FWW Names – O

Private John OXNAM

Regimental Number: 629559
Enlistment Date / Location / Unit: 29 September 1915 / Vernon, BC / 47th Battalion
Birth Date / Location: 4 June 1900 / Marazion, Cornwall, England (1897 given on Attestation Paper)
Foster Parents: John Oxnam and Elizabeth Ann (nee Pope) Oxnam of St Hilary, Cornwall, England; birth parents unknown
Occupation on Enlistment: Farmer
Date of Death / Location: 11 November 1916 / Regina Trench, Courcelette, France
Age at Death: 16 years, 5 months
Unit on Date of Death, or on Demobilization: 47th Canadian Infantry Battalion
Circumstances of Death: Killed in Action, by shrapnel during midnight attack on enemy lines at Regina Trench
Cemetery or Memorial: Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Pas-de-Calais, France
Where commemorated: Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Pas-de-Calais, France; Canadian Virtual War Memorial, Veterans Affairs Canada; First World War Book of Remembrance page 144, Memorial Chamber, Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, ON; Maple Ridge Cenotaph, Maple Ridge, BC; Maple Ridge Legion Branch #88 Memorial Plaque; Municipality of Maple Ridge Honour Roll, St John the Divine Anglican Church, Maple Ridge, BC; The Gold Stripe Roll of Honour, Maple Ridge, page 89

John Oxnam was born John Brown on 4 June 1900 in Marazion, Cornwall, England. Before his first birthday John and Elizabeth (nee Pope) Oxnam became his foster parents. Elizabeth (nee Pope) Oxnam was the sister of Edmund Pope and Mary (nee Pope) Laity. By 1911 he was using the name John Oxnam. He lived with Elizabeth until just before his twelfth birthday.

John travelled alone from Plymouth, England to Montreal, QC in 1912. The ship manifest recorded his age as 13 years old. John arrived in Maple Ridge where he lived with Elizabeth’s younger sister, Mary (nee Pope) Laity and her family. Edmund Pope, youngest brother of Elizabeth and Mary, lived nearby in Hammond with his family. He was a student at Maple Ridge School.

On 29 September 1915 John signed his attestation papers in Vernon, BC stating his birthday was 4 June 1897, thus 18 years old, rather than his actual age of 15. John was 1.65 meters (5 feet 5 inches) tall, had light blue eyes and brown hair. Less than two months later he was in Montreal boarding a ship back to Plymouth, England where he trained before proceeding to Havre, France on 11 August 1916.

At midnight on 10 November 1916 John and the rest of his company led the attack at Regina Trench in Courcelette, France. John is said to have died of a shrapnel wound to his chest during the heavy enemy barrage. His body was never found. He was sixteen years and five months old when he died.

The 24 June 1919 British Columbian Victory Edition reported that: “His officer writes of how gallantly the Maple Ridge boys went over the top at Regina Trench, Oxnam along with Pope and Jimmie Hampton.” John and his adopted cousin John Arnold Pope died the same day at Regina Trench.

John Oxnam is memorialized in the 1917 Maple Ridge School Roll of Honour for Teachers, and Students. He was not eligible for awards or medals because he had no known living direct relatives.

J Oxnam’s name was on the Cenotaph when it was unveiled in 1923.

(Updated 11-Feb-2024)