Six of Keziah Parker's went off to World War One. Only two returned

Maurice Hirons

Maurice Hirons

First published in News
Last updated
by

AS the country gears up to commemorate the start of the First World War, one Oxfordshire family will remember its heroes.

A century ago, Keziah Parker watched her six sons and husband Felix go to war, but only one of her sons returned unscathed. Four of them died.

A hundred years later, grandson Albert Parker researched his family tree and discovered the tragic sacrifice his uncles had made, and his grandmother’s terrible loss.

 

Oxford Mail:

Albert Parker with a plaque in memory of his great-uncle, Maurice Hirons                         

Mr Parker, 74, said: “I can’t think of any woman I have ever read about who could have had a harder life than my grandmother. She was just an amazing woman.

“When her first husband died she had eight children and no income. She used to go out to work, take in washing and stand ironing until 2am.

“Then after having such a hard job bringing them up, then to lose them, it’s a dreadful story. I think it’s unbelievable what my grandmother went through receiving all those telegrams.”

Mr Parker’s grandmother, of North Street, Bicester, waved off her sons, William, George, Maurice, Francis, Joseph, and Arthur, and second husband Felix as they joined the Army to fight in Europe.

Over the four years of war, she received four telegrams to inform her her sons, Maurice, Francis, Joseph and Arthur had been killed in action.

In one letter Joseph’s commanding officer wrote to inform Keziah of his death, only to write again weeks later to tell her he had made a mistake and although he had been hit by bullets, he had actually survived.

Oxford Mail:

Joseph Hirons

Joseph lost an eye and returned to Bicester for leave in 1916, but he went back to the battlefields and died in Flanders.

Mr Parker has fond memories of his uncle Bill, who managed to return unscathed.

He said: “He was a lovely man – he was very kind.

“But I never remember him talking about the war.”

Keziah’s son Maurice was the first to be killed just months after Britain joined the war.

Maurice was just 20 when he was killed in Ypres, France, on November 7.

The following August, the family was dealt a second blow when Francis, 26, was killed near Ypres.

Oxford Mail:

Francis Hirons

In February 1916, Keziah was told Joseph had been killed in action at the front after he was among a team of bombers sent to fight the Germans after an attack on a trench.

In a letter from his commander Lt Douglas Burn, Joseph was described as a “real good soldier” and his loss was a “great blow to both myself and the platoon, especially the other Bicester boys, Bottrell, Grace and Geden”.

But weeks later there was joyous news for the family as it turned out there had been a case of mistaken identity.

Oxford Mail:

Arthur Hirons

The final letter was received just three months before the war ended in 1918. It told that Arthur, 28, had been killed in Flanders.

Mr Parker said: “During the course of the Great War, Keziah had lost four of her sons and seen a fifth son badly wounded.

“No Bicester family made a greater sacrifice during the First World War than the Hirons family.”

The story behind Bicester family’s great sacrifice

Keziah Hitchman was born in Wootton and at the age of 20 she married farm worker Arthur Hirons, 26, of Duns Tew, near Bicester. 

Two years later, the couple and their children William and Arthur, moved to Little Chesterton, near Bicester. They had six more children, Francis, George, Maurice, Edith, Joseph and Robert. 

​In 1898 Arthur died of pneumonia.

Eight years later in 1906, Keziah married 26-year-old Felix Parker, a Bicester council worker, and the pair had three children, John, James and Hilda Parker.

Keziah died in 1944 aged 77.

When the First World War started, the family were living in North Street, Bicester, and Keziah’s second husband Felix, and her sons Arthur, William and Joseph joined the Army.

William Hirons left school at 14 and worked as a shepherd boy, and later a carter working with horses on a farm at Duns Tew.

Oxford Mail:

William Hirons l

He joined the Royal Engineers as a driver with horses in 1914. He worked with horses throughout the war and returned unscathed to Bicester. He died in 1976, aged 84.

George Hirons joined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1908. in 1918 he was invalided with shell-shock. He died the same year in a home in Oxford. He was 27.

Oxford Mail:

George Hirons

Maurice joined the military about a year before war started and was called-up to serve in 1914.

Initially he was based in Aldershot, and then France in September 1914 to reinforce the 2nd Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

At 20, he died on November 7. He has no grave, but his name is listed on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres.

Francis joined the Navy in 1907, when he was 18, but later transferred to the Army and joined the 3rd Battalion The Rifle Brigade. In 1913 he became a bugler. While stationed in Ireland, he met and married Catherine Nugent.

Francis was sent to France with his battalion as part of the British Expeditionary Force.

In August 14, 1915, he was wounded and taken to hospital where he died two days later. He was 26. Back in Ireland, his wife was pregnant with his second child.

Joseph joined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1914. A young Joseph would have been 17 or 18 when he joined up.

His commanding officer wrote to Joseph’s mother informing her of his death, but just weeks later sent another note apologising for his mistake.

Joseph was recovering his hospital after being shot in his face, chest and buttock.

He returned to Bicester in July 1916 for leave before returning to his unit. He returned to fight in France and was killed in Flanders. The year is unknown.

Arthur joined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1914.

Initially he was deployed in the UK guarding bridges and then sent to France. He was killed in Flanders in 1918, just three months before the end of the war. He has no known grave.

Oxford Mail:

Felix Hirons

Felix joined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1914. Initially he was deployed in the UK guarding bridges. He survived the war and died in 1946.

  • Top News

Our top stories:

Speed limit to be cut to 50mph along stretch of A34 from December 1

Oxford Mail: A34 traffic alert

5:10pm Tuesday 25th November 2014

THE speed limit on a stretch of the A34 will be cut to 50mph for six months to allow drainage work to be carried out.

Colourful theme for fundraiser’s funeral

Oxford Mail:

5:00pm Tuesday 25th November 2014

A MUSCULAR dystrophy sufferer who raised funds in the fight against the disease has died aged 27.

Delays on trains from London Paddington to Oxford due to signalling problems at Ealing Broadway

Oxford Mail: A First Great Western High Speed Train

3:21pm Tuesday 25th November 2014

TRAIN services from London Paddington to Oxford are being affected by cancellations and half-hour delays as a result of signalling problems.

What's in our interactive back page today?

Oxford Mail:

12:04pm Tuesday 25th November 2014

Check out what is in our interactive back page today...

Updated: Traffic lights back on after crash in Abingdon Road

Oxford Mail:

8:41am Tuesday 25th November 2014

The traffic lights are not working on the A4144 Abingdon Road at B4495 Weirs Lane.

What is in our interactive front page for today?

Oxford Mail:

10:38am Tuesday 25th November 2014

Here's today's interactive front page, with live links to the featured stories and also the latest headlines constantly updated

Defibrillator appeal is bang on target

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Tuesday 25th November 2014

A CAMPAIGN to install hundreds of units of life-saving equipment across the county has smashed the halfway point.

Tumble dryer fire at house in Bicester

Oxford Mail: Fire engine Oxfordshire

9:12am Tuesday 25th November 2014

Fire crews were called to a house near Bicester last night after a tumble dryer caught fire.

Westgate meeting

Oxford Mail: An artist’s impression of the new-look £400m shopping centre drawn up by the Westgate Alliance

8:30am Tuesday 25th November 2014

Final plans for the £400m redevelopment of the Westgate Shopping Centre are set to be approved tonight.

NHS staff strike to chants of ‘low pay, no way’

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Tuesday 25th November 2014

MIDWIVES, support workers and cleaners were among the NHS staff on strike at the John Radcliffe Hospital yesterday.

Rail company offers refund after delays

Oxford Mail: A First Great Western High Speed Train

8:00am Tuesday 25th November 2014

First Great Western has announced a full refund for some commuters who experienced severe disruption last month.

Campaigners will meet to discuss student flats

Oxford Mail: Oxford Univesity logo white lettering blue background new logo

8:00am Tuesday 25th November 2014

Campaigners have called a public meeting in Jericho to discuss a report produced for Oxford University on the controversial Castle Mill student flats.

Exhibition explores legacy of our most famous name

Oxford Mail:

8:00am Tuesday 25th November 2014

THREE hundred years after his death, his name is still one of the most famous in Oxford although you might not actually know much about him.

Man held after rape in car park of pub

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley Police logo

7:00am Tuesday 25th November 2014

A man has been arrested after a woman was allegedly raped outside a village pub.

Comments

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree