John Cedric Jervis and his twin brother Norman Edward were born on 11 February 1890 to the Reverend John Jervis, Vicar of All Saints’ Church, Rotherhithe, and his wife Minnie Jervis. He had two elder brothers and a younger sister. The family moved to Kings Norton, Worcestershire, and then to Wick Vicarage near Pershore in the same county.
John was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham, from 1903-1909, and in 1911 he was living at Wick Vicarage and described as a student. He matriculated at Durham University in Michaelmas term 1913 as an Unattached student. He passed his first year examination in Theology satisfactorily in the same term; there is no record thereafter of any further examinations or degree awarded.
At the outbreak of war in 1914 he was preparing for Holy Orders at Lincoln Theological College. He enlisted in that year as a private in the Royal Fusiliers Public School Battalion which had begun recruiting in September. On 17 March 1915 he obtained a commission as Temporary Second Lieutenant with the 21st Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, and was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant on 3 September 1915.
On 17 July 1916 he was appointed Flying Officer (Observer) and transferred to the General List, Royal Flying Corps, joining the 5th Squadron. By the time of the first major air actions at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 the R.F.C. strength had increased from 12 to 27 squadrons and from 161 aircraft to 421.
At 14:00 on 26 October 1916 Jervis took off from Marieux aerodrome on the Somme, where the British Army Headquarters for this part of the Western Front was based. His plane, 5781 (a BE2d) piloted by Lieutenant J. S. Smith, was shot down over Puisieux while on an Artillery Observation mission undertaken by aircraft from the 5th and 15th Squadrons. Smith and Jervis were engaged by two German aircraft, and the victory is credited to Oswald Boelcke of Jagdstaffel 2, one of the most prolific aces of the war, trainer of Manfred von Richthofen, and considered the father of the German fighter air force. 5781 would be his fortieth and final victory before his death in a mid-air collision with one of his own pilots on 28 October.
Jervis’ plane was shot down over British lines and crashed (map reference: K.34.b.9.5) and was then raked with shellfire on the ground. While Smith was wounded but survived the attack, Jervis was killed in the air and was unable to be pulled from the wreckage.
A translated transcript of Boelcke’s action report is published online:
"About 4.45 seven of our machines of which I had charge attacked some English biplanes west of P [Puisieux]. I attacked one and wounded the observer, so he was unable to fire at me. At the second attack the machine started to smoke. Both pilot and observer seemed dead. It fell into the second line English trenches and burned up."
Action report of Hauptmann Oswald Boelcke, Jasta 2, 26 October 1916. Translated transcript excerpt published online on 1914-1918.invasionzone.com forum.
Another pilot in Smith and Jervis’ squadron noted in his diary on 26 and 30 October 1916:
"Got word today that several British machines were down. Huns came over in force and one of ours was shot down. Jervis was killed & Smith wounded. Smith's controls were damaged & he had to come down in our support trenches; he was wounded in three places but the infantry got him out before the huns started shelling his machine. Jervis had to be left in as he was wedged in as a result of the crash but he was shot dead in the air - a jolly decent chap was Jervis."
"...Jervis' body was recovered from the wrecked machine today and the funeral took place at Courcelles".
Excerpts from the diary of James Kerr, 5th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, 26 and 30 October 1916. Transcripts published online on 1914-1918.invasionzone.com forum.
John Cedric Jervis is buried in Picardie in Courcelles-au-Bois Communal Cemetery Extension. A short obituary was published in Flight magazine. His Casualty Cards are made available online in the R.A.F. Museum Story Vault.
One brother was reported in November 1916 a prisoner of war in Turkey, and another, Arthur Cyril Jervis was killed on 3 July 1918 serving with the 2/3rd King’s African Rifles, and is buried at Lumbo British Cemetery in Mozambique. A memorial to both brothers, and to their father, was erected in the 1930s at the Church of St James the Great in Snitterfield, Warwickshire. John Jervis is also remembered in the Durham University Roll of Service (1920).