First World War Roll of Honour
John Young Alexander Line was born in 1895 in Stone, Staffordshire, England. He was the only child of the Revd John Russell Line and his wife Emily. John Russell had been educated at Downing College and, after gaining his degree, became a curate in Greenwich. In 1890 he married Emily Young. By the time their son was born the family was living in Christ Church vicarage, Stone, where they were still living at the time of the 1911 census.
John Young Alexander was educated at Oundle School before securing a place at Downing College just before the outbreak of war. He matriculated at Downing in October 1914 with an Exhibition gained in History, when student numbers in College were declining and the mood was sombre. He is included in a recently donated matriculation photograph. The student magazine, The Griffin, summed up the feelings in College at the start of the new academic year as current and former students left College to go to war:
"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."
Line was a keen Rugby Footballer and also joined ‘with exemplary zest’ the College rowing team. Towards the end of his first term he gained a commission in the North Staffordshire Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant and was sent to the Front on Christmas Eve 1915. According to his obituary in the May 1916 issue of The Griffin, he “was hit by a sniper [near Neuve Chapelle] on March 12th last while superintending the draining of a trench, and died of wounds the next day… [He had] 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. He is also commemorated on the war memorial in the village of Dyserth, North Wales, although no apparent connection has been found.
Line is included in a recently donated matriculation photograph (seated second from left, above).
The College Archivist would love to hear from anyone with any further information about Line and his connection with Dyserth.