John was sent to France to join a regular army battalion that had already suffered serious losses. Seven months later he was wounded and evacuated to hospital, but then returned to the front.
Son of a cab driver
Isaac John* Afford was born in Oxford on 27 March 1896. He was the third of seven children. John’s grandfather was a cab fly proprietor and his father worked as a cab driver. At the 1911 census John was 15 and a grocer’s errand boy. He was living with the family, but in 1913 his father died aged 44.
Regular army unit
Soon after war broke out John joined the 2nd Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry as a Private. This was a regular army unit which experienced heavy losses in 1914 and John was sent to France in April 1915 to train with them. They were in action in May, and in the autumn they fought at Loos; then in July 1916 they were at the Somme. They sustained many further casualties.
Evacuated to hospital
At some point John was promoted to Lance Corporal. In November the battalion attacked near Beaumont Hamel, and John was evacuated to hospital with a gun-shot wound.
After this John became a Private again, in the 6th (Service) Battalion of the Ox and Bucks, possibly joining them during a rest period at the end of 1916. But then he was transferred again, to the 5th Battalion of the Royal Berkshires. They were moved in January 1917 to the front at Arras, and in April and early May they took part in three battles, facing heavy shelling and machine-gun fire.
Military funeral in Oxford
John was wounded and shipped back to Brighton. He died there on 14 May 1917, aged 21. He had a military funeral and was buried at Botley Cemetery with an Oxford and Buckinghamshires firing party at the grave.
* Known as John Isaac, even though he was registered and baptised as Isaac John