The Wearside man who went to war twice - under two different names

Battle of the Somme.
Battle of the Somme.
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From time to time, family tree research throws up a mystery.

That’s certainly the case for Brian Jane, 79, who has been investigating the intriguing story of his Uncle John Jane.

Brian Jane's tribute to his uncle John Jane.

Brian Jane's tribute to his uncle John Jane.

At face value, John’s story is a tragic yet not unusual one. He was the husband of Agnes Louise Jane from Fenwick Street in Old Penshaw.

Sadly - and yet like thousands of his generation - John died aged 37 in August 1917 while serving with the Durham Light Infantry in the First World War.

He is “remembered with honour” at Villers-Faucon Memorial Cemetery in the Somme area of northern France, and on the war memorial at Shiney Row.

What is very unusual is John’s service history. He had first signed up with the Yorkshire Regiment but was later discharged on medical grounds.

His health either got better or he used the name of Elijah because, if he had said he was John, they would have found out he was already discharged

Brian Jane

Yet when John died in 1917, he was listed with the DLI and serving under the name of Private Elijah Jane. The answer, Brian believes, may lie in John’s keenness to make sure he got back into the war effort.

“His health either got better or he used the name of Elijah because, if he had said he was John, they would have found out he was already discharged,” said Brian whose own background is a military one.

He served for nine years with the Signals and later joined the military police. Now, he is living a life of retirement in Houghton. He has one of his two sons to thank for his interest in family history. Research also shows Brian’s father Alfred Jane also served in the First World War with the 16th battalion DLI, but he was wounded and discharged.

Alfred was 45 when Brian was born and he has vague childhood memories of playing with his toy Dinky cars on the floor of his Aunt Agnes’ home.

John Jane - also known as Elijah - whose loss is recorded in a French memorial cemetery.

John Jane - also known as Elijah - whose loss is recorded in a French memorial cemetery.

But who can help him solve the blanks of the uncle who changed his name to go to war? Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk.