College magazine, The Griffin, referred to a ‘Downing crammed with nurses’

Undergraduates and university staff were expected to rise to the occasion of serving their country, many of them becoming commissioned officers at the outset. The same edition of The Griffin went on to report;

“Looking back to the end of last term, we remember that every prospect seemed good this year; there was no hint of the trouble to come. With four Blues and six May colours intending to be in residence, we looked forward with confidence to great happenings, whilst a fair crop of academic distinction seemed probable. But it was not to be. In August the call came, and the call was answered…One by one the rest came up; in little groups we foregathered, discussing the all-compelling topic, and watching to see who would be with us, and who would not. But those who came up were few; on every hand, we miss the wonted number of our friends. Daily we are reminded of them in untenanted room and silent stair, and the empty seats in Hall speak eloquently of their numbers. So many have gone, so many of those whom the College could ill spare; and still others go. Our thoughts are of them, and, whether on the field of battle, or bearing their part still near at home, our good wishes go with them.”

The London Gazette of the 18th of December 1914 announced that, as a Cadet in the Officers Training Corps, John Young Alexander Line was Commissioned to be a temporary Second Lieutenant. He served with the 8th Battalion of the North Staffordshire Regiment.

He was 20 years old when he died on the 13th of March 1916. This obituary appeared in The Griffin;

“We have to mourn the loss of 2nd Lieut. J Y A Line, 8th Bn. N Staffs Regt. He was hit by a sniper on March 12th last while superintending the draining of a trench, and died of wounds the next day. Lieut. Line was the only child of an old and very keen Downing man, the Rev J R Line, MA, Vicar of Deane, Bolton, Lancs. He came up from Oundle School in October 1914, with an Exhibition gained for History, with a view to studying Law. He was a keen Rugby Footballer but joined also, with exemplary zest, in that very important though now almost forgotten sport, the College Rowing. Towards the end of his first term Mr Line gained a Commission in the N Staffs Regt. He was sent to the front on Christmas Eve 1915, and met his death three months later after having gained high praise from his superior Officers and admiration from his subordinates. Those of us who have known him will respect his memory, and sympathise with his sadly bereaved parents”.

He is buried in Merville Communal Cemetery in France. His father requested the following inscription on his gravestone: “Out of Death into Life with Christ”

In 1927 his parents retired to Bournemouth where they remained for the rest of their lives. Emily died in 1942 aged 80 followed by her 83 year old husband in 1944. Their estate, which was in excess of £10,000, was left to John Russell’s cousin, Thomas Margary – son of his Uncle John.

A final conundrum…. I can find no connection whatsoever with Dyserth to explain why John Young Alexander Line’s name is on the Dyserth War Memorial.

Can you help?


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